AMAZING DEAL: Japan Airlines First Class Award Space Wide Open!!!

There’s no denying that booking first class awards to Asia using American AAdvantage miles is getting more and more difficult. Nowadays Cathay Pacific doesn’t release much first class award space in advance, and there are even rumors of Cathay Pacific soon completely shutting off members of partner frequent flyer programs from redeeming for award tickets.

The one other excellent partner American AAdvantage has for first class awards to Asia is Japan Airlines. I recently reviewed Japan Airlines’ new first class, and had two incredible flights:

The flights were fantastic, from the seat to the service to the food to the onboard wifi.

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-01
Japan Airlines first class cabin 777-300ER

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-35
Japan Airlines first class dinner — caviar

If you’d like to fly Japan Airlines first class, there’s some great news:

Japan Airlines first class award space is wide open!!!

Japan Airlines first class award availability is wide open at the moment, in particular for travel this fall.

Some of you may remember that when JAL announced they would operate a 777-300ER on the San Francisco to Tokyo Haneda route last year, first class award availability was wide open (since this meant the introduction of first class service). Well, the situation right now is very similar, except across most of their routes.

Right now Japan Airlines has a ton of first class award space, in particular for travel this fall and next spring (there are even quite a few seats over summer). JAL first class award space is especially good between Chicago and Tokyo Narita as well as between San Francisco and Tokyo Haneda.

You can use the British Airways award search tool to look up space, or otherwise the Japan Airlines award search tool (which is more accurate, though the display looks straight out of 1999):

For example, between Chicago and Tokyo Narita there are tons of dates with four first class award seats:

ORDNRT

NRTORD

The same is true between San Francisco and Tokyo Haneda:

SFOHND

HNDSFO

First class award avaliability is also quite good between Los Angeles and Tokyo Narita, though not nearly as consistently as on the above two routes:

LAXNRT

NRTLAX

The only route on which space isn’t great is between New York and Tokyo Narita — lots of dates have two seats, though I’m not seeing much more than that:

JFKNRT

NRTJFK

By the way, in many cases there are even more than four first class seats per flight. British Airways’ website will only show four seats at a time, but once you hold those seats with American, you’ll sometimes see more seats show up immediately. It does require creating a reservation, “holding” the seats, and then having the agent go back into the system, though. Japan Airlines will correctly display the flights which have more than four first class award seats, so it could make sense to search through their site.

Japan-Airlines-First-Class-Lounge-Tokyo-30
Japan Airlines 777-300ER

How many American miles?

American’s award rates between the US and Asia are exceptional. For travel in first class, you’ll pay:

  • 62,500 miles for one-way first class between the US and Asia 1 (which includes Japan and Korea)
  • 67,500 miles for one-way first class between the US and Asia 2 (which includes most other points in Asia)

So for 62,500 miles you could fly just between the US and Japan in first class, or for 67,500 miles you could fly between the US and Japan, and then connect onwards to other points in Asia.

Do keep in mind that Japan Airlines award space can’t be booked on aa.com, so you have to call American to book. And be sure to request that they waive the phone ticketing fee, since this award can’t be booked through their website.

Bottom line

This is a fantastic use of American miles, and this value won’t last. In many cases every single first class seat left for sale is also available on miles.

Japan Airlines first class is a fantastic product, one I like just about as much as Cathay Pacific first class. So being able to redeem American miles for it in advance — in many cases even for the whole family — is a value that’s tough to argue with!

JAL-First-Class-777-29
Japan Airlines first class bed 777-300ER

So, who’s locking in some Japan Airlines first class awards?

(Tip of the hat to Forrest)

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

More articles by lucky »

Comments

  1. ARe you sure this is not phantom availability? I found flights on JAL yesterday using the BA website and I called AA and fed the agent the dates and flight numbers and she said there was nothing available.

  2. Not finding anything out of JFK for the dates I need. Guess I’ll continue to sit on my J seats JFK-NRT that I booked the day the schedule opened. Alas.

  3. Seems to be nothing at all for 2 passengers from JFK between 12/11-12/23.

    Except in Premium Economy, of course, which is always available because it can’t be booked with AA miles.

  4. Ben,
    Do you know if this might be available for BOS-NRT-BOS? Or, better, BOS-NRT-HKG-NRT-BOS?
    I’m not finding it with either BA or JAL sites.
    Thanks!

  5. I happened to book some seats on Friday when I noticed the wide open availability. However, I noticed that the 777-300ER HND-SFO is the old F (3 rows of 1-1-1) while NRT-LAX and many other routes are the new F 1-2-1. Shouldn’t people be aware of that if they want to book HND-SFO?

  6. On the other hand why there is not a single bus class seat available when one can book so many first class seats?!?!

  7. @Josh
    I was concerned about that and called JAL. They said it was two rows of 1 2 1 seating with their open suites (which we flew last year and loved). Maybe it depends on the specific flight?

  8. Thanks for the post, Lucky. Didn’t you previously report that the proper First Class for the NRT-CGK sector was going away?

  9. Just booked SFO-HND and return in first for next March into April, picked seats and it was 1-2-1. Hope there’s no equipment change…I seem to have bad luck with that.

  10. @Jeff W, It could be it’s just the dates I was looking at, and only according to seatguru. HND-SFO isn’t even our ideal flight, so we’ll just fly to LAX and avoid the worry.

  11. I think seatguru is a little fuzzy on JAL. A couple of weeks ago I booked ORD-NRT for next Winter. Seatguru claims those flights (JL009/JL010) are 1-1-1 in first, but AA saw 1-2-1 when they assigned seats for me, and the JAL website confirms 1-2-1 when I pull up the reservation.

  12. Saw this yesterday an BA.com but did not give it a thought. Now that it is “out there” it will be gone in hours. I got 2 tickets for the heck of it. “on request” from AA, hopefully they ticket!

  13. My fiance and I are trying to get to Bali, Indonesia sometime next spring. We’re thinking LAX – NRT or HND – DPS.. Is this even possible? Also, if we stop in NRT or HND, would be able to stay there for 5-7 days, and then continue on to DPS for the remainder of our trip?

    Sorry if this is a stupid question – I’m a total n00b!!

  14. Have JAL F on my bucket list. Now I can cross it off. MSY-ORD-NRT/HND-SFO-CLT-MSY, and will try to improve the domestic connections as it gets closer.

    Thanks Lucky!

  15. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I just saw your Tweet about this post and changed Hubby & my coach seats PIT – ORD – NRT (and back) on AA to first class AA PIT – ORD and JAL ORD – NRT this fall to visit our daughter who lives in Osaka.

  16. Me & a friend are going for a very long weekend now in Jan, will coincide with the Sumo Tournament in Tokyo. One more item to be crossed off the list 🙂

  17. I was able to snag 2 seat out of LAX and 2 seats returning to ORD in September. I was even lucky enough to get some CX first seats between HND-HKG.

  18. I just called to try and book JAL F from NRT-JFK (starting point SIN) but amazingly managed to get CX F from HKG!!!! I’m so psyched, was not expecting any CX availability!

  19. @ Jason — No worries, we’re all new at some point. 🙂

    Any stopover of more than 24 hours enroute would require separate awards. In other words, you could do US to Japan and then Japan to Bali, but it would require two awards. Otherwise if you stay less than 24 hours you could do that on one award.

  20. @ Barry — Definitely 1-2-1. Never trust SeatGuru for the seatmaps you get from entering a flight number.

  21. @ Doug — There’s only one type of 777-300ER they use for longhaul flights, and that has the new first & business class.

  22. @ Kevin — Yes, unfortunately it is. That route soon won’t feature first class anymore.

  23. @ Robert — Possibly because this is a glitch. There’s lots of business class space far in advance and close to departure, though.

  24. @ ffmiles99 — American doesn’t allow stopovers of more than 24 hours, regardless of whether you’re flying one-way or roundtrip.

  25. @lucky – Thank you!!! Was in awe when I was able to book your recommended LH out of YYZ last year. Can’t wait to try out JL suites!

  26. woo hoo! Grabbed 2 seats NRT-LAX for 27JUL – we were going ANA to Seattle and then overnight before coming to LA (and spending $300 per person) – now direct to home! Thanks LuckyBen!

  27. Thank you Lucky! Just snagged 4 seats ORD-NRT, NRT-JFK this Summer. When I told my two boys 15 and 13 where were going the 13 yr old says well at least we can get some deep dish pizza in Chicago (we are from NJ) They’ll appreciate it someday.

  28. Ben, out of curiosity which would you prefer, CX business or JAL business? We’re booked on the nonstop HKG BOS next year but I’ve been going back and forth about trying to work in a JAL leg…

  29. I have ANA biz class tickets booked JFK-NRT this winter, and JAL has first class availability out of ORD on the same dates. I don’t mind connecting in ORD.

    The questions is, would ANA refund the fees if I cancelled an award ticket? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.

  30. Thanks for posting about this! I booked SFO-HND/NRT-HKG and BKK-HKG-HND-SFO for my girlfriend and myself over the Christmas and New Years holidays. The TPAC segments are in F and the other segments are in J (CX, CX and JL respectively).

    This is a very special redemption for me. I’ve been sitting on a few hundred thousand AA miles for years, and I’ve had very limited opportunities to use them. Domestic availability out of SFO is close to nonexistent. I had been hoping to use the miles for JL or CX flights to Asia someday, but it’s been hard to find availability over the holiday periods when it’s easiest for us to travel.

    I normally redeem for economy tickets, but since I have so many miles I’ve been trying to burn, and I strongly suspect AA’s award chart will change for the worse in the near future, this is a great opportunity to use a big chunk of my mileage balance for something amazing while I still can. I’ve never flown international first class, and the only business class product I’ve flown (unless you count Aeroflot many years ago) was JL 1/2 on the 777-200ER with angled seats, so this is really exciting.

    Also, it makes me feel euphoric to finally plan another big trip. It’s been well over a year since I booked any international flights. I switched jobs recently, and my girlfriend is searching for a new job, so we haven’t been able to travel overseas as much as we like to. I don’t know exactly what our situation will be at the end of the year, but being able to do this trip in F prompted me to take a risk and book anyway.

  31. Hey Lucky, just booked ORD-NRT! Thanks so much for the heads up! A few years ago, I could never imagine taking a trip like this, and now I have accumulated enough miles to go for a long weekend (3 nights)! In terms of hotels, would you stay at the Park Hyatt or new Andaz in Tokyo? Do you know which is in a better location? Thanks again!!!

  32. I first noticed wide-open JAL F availability Wednesday night, and booked 2 seats for an NRT–LAX Thursday morning. So I know for sure it’s been more than just a day or 2.

  33. Ben – thanks, but I don’t think it’s worth adding an extra stop in ORD in order to fly F instead of J. Unnecessary connections sucks. Especially in Chicago in the winter.

  34. Trying to do DPS/HKG and NRT in the same trip to spend some time in each. What would be the best way to book this? I’d like to book TPAC with AA miles with JAL F, but have Avios, UA, AMEXMR as well for the other legs.

    Thanks!

  35. Ben, you are right about the service and comfort, but their IFE suck. Better bring your own entertainment. Very limited on western films. As per wifi, worked great for me until I was passing Alaska and Russian air space.

  36. Thanks! Booked SFO-HND First in 10 days from now con mi madre! They show up as $20k+ tickets otherwise!

  37. What is the meal service on the SFO-HND flight? As it is late night departure and early morning arrival….no caviar? what kind of champagne?

  38. Hi Ben,
    You mentioned to Jason that he could get to Bali. I am not finding any way to get to Bali from NRT – am I missing something?
    Anyone else know of a way with an AA partner carrier?

  39. Hey Ben, for AA award tickets booking these in F, would I be able to pick ECONOMY AAnytime flights for the positioning flight? All other Saver flights either don’t work schedule-wise or are ridiculously early + 1 extra connection… Wondering if they will let me pick any ECONOMY AAnytime flights if I voluntarily downgrade class of service for that segment? Thanks

  40. I am pretty sue you can only pick saver award domestic if you are building your award using multiple/single OW alliance member and not AA.

    It stated specifically that you need to be on a single AA itinerary for you to be able to use an AAnytime award domestic

  41. Just got booked for SFO to Haneda, which I’m not familiar with. What’s the difference from NRT as far as distances, lounges, etc?
    Also tried to book F seats on JAL site but were shown as full despite my confirmation. ???

  42. @MrLandz – I still have two seats “On-Request” Thru AA for NRT-ORD in a few weeks. Hoping they ticket today!!! Not sure if there is a way to speed it up. Anybody know if i should wait to book my united award to BKK since this AA award is my return or is it safe to book once “on request”?

  43. @ Patter98 — It should be safe. It takes American ~24 hours to ticket awards, so “On Request” is the usual status while that happens.

  44. Thanks Lucky for the quick response and the heads up on this great deal! Made my honeymoon decision easy once this deal came up.

  45. @ JOHN — You mean to get seat assignments? That’s because JAL blocks the window seats for pre-assignment. HND is closer to the city than NRT, which is the main draw to it.

  46. @ Bryan — You’d have to connect via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or via Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia.

  47. @ MrLandz — Salon champagne and they do have caviar. Otherwise an abbreviated service.

  48. @ brit44 — You can use any of those currencies for the intra-Asia segment. United wouldn’t be a bad value, or otherwise you could transfer Amex points to Singapore for travel on them.

  49. @ Trevor — I’ve only done the Park Hyatt, though am keen to try the new Andaz. The one downside to the Park Hyatt is the location, so if that’s important to you I might do the Andaz.

  50. @ Gaurav — Personally I’d slightly prefer JAL business class due to the wifi, but they’re both great product. I’d go with whichever is more convenient.

  51. I can see availability for my dates on BA.com, but when I check JAL.com and choose AA or BA as the partner, there’s no availability.

  52. @Lucky Thanks. If I buy the AA positioning flight separate with cash, how would the boarding pass / checking bags work? Would they streamline at origin? Or would I have to pay for bags for positioning flight and re-check it at ORD?

  53. @Ted – As long as you fly a OneWorld carrier they should be able to interline the bags. Just make sure to tell the agent at the counter what your final destination is and have your record locator handy. Bags will go to your final destination.

  54. BTW, I ended up changing the return flight on my itinerary (HND-SFO) to business class. After sleeping on it, I decided that for a relatively short flight with no formal meal service, first class might not be worth the extra miles (the business class on that flight looks almost as good!). This way I’ll get to experience both products. And if availability happens to open up in Business on CX HKG-SFO by January, I’ll switch to that flight for a better routing. I didn’t have to pay to make this change because the reservation hadn’t been ticketed yet.

    Hope I made the right call.

  55. i put flights on hold with aa yesterday, ewr-ord-nrt. if i wanted to add a flight to hkg (final destination), can i update the existing reservation (at a cost of 5000 miles plus taxes+fees)? or, does the current reservation needed to be canceled? if i need to cancel, will the space go back into inventory or is there a chance i lose the flights?

  56. @ Ted — They should be able to check you and your bags in all the way. Just make sure you have print outs of your itinerary.

  57. @ TL — Hmmm, why/how are you choosing AA/BA as the partner on JL’s website? You should be looking at JL availability on JL’s site and not be specifying another airline.

  58. Hi Ben/Lucky – Thanks for the clarification.. I’m definitely still learning here.. One other question:

    My fiance and I live in San Diego, and would love to take advantage of this. It looks like Bail will require another booking (most likely on Cathay Pacific) so that may be out of the question, but is it possible to visit Tokyo for about a week and then tack on Thailand on the same award?
    In addition, would we also be able to book the SAN-LAX flights on points as well, and would they be included in the 135k AA points per ticket cost?
    I have about 350k AA miles and would like to use them for this deal, so any help would be appreciated – Thanks!!

  59. Has anyone got ticketed yet? I booked Siunday afternoon and still showing on request.

    @Lucky How long does JAL normally take to ticket?

  60. @ Branson — It should ticket within about 24 hours, typically. And keep it’s American doing the ticketing, not JAL.

  61. @ Jason — Any stopover of more than 24 hours would require an additional award. You can book San Diego to Los Angeles as part of the same award, assuming you stay in LA for less than 24 hours.

  62. @Branson – Quick data point… my CMH-JFK-NRT-BKK tickets for 2 people took 27 hours to get ticketed. Actually, one of the two is ticketed and the other still shows as ‘on request’. Hmm…

  63. @ Lucky – Thanks for the clarification!

    @ Branson and others who are proceeding to BKK, or another destination – I’m assuming that those of you who are continuing onto Thailand are either only staying in Tokyo for less than 24 hours, or using another redemption (with another airline) for the leg from Tokyo to BKK?

    I’m assuming that you’re booking 2 different awards, as staying in Tokyo for less than 24 hours doesn’t really seem to make sense to me – Am I missing something here?

  64. @ryan @lucky I just got ticketed. It took right at 48 hours for me. I had 3 separate reservations on request (different aa accounts) and all were ticketed in last 3 hours,

  65. @ Jason — Well the reason to stay for less than 24 hours would be precisely to avoid paying for another separate award. Not ideal for seeing the city, but if you’re trying to redeem as few miles as possible…

  66. For the SFO-HND flight arriving at 4:45am, at what time do you think you’d make it to Tokyo proper with no checked bags?

  67. @ Ken — Tokyo is pretty spread out, so not sure what you mean by “Tokyo proper.” I’d say you should be able to get into the city in less than an hour.

  68. So Ben, if I book B->C now, and later A->B Saver opens up, I will need to pay $150+$25 to add the A->B segment. But what about the award space for B->C when I re-ticket? Do they need additional award space (put the award seats back in bucket and re-grab them, if they even become available again) in order to re-ticket the whole thing? Or will they just use the seats I already grabbed and simply tack on the extra segment? With this option, I might also decide to pay cash for A->B later, and just have them connect everything at airport.

    The alternative would be to pay the extra miles for now and book A->B in AAnytime and switch if Saver opens up, which incurs fee as well, but I’m thinking if I grab those seats now they are less likely to release Savers? It’s a small Embraer 140 jet…

    What would you do? Thanks!

  69. @ Ted — There would indeed be a fee, but you should be able to “preserve” the space without it being redeposited. In your shoes I’d probably grab B to C now, and then hope A to B opens up at the saver level at some point. Don’t see much upside to locking in the higher award rate now, unless you think it’s likely the award category will go up even further.

  70. I had a reservation being held with AA for flights in March, but when I went to book it today, the agent said JAL rejected it. Bummer.

  71. @Bryan I had a reservation held too since 18th and just went to book it in fear of losing the space too, agent didn’t have problems and it is currently On Request.

    @Ben I ended up picking a 1-connection F routing for A->A1->B for now, didn’t really want to do that at first because it leaves earlier, involves terminal change at PHL, and only leaves 1 hour 25 mins to connect to JAL at ORD (with perhaps another terminal change?). Too many opportunities for error. But, if I do this and later A->B direct Saver opens up, I should be able to change to that with no fee? If it doesn’t open up, I have the option to drop A->A1->B and book A->B with cash. Will pay extra change fee, but I’m gambling it…

  72. @ Ted — Exactly right. Can change for free if the nonstop opens, or otherwise can pay to drop the first segments.

  73. Ben,

    Does JAL require the traveler to show credit card used for taxes on AA award at check-in? I booked a one way for my cousin SGN-NRT-LAX in J/F for next week. Wondering if this will be an issue.

    All the best

  74. @Ted – Thanks for the data point, that’s helpful. I’ll have to keep digging, though I’m not seeing much left 🙁

  75. @Lucky, besides using AS miles for international premium travel (LAX to NRT, BKK or HKG) on Cathay Pacific (CP), is there another airline you would recommend? (Just in case by the time I am ready to travel, CP no longer allows members of partner frequent flyer programs from redeeming for award tickets.)

    I remember you mentioned Japan Air instead of CP for AA miles, what about AS miles?

  76. Hi Lucky,
    I have put a couple of award tickets traveling from AUS-ORD-NRT-TPE on hold at first then I went ahead and ticketed them today. It has been more than 12 hours since I talked to the agent. The reservations are still showing the status being “on request”. I was worried so I called AA back to make sure everything is ok. I was told that it is. But I just wanted to check that is this normal? They are telling me everything is fine and they are just waiting for Japan Airline to ticket the award now. What will be the time frame like? Should I be worried if they are not ticketed by tomorrow?

    Thanks!

  77. @ Neil — Totally normal. It can easily take 24 hours for American tickets to issue, as it’s not an instant process.

  78. @Ben Does AA allow one to change flights to whichever one they want (even those without Saver space) after “significant” schedule changes? Also, does Expertflyer show “phantom” space for AA award space? I see 2 available on EF but they don’t show up on AA.com. Thanks again.

  79. @ Ted — It depends how significant the change is, but if the change is serious enough then in theory space could be opened. What fare class are you seeing on ExpertFlyer? There shouldn’t be phantom space.

  80. @Ben – It is for Economy Saver (T), it is for that A->B segment mentioned previously. I saw 1 available on EF yesterday but non showed on AA or Alaska.com, today I saw 2 with EF alert triggered, but still nothing on the 2 .coms.

  81. Hi Lucky. Thanks for all your information. I am really struggling and I was hoping for your advice. We are planning a trip from Washington, DC to Tokyo in April. I would really love to try the JAL First Class flight from ORD, but that means and extra 2 hour flight and at least a 2 hour layover at ORD. Also I would most likely have to fly from BWI (based on current AA availability) which is 75 minutes from my house vs. IAD which is 20 minutes from my house. I have plenty of miles on both United/Chase as well as American. (A lot more AA miles though)

    Option 1: BWI-ORD-NRT on JAL First for 62,500 – Total travel time 19+ hours with plane change.
    Advantage: Fly First Class ORD-NRT-ORD and enjoy all the amenities.
    Disadvantage: Longer travel time. More stress with plane change and possible glitches caused by that.

    Option 2: IAD-NRT nonstop flight on ANA business class for 75,000 miles – Total tavel time 14 Hours
    Advantage: Nonstop service, Airport very close to home, Less travel time.
    Disadvantage: More miles. Business vs. First Class.

    What do you think?

  82. @ Martin — That’s a real toughie, and I guess it depends what you value more. If it were me, I’d spend fewer miles to travel in a better product, even if it takes more travel time/is more inconvenient. But I also know plenty of others who care most about a flight being nonstop, even if it’s not as comfortable/cheap.

  83. Hi Ben,

    My plan is LAX-TYO in this Sep. but i checked with BA website, none business and first class available at the moment, do I need to keep checking or is there any other ways?

  84. Thanks. It is a tough decision. JAL business looks pretty decent from IAD. All my research indicates that I should stay away from UAL First Class and Business as well…

  85. Lucky , Thank you in advance . I see good availability next spring LAX to TYO in F class . I was thinking about spending a week in Japan than going to Hong Kong for a few days . Can this be done on same round trip ticket with either one being a stop over ?

  86. @ Donn — American doesn’t allow stopovers on awards. So you could book an award into Tokyo and out of Hong Kong, and then a separate one-way between the two, if you’d like.

  87. Hi Ben,
    I see spaces in Business on JAL from LAX to NRT on a bunch of days in January, searching on jal.com. However, BA.com and Qantas do not show any availability. I called AA and they don’t see any day in January. BA.com showed LAX-KIX-HKG in business but AA still didn’t have it available. Which site should I use to search for award flights that can truly be booked using AA miles? Thanks!

  88. Lucky,

    Any advice on how to book JAL w/AA miles when the originating in FUK or ITM then HND to SFO in first. I am booking for next fall and see lots of F for HND-SFO and JAL even show space for the domestic portion although only in coach. AA says they can only see the F space HND-SFO. No domestic space available

    Thanks in advance for your time.

    Richard

  89. Can you use AA Advantage miles between on JAL flights from Narita ( not those flights run by AA ) to DFW and return ?

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pingbacks