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One Mile at a Time reported this morning that there is wide availability for business class awards on the new Japan Airlines route between Seattle and Tokyo. This could be a great use of Alaska miles since Alaska allows a free stopover and charges no fuel surcharges on these flights (and just 60K miles). Alternatively, it could be a great use of the current point transfer bonus from Amex Membership Rewards to Avios. Cherry Blossom season is wide open with 2 seats almost every day — and some of those dates fall under off-peak season (for areas outside of Tokyo). It would require less than 45K Membership Rewards points each way in business class (or 54K during peak times) if you take advantage of that bonus – or book with Alaska for a free stopover in either direction.
- Wide open business class awards for two passengers between Seattle and Tokyo next year (from March 31st to the end of the schedule)
Japan Airlines has excellent service and this route will be serviced by a 787-8 with JAL Apex Suites. It’s a nice-looking business class seat (See One Mile at a Time for pictures).
There are several great ways to book:
- Alaska charges 60K one-way to North Asia in business (plus you could have a free stopover in Japan and continue onward or a free stopover in Seattle on the way home)
- Alaska charges 65K one-way to South Asia, plus add a free stopover each way
- American charges 60K one-way to/from North Asia (no stopover)
- American charges 70K one-way to/from South Asia (no stopover)
- British Airways charges 62.5K one-way during off-peak time between Seattle and Tokyo in business (with the 40% current point transfer bonus from Membership Rewards, that’s less than 45K Membership Rewards points)
- British Airways charges 75K one-way during peak time between Seattle and Tokyo in business (with the 40% current point transfer bonus from Membership Rewards, that’s less than 54K Membership Rewards points)
The key if booking with British Airways is that British Airways adds surcharges. Whereas a business class flight between Seattle and Tokyo using Alaska miles will cost you $53 in fees, British Airways will charge you about $185.49 (that was the fee per passenger on the date I checked for this post).
A key advantage for booking via Alaska or American is that you can add free positioning flights within the continental US and/or continue beyond Tokyo within North Asia or South Asia. Alaska also allows one stopover each way (including when booking one-way), so you could stop in Tokyo en route somewhere else or in Seattle (or elsewhere) on the way home.
You can easily find availability via the Alaska Air website. Choose a calendar view format and business class to see dates, though note that the calendar isn’t entirely accurate (for example, this shows no availability on April 18th, but when I clicked through on that date I found 2 seats).
You can also see availability on Qantas.com, through Qantas requires you to log in first.
Unfortunately, these flights do not show up in searches at the British Airways website. However, an agent was able to see this availability over the phone, so you should be able to call.
If you have Alaska miles, that’s obviously an attractive proposition due to the low fees. On the other hand, with the transfer bonus, British Airways can be a solid deal (and you should be able to cancel for a low fee up until 24 hours before departure). Another advantage for British Airways would be if you need to book a lap infant. Alaska can’t book lap infants on other carriers and will refer you to JAL (which will charge you 10% of the adult fare & taxes – around $600 on this route on the dates I checked). British Airways charges 10% of the adult mileage cost plus taxes (i.e. 6,250 Avios or 7,500 Avios).
Speaking of mileage cost on BA, remember that they use a peak/off-peak calendar for awards. Head for Points has example calendars, though his calendars didn’t match what an agent told me on the phone. According to the agent with whom I spoke are peak dates during Spring/Cherry Blossom time:
- March 28th to April 16th
The following dates are off-peak:
- April 16th to May 24th
I did not ask beyond that — you can either consult the Head for Points calendars or call for further info.
That cuts out Cherry Blossom time in Tokyo (usually early April), but consult the chart on this page for cities that may bloom before or after BA’s peak times.
And it’s not just that time of year — two seats are available in business class from when this flight begins on March 31st through the end of the calendar on many flights.
H/T: One Mile at a Time
Hi, Nick Just wondering is there any YQ fee difference using Iberia or BA to book JAL/Cathay NA-Asia route?
I’m honestly not sure. The JAL flights didn’t show up on Iberia (I checked after BA wasn’t showing them).
I also looked at Cathay Asia Miles, but they don’t show JAL online, either.
If you call IB, they should be able to see the same availability that you’re seeing via Alaska / Qantas and be able to price it out for you.
However, two things to be aware of with IB:
#1) Partner awards are completely nonrefundable / non-changeable. That means no miles back, no money back, nothing. No changing dates or flights. You’re locked in. For this reason, I’d only use IB when they are charging significantly fewer points and I’m absolutely sure plans won’t change.
#2) They may only allow round trip (they only allow round trip with AA). I’m not positive with JAL. British Airways allows one-ways.
This has been booked! Perfect timing as I was looking for the best way to Singapore! However, now I am looking at the seat maps on JAL and they are blocking ALL window seats on the SEA-NRT leg. Any idea if this is common? (NRT-SIN has only 6 open window seats.) (Flight is in 8 months out)
[…] Overall, it’s nice to see some increases in award availability as of late (also see our earlier post about Japan Airlines availability to/from Seattle). […]
You mentioned about the flights not showing up on BA website. I actually see this a lot. JAL flies direct to KOA from NRT and I like to use NRT as the connecting airport to other places in Asia and back to KOA. A lot of times I see the flights showing up on Alaska but not JAL. I did not know that you could call and they can book for you; that would have saved a lot of discomfort in economy on a red eye flight since TYO-KOA is always red eye.
I didn’t actually realize how widwspread this was because I had recently been finding some JAL availability through BA. I had been holding out for a specific route / dates, but I assumed they’d show via BA. Clearly, they may not — so I’ll be checking Alaska and/or Qantas now.
How to you add the positioning flights? Do you do a multi city search on alaska website?
That’s probably the easiest way, yes. You probably want to search segment by segment for availability first and then multi-city to book once you know which dates have the seats you want.