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What to expect flying Japan Airlines in Economy Class

by on Wed May 24, 2017 • 1 Comment
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Flying long haul in economy isn’t the most desirable experience in the world, but with many beautiful places to be seen and experienced around the world, flying is the most feasible way to get there quickly, and flying Economy is often the most cost effective method. If you’re flying to Asia, Japan Airlines offers one of the most comfortable Economy Class experiences in the world, with comfortable aircraft configurations, tasty food, and thoughtful touches like contoured pillows.

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 How / when to get a seat assignment

When you make a booking on jal.co.jp you will have the opportunity to select your seat. If you make a booking with a flight on Japan Airlines though an Online Travel Agent (like Expedia) or through a partner (like American), you can choose your seat  through ‘View My Reservation’ or by calling with your booking reference or ticket number. Japan Airlines states that seat selections are accepted up to 15 minutes before departure, but in practice you may have problems with this.

Fare classes that don’t allow seat assignments

Unfortunately, some fare classes are not eligible for advanced seat selection. The main economy fare classes you need to watch out for are Q, N, O, G, and R. These are JAL’s most discounted economy fares and will not allow seat selection until 72 hours prior to flight time.

Exit row / extra legroom / preferred seating policies

Japan Airlines does not have specific policies for exit row seats and also doesn’t have extra legroom or otherwise preferred seating for an extra charge. You will find that Japan Airlines sometimes blocks seats such as bulkhead and exit row seats before check in but that you can request to be assigned to blocked seats at the check in counter at the airport, so it can pay to arrive early.

Even without extra legroom, you’ll probably find that Japan Airlines provides a comfortable amount of legroom, even for those of you that are taller than average.

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Good and bad aircraft for seats

Japan Airlines is one of the best airlines in the world when it comes to Economy Class seat comfort, so there aren’t really any aircraft to avoid. Its 787s are configured in an 8 abreast configuration, instead of the 9 abreast many other airlines use. And its 777s are in a 9 abreast configuration compared to the 10 abreast you’ll find on many airlines.

Here are Japan Airlines seat maps.

Even better, Japan Airlines has invested in uniquely spacious seats, called ‘Sky Wider’ that are found on many of the 787 and 777 aircraft that serve U.S. routes. They have power outlets, unobstructed space underneath, and extra legroom that won the award for best economy class seats in 2015.

Japan Airlines aircraft also tend to have a lot of Business and Premium Economy seats, which makes for much smaller Economy Class cabins than you’ll find on other airlines, so the service is more personal and you’ll find shorter lines for the restroom.

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How to get your JAL confirmation number when you’re booked via AA

If you book your ticket with American Airlines for travel on Japan Airlines, you can’t select seats on AA.com. You’ll first need to look up your JAL confirmation number and then go to the Japan Airlines site to get seats. The easiest way to do this is by calling American Airlines at 800-433-7300 or contacting them via direct message on Twitter. American Airlines has a great Twitter team and they usually respond very quickly. Expect slower responses if there is extreme weather or any other air travel-related difficulties.

Online / mobile check-in windows

Online check-in for flights from the U.S. opens 24 hours before departure from the U.S. and check-in for flights to the U.S. opens 24 hours before departure. For all other flights, online check-in is available from 72 hours to one hour before flight departure. Your boarding pass will be emailed to you 24 hours prior to the scheduled departure time.

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Online check-in is very straight forward. You’ll first input your reservation number, flight number, date of departure, and passenger name. From there, you will be prompted to enter the passport information for the passenger flying and be able to select a seat for your flight.

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When you can check in online with an AA codeshare

When you have booked an AA codeshare, you can check-in online 24 hours prior to your first flight.

Basic bag policies for ex U.S. flights

When flying Japan Airlines long haul from the U.S., you are allowed to have two checked bags that do not exceed 23kg (50lb) each and a maximum dimension of 203cm (80in) when flying in economy or premium economy. When flying in business class, your two bags can weigh a maximum of 32kg (70lb) each.

In addition to your checked bags, as an economy flyer you are allowed one piece of cabin baggage that doesn’t weigh more than 10kg (22lb) and the sum of the three dimensions of the baggage may not exceed 115cm (45in).

Upgrade opportunities

Japan Airlines flights can be upgraded with Japan Mileage Bank miles provided that they are booked in an eligible class of service. Eligible upgradable classes from economy or premium economy to business class are W, E, Y, B, H, and K. Eligible upgradable classes from economy to premium economy are B, H, and K.

The number of miles required to upgrade a flight depend on what region you are traveling to. Upgrades between Japan and North America can be had for as little as 14,000 miles to Premium Economy and 24,000 miles to Business Class.

Where the carrier flies from the U.S.

Japan Airlines flies to quite a few in a destinations in the U.S.

You can fly Japan Airlines between Japan and Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Kona, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Meal service

One thing to note about flying Japan Airlines in Economy that really sets them apart from many other airlines (especially U.S. carriers) is that the food is very good, with flavors that rival what you might get in premium cabins on lesser airlines. Meals are inspired by Japanese comfort food under the direction of Japan Airlines’ own food stylist.

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How to book Japan Airlines with miles

If you want to book a trip on Japan Airlines with miles, you’re in luck because there are a lot of options! Some of the programs listed below are distance based, so we will assume that you are flying from Chicago to Tokyo. If your flights are different than that, the mileage price will vary.

American AAdvantage

American Airlines does have a zone based frequent flyer program, so if you are flying from anywhere in the contiguous U.S. to Japan, you will pay 30,000 miles each way in economy or 90,000 each way in business class.

British Airways Avios

British Airways has a distance based chart. If you fly from Chicago to Tokyo, you will pay 30,000 miles to fly in economy or 60,000 miles to fly in business class in each direction. Taxes and fees are less than $100.

Asia Miles

Asia Miles also has a distance based award chart, but it is a little more complicated than British Airways. You will pay different amounts if you book one-way or round trip travel. For one-way travel, you will pay 40,000 miles in economy or 70,000 miles in business class, as long as travel is only on Japan Airlines. Round trip travel offers a little bit of a savings; you’ll pay only 60,000 miles in economy or 120,000 miles in business class.

If you need to fly on an airline other than Japan Airlines (to connect to Chicago, for example), not only will the distance increase, but you will also need to utilize Asia Miles’ multiple partners award chart which will cost you more miles.

Transferable points options

Chase points

Chase is a transfer partner of British Airways and tickets can also be booked directly through Chase’s travel portal. Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to British Airways. If you book through Chase’s travel portal, Ultimate Rewards are worth 1.25-1.5 cents each depending on what card you have. The number of points you’ll pay in this case depends on the cash cost of the ticket.

Amex points

American Express points transfer at a 1,000:800 ratio to British Airways Avios, making it not as good of an option as using Chase points. Membership Rewards do transfer to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio, so if you only have Membership Rewards to use for your ticket, that might be the way to go.

Citi points

Citi ThankYou Points also transfer to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio.

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