Redeem Miles For Japan Airlines New First & Business Class

In September of 2012 I wrote about Japan Airlines’ new first and business class, which they planned on rolling out on their entire longhaul 777-300ER fleet.

Given that it has been over a year since they announced the project, I figured I’d provide a quick update as to the status of the retrofits, given what a great use of miles travel in Japan Airlines first and business class can be. As of now, Japan Airlines is flying their 777-300ERs with the new first and business class product from Tokyo Narita to the following destinations:

  • Chicago
  • London
  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Paris

As of April 2014 they’ll also operate the new product to Frankfurt.

Ultimately their new first class looks only marginally better than their old first class, given that their old first class was already a semi-private suite. If you’re interested in reading more about Japan Airlines service, I flew their old first class from Tokyo to New York a couple of years back.

Japan Airlines old first class

Japan Airlines new first class

The biggest improvement is in business class, where they went from an angled flat seat to a fully flat (and much more private) seat.

Japan Airlines old business class

Japan Airlines new business class

Up until now I’ve done everything I can to redeem my AAdvantage miles on Cathay Pacific for travel to Asia, though Cathay Pacific is getting stingier with releasing premium cabin award space by the day. So I’d like to give Japan Airlines’ new first and business class products a spin sometime soon.

For what it’s worth Japan Airlines is fairly good about releasing first and business class award space both when the schedule opens and again close to departure. Generally the Chicago route has more availability than the Los Angeles or New York routes, though it can vary. It’s not unusual to see two first class seats far in advance, or to see up to four first class seats closer to departure.



Bottom line

For one-way travel from the US to Japan, American charges just 50,000 miles in business class or 62,500 miles in first class, and they don’t impose fuel surcharges for redemptions on Japan Airlines. That’s a value that’s pretty tough to beat, especially with the new premium cabin products that are now fairly prevalent on Japan Airlines.


  1. Hey Lucky,
    What kind of value is their in redeeming British Airways Avios for JL F or J from North America to Japan? Similar to redeeming AA miles?

  2. @ Kelly — It’s not an especially good value since in many cases you’re paying 70,000 miles one-way for business or 105,000 miles one-way in first class. JAL has fairly high fuel surcharges as well, which you’d have to pay if redeeming Avios.

  3. Ben–right now I’m booked using as miles business on cx but they are charging me 25% for an infant fare–if I switch to jl would it be 10%?

  4. Though JL’s new business seat has direct aisle access, there are six seats in a row compared to AA, Cathay and EVA’s four seats. Doesn’t that sound too crowded and busy? I wonder how it can be ranked best business class last year?

  5. @ S — It should be 10% of the full fare revenue fare for the class in which you’re ticketed regardless of whether it’s CX or JL.

  6. Hi Lucky,

    As part of a One World Explorer trip with AA (or whatever they call the distance based chart) I have an upcoming trip where I flight out in JL J and back in CX J. I haven’t experienced either product (I’ve done CX old J) so am looking forward to both.

    I gotta be honest… a solid J product is good enough for me. If F “works” in terms of scheduling and miles-budget, I’ll consider it, but if J is what’s available, then I’m a-ok with that.

  7. Any link I can direct the agent to regarding the 10% infant fare? They say the ticketing desk told them the rate

  8. @ Shannon — It’s definitely not as good of a hard product as a reverse herringbone seat (in my opinion), but keep in mind that these seats face directly forward while reverse herringbone seats face the side, meaning you can’t fit as many of them per row. Meanwhile British Airways has eight seats per row so is even more crowded.

  9. Follow up to J/F:

    As flat-bed J becomes the norm, the days of F have to be numbered. There’s a difference between cramped coach, recliner-J, and flat-bed F. But once J goes completely flat bed, I don’t think the airlines can really command the revenue premium to keep F around.

    I have to wonder if we’ll see a continuing evolution of recliner style and flat bed seating over many years, with various name changes. Since flat bed J and flat bed F are pretty close, and a mile away from cramped Y, many have introduced premium Y. How soon before that becomes “enhanced” into a recliner style seat?

  10. Lucky, I just found out it’s 7 business seats, not even 6 seats, per row on JL’s new business class. Now I finally understand why you commented the BA’s first is more like Cathay’s business class with better food. I just feel 7 seats was way too many and puzzled how it is ranked the best business class of they year … maybe it’s not fair to just value from the pepper. Hopefully you will let us know if it’s worthy to fly JL’s new product than Cathay or EVA….

  11. New J is an improvement over the old J, but I don’t see why anyone would fly it over ANA’s new J in the 1-2-1 configuration, especially since they compete on many of the same routes!

  12. @Justin Probably because ANA is star alliance and JAL is Oneworld, so depending on where one’s miles are accumulated.

  13. FWIW, Lucky, many of us baby boomers won’t fly JAL because of their history as the 2nd worst airline disaster ever regardless of how nice their seats/cabins are now. You are too young to remember this terrible crash, but here are some reminders. I would much rather fly ANA regardless of how many points it is on JAL and how nice their seats are..


  14. Lucky, I booked 2 of these awards for the new F suites, ORD-NRT. What is your opinion on the best seats for a couple traveling together? Do the two middle seats have a partition that lowers between them? If not, might as well go for a window each.

  15. @ Lois — On ANA I’d do two center seats together. You should still be able to communicate if in those two seats since the partition lowers.

  16. your photo of old business class is in fact domestic Class J , which is not a business class product.

  17. Lucky, How come JAL is operating angled seats on the 787 NRT to JFK? Are you aware of them switching these over to flat as well? Im about to redeem miles and dont want to be stuck with the old product even though equip changes are out of our hands.

  18. @ AH — Nope, unfortunately the 787s have angled seats and they don’t have plans to switch it as far as I know. That being said, I don’t believe they operate 787s to New York, but rather only 777-300ERs with fully flat seats. What date are you looking at?

  19. I was looking @ the Jan/feb calendar. It’s weird but the BA site show it as 787 but JAL does not. Maybe I could be mistaken. Curious though how come only one of the two flights to JFK has the sky suite and the other angled seats? One would think with NYC being a major market both flights would be sky suite. BTW did you ever get around to trying out the new Iberia Buss/first class on a long haul? If so what was your opinion?

  20. Yep BA is showing one of the flights as 787. Weird though you would think the sky suite would be on the red eye back from NRT but instead its on the morning flight. Wonder how often theres equip change on these.

  21. @ AH — Hmm, you’re right, it does indeed appear like there’s a 787 in the schedule for next year that would have angled seats. That’s a real shame for the JFK route…

  22. Does it seem like they’re still releasing space close in? Don’t see anything now but maybe because high season? Looking for 2 F seats on lax-nrt route in late nov/early dec.

  23. Lucky, in your opinion will JAL do a eqip change on the 777 route? How reliable is it to book something for Feb now? Or should I book CX over JAL?

  24. @ E — They are still releasing space fairly close in, though it’s fairly high season so there’s going to be less space than usual.

  25. Hi @Lucky!

    How do I make sure the trip I’m booking is with JAL and not with AA? Having a hard time to find openings in october from NY or chicago

  26. @ Tzukino — What’s the flight number you’re looking at? Just make sure it’s not a codeshare. Keep in mind only Japan Airlines flies between JFK and NRT, so if you’re flying that route it would be Japan Airlines for sure.

  27. How close to departure to they usually release seats? I’m less than 30 days out right now, but nothing is available yet.

  28. @ hsw25 — The closer to departure, the more space they release. In my experience they have the most space within two weeks. That being said, it’s getting to be high season, so space may be tougher to come by than usual.

  29. Availability for this summer on both JL and CX seem hopeless for 2 F seats. Looking for NRT-LAX or HKG-LAX. Searching QF and BA websites, calling AA and still not seeing anything for months either side of Aug 1. Strikes me as odd given the wide range of dates. Has availability dried up that much, or am I missing something?

  30. @ ihem — Yeah, unfortunately this late in the game it’s just very tough to find space. Most of it has been booked up already, though more may open up last minute.

  31. Thanks for the quick response. Feared that was the case, but will keep checking daily. On a separate note – thanks for all you do. You are head and shoulders above all the other content out there, and you have become the only blog I truly enjoy reading. Keep it up!

  32. I have an option of flying AA NRT – DFW or on JAL NRT to LAX in first, which is better? Thanks is advance.

  33. Hi Lucky,

    I try to book 2 business class tickets on JAL from Ord to Nrt in March11. I was told that there is only availability for 1. Should I go ahead and book 1 first. Do you think there is more availability later on?

  34. @ Nhan — They certainly could open more space as the departure date approaches, though it’s far from a guarantee.

  35. Hi Lucky,
    Do u know what’s the New Jal First Class from JFK to Narita is like?
    I will be traveling to HK via Tokyo on Jal First in Sep.I know the Jal. First before bankruptcy was fabulous but
    not much has been written about the New Jal. First. after bankruptcy.
    I am more interested in their First Class Service,Food, Beverage & Amenity kit.
    I know for sure what Cathay First is like to HK but I am curious about JAL. First.
    Thks very much!

  36. @ David — Should be a really solid product based on everything I’ve heard. I’m sure you’ll have a great flight.

  37. Just booked 2 business class tickets from Seattle>San Fran>Haneda>Osaka for late October. The trans-Pacific flight is on the 777-300er with first class, however no F award seats were available.

    Any suggestions on when or how frequently I should be checking back for award seats to open in F?

  38. @ Craig — Can’t hurt to check back frequently, though it’s most likely that the space will open up within a few weeks of departure, so I’d check back more aggressively starting then.

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