That’s because they didn’t impose fuel surcharges for award redemptions on Emirates, and had an extremely lucrative distance based award chart. For example, a roundtrip first class award between New York and Dubai would cost you 85,000 miles in business class or 135,000 miles in first class, which is an absolute steal.
That being said, a few things have changed since then. First of all, JAL Mileage Bank began imposing fuel surcharges for award redemptions on Emirates, which wasn’t historically the case, since Emirates didn’t impose fuel surcharges on their own members. That being said, due to their tie up with Qantas they began imposing them last year, and then Japan Airlines matched.
Beyond that, as of last year it’s possible to redeem Alaska miles for travel on Emirates, which is another great option for redeeming on Emirates.
Anyway, back to JAL Mileage Bank. One frustrating thing about their award program is that they didn’t allow one-way award tickets. However, as of today, April 30, 2014, that has changed.
Per an update on their website:
1.One-way trips are permitted.
2.”Point of origin” and “Final returning point” may be different and those cities may be located in different countries.
* Please note that one-way itineraries and itineraries in which the “Point of origin” and “Final returning point” are located in different countries cannot be booked from the JAL website. For such bookings, please contact the appropriate call center.
So it’s now possible to redeem Japan Airlines miles for one-way travel on all their partners. In most cases it’s still more efficient to do a roundtrip since proportionally the cost per flown mile goes down the further you travel, but it is certainly nice to have the option.
Of course the implications of this go beyond redemptions on Emirates. Japan Airlines also has a fairly lucrative distance based award chart for travel on oneworld. Best of all, they allow up to eight segments and seven stopovers.
The major challenge with Japan Airlines miles is how tough they are to accrue. The only major transfer partner they have is Starwood Preferred Guest, so it’s tough for the average person to rack up a meaningful number of miles with them.
Regardless, I’m very happy to see this change.
(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)