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.
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 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.
The return leaves at 12:05 AM and arrives the day before at 5:45 PM.
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.)
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.)
Haneda is Tokyo’s “domestic” airport, so there are a ton of connection options within Japan but far fewer to the rest of Asia.
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.)
Unfortunately San Francisco is not a oneworld hub, but American and US Airways both serve it from all their hubs.
Plus if you are using American Airlines miles, but not US Airways miles, you can get to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines flights too.
The JAL Sky Suite
The JAL Sky Suite is a fully enclosed completely flat bed.
It is at the cutting edge of hard products in international First Class.
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
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.)