9 Reasons To Be Excited About Redeeming Alaska Miles On JAL

Yesterday Tiffany posted about how it’s now possible to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on Japan Airlines. While the partnership between Alaska and Japan Airlines was first announced in May, we were told that reciprocal mileage redemptions would only be possible in late 2016.

Many of us were caught off guard by this redemption opportunity being added, given that Alaska didn’t provide any further updates or timeline for adding JAL as a partner, but rather the awards just suddenly became bookable.

Tiffany did a great job summing up the ability to redeem Alaska miles on JAL, though I wanted to write a follow-up post about this new option, because I’m really excited, as I think this is the best new partnership that Alaska has added in a long time. Why am I so excited?

JAL first & business class is phenomenal

I’ve reviewed JAL’s premium cabins many times before, and I think both their first & business class products are spectacular. For more context on that, see some of the reviews I’ve written about my flights with them:

I think that both JAL’s first and business class products are among the top five in the world, so being able to redeem Alaska miles for them is exciting.

JAL-First-Class-777-29
JAL first class

Redemption rates are great

Previously the best way to redeem miles for JAL premium cabins was through American AAdvantage, though they devalued those redemptions earlier in the year. Now first class from the US to Japan costs 80,000 miles, while first class from the US to much of the rest of Asia costs 110,000 miles. Alaska’s rates are significantly lower, as you can see:

One-way award priceEconomyPremium EconomyBusinessFirst
US to/from Asia

(Japan, South Korea, and India)
35,00040,00060,00070,000
US to/from Southeast Asia

(Technically Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, and Cambodia, but in practice China and Taiwan as well)
40,00045,00065,00075,000
Intra-Asia

(all regions)
15,00017,50025,00030,000

I’m not just excited because this represents a good deal, but also because of what this means for Alaska Mileage Plan. If they were thinking of devaluing a bunch of redemptions soon, you’d think they’d introduce this redemption at a devalued rate that reflects that.

So it’s great to see that Alaska isn’t matching American’s pricing, but rather is continuing to pave their own way.

There are no fuel surcharges

Some of the partners Alaska has added lately, like Hainan and Icelandair, have come with carrier imposed surcharges on award redemptions. It’s great to see Mileage Plan add a partner without imposing these surcharges.

Japan-Airlines-Business-Class-777 - 4
JAL business class

You can do a stopover in Tokyo on an award

This is huge, and is really what makes Mileage Plan so great. You can make a stop in Tokyo for as long as you’d like before continuing to your final destination. Most frequent flyer programs don’t allow free stopovers on awards, let alone on one-way award tickets.

So being able to do this is really exceptional, especially since Japan is a ways from Southeast Asia. So it’s not like Bangkok, where you’re a short flight on a low cost carrier away from a bunch of other countries. In the case of Japan, it can be an additional seven hour flight to Southeast Asia.

jal-alaska-1

This is a new way to get to India with miles

India can be a tough place to get to on miles sometimes. Fortunately Alaska’s definition of Asia is quite broad, as you can travel on JAL from the US to Delhi via Tokyo for just 60,000 miles one-way in business class. That’s incredible, and might be the new best way to redeem miles to India (if you don’t  mind going the long way, depending on where you’re originating).

jal-as

You can do a stopover on an intra-Asia award

This is huge. When you redeem Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific intra-Asia you can’t do a stopover in Hong Kong, though for whatever reason you can do a stopover in Tokyo when booking Japan Airlines within Asia. For example, for 25,000 miles you can fly from Singapore to Tokyo, have a stopover, and then continue from Tokyo to Delhi, all in business class.

jal-alaska

That covers a distance of 7,000 miles one-way, which is toughly the same distance as a roundtrip between New York and Delhi…. all for 25,000 miles in business class.

del-sin

Great ticket change policies

Alaska Mileage Plan lets you cancel or chance your award ticket up until 60 days before departure at no cost. That gives you a lot more flexibility than a vast majority of other programs when it comes to changing your tickets.

You can redeem for premium economy

While redeeming for JAL premium economy wouldn’t be my first choice, this is an opportunity that could prove potentially useful. Most U.S. carriers don’t let you redeem miles for premium economy, which is good news for those who have access to premium economy seats, since they’re typically much more readily available than first or business class seats.

So since Alaska lets you redeem for JAL premium economy, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding those seats when first & business class awards aren’t available.

You can easily buy Alaska miles

At the moment Alaska is selling miles with a 40% bonus, which is an opportunity to pick them up for ~2.11 cents each. If you’re acquiring miles at that rate, it means you could pick up enough miles for a Singapore to Tokyo to Delhi flight (with a stopover in Tokyo) for just ~$600 in business class. That’s insane.

alaska-bonus-1

The bad news…

Very few things in life are entirely good news, and this is no exception. The bad news here is that JAL award space isn’t amazing to begin with, and now of course there will be significantly increased demand for these flights. Furthermore, American doesn’t let you search JAL award space online, while Alaska’s website does, so you can expect there will be even more competition for those seats.

So if you’re planning last minute or way in advance you still shouldn’t have trouble finding space, but this isn’t an airline that’s always going to have business or first class award space.

Bottom line

This new redemption partnership between Alaska and Japan Airlines presents some of the best redemption values out there. Between the stopovers on one-ways (including on intra-Asia flights), the great redemption rates, the generous region definitions, and JAL’s excellent premium cabin products, I think a lot of us will be getting value out of this partnership.

Comments

  1. You wrote: “Most frequent flyer programs don’t allow free stopovers on awards, let alone on one-way award tickets.”

    True, but that should read “no longer allow” because they did in the past—–one main reason that airlines like American should re-impose the gateway and International hub stopovers after their anti-passenger style devaluation.

  2. Hey Ben, I agree that the stopover ability in Tokyo on the way to India is reason to be excited, though I don’t think you’re correct when that “When you redeem Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific intra-Asia you can’t do a stopover in Hong Kong”…

    I have a trip in March in Cathay Business Class using AS miles and have a 2 day stopover in HKG on the way to Tokyo…

    http://travelupdate.boardingarea.com/booking-alaska-mileage-plan-award-cathay-pacific-business-class/

  3. @Accountingyourpoints Actually, I have to agree with Ben since when I tried book a stopover on inter-Asia trip on Cathay using Alaska miles, the system wouldn’t let me do it. The CS rep that was working with me was puzzled why it wouldn’t go through but finally figured out that it was due to a stopover.

    Your trip is not an inter-Asia award since it starts in US.

  4. Just flew JL CDG-HND-CDG in First Class and was not overly impressed. While the in-flight service was excellent and the seat and bedding were comfortable, for food was bizarre to say the least (e.g. a bowl of radishes as an appetizer, and caviar with nori and sour rice) and the portions were quite small. Also, the ground services for first class customers at both CDG and HND were non-existent. I’ll stick with CX in the future when traveling to Asia.

  5. I had three flights in JAL F last month: SFO-HND, CGK-NRT, NRT-LAX. Agree with Gregg, ground services are non-existent. Hard product is good, but not in the top 5 – no enclosed suite, no double bed, no shower. Just a pretty standard first class 1-2-1 seat.

    Service on SFO-HND segment was great, probably because there was only one other passenger in F and the cabin crew could be really attentive. However, CGK-NRT-LAX flights were full in F, and service was not attentive or personalized at all.

    Food is good, but also not to the level of top 5 F products. There is caviar, but the portion is tiny. Mains are forgettable.

    In all, JAL F is a solid product, but definitely not “phenomenal” as Ben calls it.

  6. @AcCountingYourPoints

    Um, no, you didn’t “miss” anything. You thought “why bother to actually read when instead I can post a know-it-all comment and waste other peoples’ time”. But I’m sure you “miss” things a lot …

    “Ahh scratch my previous comment… missed the “intra-Asia” part!”

  7. “That covers a distance of 7,000 miles one-way, which is toughly the same distance as a roundtrip between New York and Delhi….”

    Wow…get me on that 6 hour JFK-DEL flight! 😛

  8. @Moe:

    We call that a “round-trip”. 😉

    No, AS won’t sell you a round-trip for the price of a one-way with stopover… it will price out as a round-trip. Thanks for playing, though. 😀

  9. Just got back yesterday from a round trip on JAL JFK to NRT. Saved some miles so flew Economy one way and Premium Economy the other ($300 to upgrade to Economy Plus, which got refunded today through Chase Ritz Carlton card in a 3 minute phone call). Even in Economy and Premium Economy, JAL was incredibly impressive. Described my experience to someone there who flew United EWR to NRT, and she got extremely upset when we compared flights since United was so inferior to JAL.

  10. The stop over intra Asia is really crazy. That means I can book a ticket from say Jakarta, to Tokyo, and use Tokyo as a stopover. Then I can ‘continue’ to Kuala Lumpur as my end-destination, and that’s a 1-way with a stopover? If I lived in Jakarta, that would be a free round trip from Jakarta to Tokyo since Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta can be booked with an LCC for as low as $16 one way!

  11. Agree with Greg: “food was bizarre”. Flew JAL FC NRT-LAX in Sept, and the Western main course was “hamburg”. No, not a hamburger in a bun, just a round sphere of cooked, but not exceptionally seasoned, ground beef sitting on the plate. Not very appetizing at all.

    Seat and service were good, but certainly not SQ level. Yes we would fly JAL again, based on availability, but don’t consider them to be ‘aspirational’.

    Have to give them credit for serving Salon Cuvee S though. 😉

  12. @Bob, couldn’t believe this and I actually managed to price out CGK – NRT 2 day stop NRT – KUL, first leg in F and back in J on (777 and 789 with the good J class) for only 30K + $47…. Availability wasn’t great.. but its certainly legal/bookable.

  13. Contrary to the theme of this post, Alaska MVP miles are not always better than AAdvantage miles when looking to book JAL longhaul, particularly in business class. I just researched JAL business class nonstop HND – SFO for next July. Both programs wanted 60k miles per business class seat, but Alaska wanted an additional $52 in fees per ticket while American only wanted $39 additional per ticket. Of course, MVP miles are generally more valuable than AA miles because of Alaska’s greater range of international partners and their great stopover rules on one-way tix. But on this particular nonstop JAL flight, I gladly used my AA miles to get the JAL business class ticket.

  14. “That covers a distance of 7,000 miles one-way, which is toughly the same distance as a roundtrip between New York and Delhi” – hope you meant to say one-way? A great opportunity nonetheless. Just purchased DEL-NRT-CGK in Biz + First at 30k. No more First is offered after March-end 2017 to CGK so if anyone wants to fly intra-Asia in JL F better fly before that!

  15. Just the follow up – there is even crazier route! Tokyo to Delhi via Jakarta – It’ll give NRT-CGK-XNRT-DEL and have two First Class rides plus one Business Class ride – all in 30k + USD 71, still considered as one way!

  16. This all sounds amazing—-if a little confusing. JAL is my all time favourite airline but now being an OAP can’t afford it. Sept 2017 I will be flying from Ireland to Japan (preferably Osaka) and on to Bangkok and returning to Ireland (Via Japan would be ok) Was wondering if I could avail of this offer?

  17. I was able to book several intra Asia awards like BKK-NRT-SGN on JAN 10. I now keep getting an error when I try to book similar flights. The system may not be allowing to book intra asia awards any more. Not sure if AS is just blocking my account to book intra asia.

    The request was not successful. See the red message(s) below. Space on partner flights cannot be confirmed. Please change the dates, cities, or flights of your original request.
    -1620

    To continue, shop again for other fare and flight options.If this problem continues, please call 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522) for other fare and flight options.
    -10

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