Gold Mine First Class Award Space from United States to Asia

28
1996

There is excellent award space in Japan Airlines First Class between San Francisco and Tokyo for most of the next 11 months. This is space you can cheaply book with American Airlines or US Airways miles, and you can use the space wherever you live in the United States to access anywhere in Asia.

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Starting December 1, 2014, Japan Airlines (JAL) is changing the aircraft on its San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda route to a 777-300ER, which features a fully flat Business Class bed and eight enclosed suites in First Class.

Award space is wide open on the route in First Class, with many days from December 1, 2014 through late June 2015 showing two available award seats in First Class.

  • What is the award space picture?
  • What are the connection options in San Francisco and at Haneda?
  • How many miles will awards cost with US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways miles?
  • How does the JAL Suite look?

Award Space

Award space is excellent after the aircraft swap (12/1/14) until the end of the schedule (late June 2015) in both directions. I searched JAL award space on ba.com, which conveniently shows First and Business Class separately for each flight and tells how many seats are open in each cabin.

Inconveniently it doesn’t show a full calendar of award space at once, so you can go search your preferred days at ba.com like this.

The outbound flight leaves at 12:35 AM and arrives the next day at 5:00 AM.

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The return leaves at 12:05 AM and arrives the day before at 5:45 PM.

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Award Price

JAL is in oneworld, so you can use American Airlines, US Airways, or British Airways miles to book the space you see at ba.com. Depending on the miles you use, you’ll pay very different prices.

American Airlines would charge:

  • 50,000 miles each way in Business Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Japan
  • 62,500 miles each way in First Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Japan
  • 55,000 miles each way in Business Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Southeast Asia, routing through Japan
  • 67,500 miles each way in First Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Southeast Asia, routing through Japan

American Airlines awards would also feature $48.40 in taxes roundtrip for the direct flight and a little bit more if other flights were added.

US Airways would charge:

  • 110,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Japan
  • 120,000 miles roundtrip in First Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Japan
  • 120,000 miles roundtrip in Business Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Southeast Asia, routing through Japan
  • 160,000 miles roundtrip in First Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Southeast Asia, routing through Japan

US Airways awards would also feature $98.40 in taxes and fees roundtrip for the direct flight and a little bit more if other flights were added. This is $50 more than an American Airlines award because US Airways collects a $50 award processing fee on international awards.

British Airways Avios are the worst way to book the JAL award space because British Airways collects fuel surcharges on JAL segments. A roundtrip in First Class to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo would cost 150,000 Avios + $674 (and more Avios if you need to connect from your home to San Francisco.)

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Connections in San Francisco and Tokyo

Even if you don’t live in San Francisco or don’t want to go to Tokyo, this award space can be useful because connections are plentiful in both airports.

As usual, because US Airways and American Airlines have region-based award charts, it will not cost extra miles to connect from your home airport to San Francisco. It may or may not cost extra miles to connect in Tokyo to somewhere else in Asia, depending on whether you leave Japan’s region on the appropriate award chart. (The award prices are given in the previous section.)

Tokyo-Haneda

Haneda is Tokyo’s “domestic” airport, so there are a ton of connection options within Japan but far fewer to the rest of Asia.

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You can fly on this flight into Haneda, then take a 90 minute train to Tokyo-Narita for far more connection options because the two airports are co-terminal, but that sounds like a hassle to me. (This would not count as a stopover or open jaw.)

San Francisco

Unfortunately San Francisco is not a oneworld hub, but American and US Airways both serve it from all their hubs.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.13.26 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.13.38 PM

Plus if you are using American Airlines miles, but not US Airways miles, you can get to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines flights too.

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The JAL Sky Suite

The JAL Sky Suite is a fully enclosed completely flat bed.

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It is at the cutting edge of hard products in international First Class.

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I haven’t flown JAL, so I can’t comment on the food or service, but reviews are positive, and I have always had great attention to detail from Asian carriers.

Booking the Awards

You cannot book JAL flights online with US Airways or American Airlines miles. You need to call the airline whose miles you want to use and feed the agent the date, flight number, and cabin of the flights you want to book (that you’ve found by searching ba.com and aa.com.)

  • US Airways: 800-622-1015
  • American Airlines: 800-882-8880

Recap

Japan Airlines is swapping a bigger aircraft onto its San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda route starting on December 1, 2014. Award space is excellent in First Class for two passengers starting that day.

You can book the award space with American Airlines miles or US Airways miles. The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase. (Check out all the places you can go with just the card’s sign up bonus.)

Hat Tip to Lucky!


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28 COMMENTS

    • American Airlines has the lowest award price to Japan in economy from Oct 1 – April 30: 25k miles each way

      The rest of the year, US Airways is cheaper at 60k roundtrip

  1. I am on the line with the Chairman’s Desk right now at USAirways and they are only seeing Business Class (U booking) available for any dates December through April. Has anyone found first class availability? Do we know for sure that First Class is bookable now for dates after December 1st or might we have to wait?

  2. I currently have JL F booked roundtrip for SFO-LAX-NRT using AA miles. I’d like to switch my flight to SFO-HND but I’d like to do so without paying a change fee.

    I’ve called a couple times already and the reps have said that the change fee would be assessed because I’m changing airports, even though NRT and HND are both in Tokyo. Any tips on how I can convince them to waive the change fee?

    • Co-terminals only matter for routing. Thus, you could change LAX-HND-HKG to LAX-NRT-HKG without a fee. However, changing the origin and/or destination (as you’re doing) will trigger the change fee.

  3. Using AA miles, are we able to book JAL Sky Suite from IAD/DCA to SFO to NRT? I thought AA routing rules made it so you had to travel transatlantic from East Coast to Asia.

    • NO, AA rules require traveling transpacific to East Asia and transatlantic to Indian Subcontinent and Middle East regardless of which coast you live on. Washington to SFO to HND (this flies to Haneda not Narita) is a valid AA routing.

  4. Thanks, Scott! Would DCA-ORD-HKG be a valid AA route? I looked at the Great Circle Mapper and it looks like ORD-HKG would be transpacific, not transatlantic. Is that correct?

  5. Hi Scott,

    Definitely a newbie question, but what’s the best airport to fly out from in the NYC area to get to Tokyo via AA? Thanks so much.

  6. Hi Scott,

    Not sure if you ever follow up on these older posts, but which Japan Airlines product do you recommend? First class or Business, if flying from Tokyo-Narita to JFK?

    Thanks as usual.

    • Never personally flown either. It’s a small premium for First Class (only 12.5k miles more), so I’d fly that.

  7. For some reason the JAL website has the following notice on its page:

    “The JAL Group has set the fuel surcharge for flights departing Japan bound for North America as follows.
    -For purchases made on or before September 30, 2014, there is a 50,000 yen fuel surcharge (for JAL Group portions per person)
    (The fuel surcharge revision including the implementation date is subject to government approval.)”

    Isn’t that a huge fee for such a booking? I know you mentioned it’s $98.40 for US Airways and $48.40 for AA…and $600 something for BA. I’m slightly confused by this. Could you please clarify?

  8. Sorry to bother folks again, but I’m having trouble finding availability on the ba.com website. There’s no availability from Nov 30-Dec 4…which is the window I’m aiming for a flight back from Tokyo. When I go to the JAL website however, there are 5 seats out of 8 available. Is this something that I can just call AA and they’d be able to book? Or do I have to wait for them to release those seats?

    • What do you mean 5 out of 8 seats are available? Do you mean on the seat map? That’s completely irrelevant to whether those seats will ever be released as Saver award seats. You should keep checking regularly to see if the seats are released on ba.com. If they are, pounce. If they aren’t, there’s unfortunately nothing you can do.

      • Understood. I just called AA after finding two seats for JAL based on ba.com scouring and the agent said that she didn’t see any space available…and that the ba.com is only for Avios. Is this the case??? Then what’s the point of using the ba website?

        • Give me the date please. Don’t listen to the agent. Space should match up in all cases between what BA and what AA can book.

  9. Thanks Scott. How do waitlists for airline bookings work? I’m trying to snatch up business class award seats but as of right now there are none available. Can I first book economy award seats and then asked to be put on the waitlist? When they release seats, do they automatically look to the waitlist before posting availability to the general public?

    • There are no waitlists like that that I know of. You just have to keep monitoring to see if biz space opens up to change your ticket.

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