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Japan Airlines business class award space has been playing games with our hearts over the past few days, at times appearing wide open and then failing to ticket. However, we had a report from a reader yesterday of a date ticketing with four seats in business class on Japan Airlines between San Francisco and Tokyo (but keep in mind that you may be able to include connections on either end). We have since been able to confirm tickets for multiple passengers in business class. Japan Airlines is notorious for phantom award space, but I think this might be the real deal. Of course, don’t shoot the messenger if you try to ticket and it doesn’t work — but based on our experience thus far, I think it’s worth a shot given wide open availability for two or more passengers between May and September, with less availability in October and November going to Tokyo, but lots of availability on returns. For those who got in on the ANA first class deal one-way, this could be your ticket home.
Japan Airlines has been pretty stingy with business class space since the pandemic began, but right now it certainly looks like space is wide open on the routes from San Francisco to Tokyo-Narita and Tokyo-Haneda. For example, here’s a look at dates with two or more seats on the nonstop from San Francisco to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) in September 2023.
Some dates even have five seats in business class. Ask me how I know.
Dates with seats for four or more passengers are not as plentiful, but there are a handful of those days in September.
Lately I’ve been seeing strange things with married segment logic at AA. I haven’t quite worked out the pattern, but I often see more availability when there are two partners on an itinerary, especially when the seats on one partner are in economy class. Some have speculated that those dates without nonstop Japan Airlines availability are really just phantom space, but I can confirm that both connecting and nonstop space ticketed successfully.
As you can see in the screen shots, American Airlines charges 60,000 miles one-way in business class.
Alaska Airlines also charges 60K miles for Japan Airlines business class between the US and Japan. A notable advantage of booking through Alaska is that you could build in a stopover for no additional miles. For instance, here is space for two passengers from San Francisco to Tokyo with a stopover of several days and then onward to Okinawa for 60K miles and $19.10 each (120K total for two passengers.
You could alternatively stretch things farther across Asia for very reasonable prices. Perhaps you were inspired by Greg’s worm-eating during our 3 Cards 3 Continents trip? Stopover in Tokyo for a few days and then continue on to Saigon for 65K miles per passenger.
Availability in the other direction is even better. Here’s a look at 2 or more passengers in June. There are about as many dates with 2 or more seats in September and October (better weather) as well.
You could potentially book these flights with Avios, but that wouldn’t be a good deal since you’d be on the hook for hundreds in surcharges. You want to book this space with American Airlines AAdvantage or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, both of which can be done online.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to be based in San Francisco for this to make sense. You could easily include a domestic connecting leg within the United States. I found some dates from Tokyo to San Francisco that connected on nonstops from San Francisco to JFK and Newark on American, Alaska, and JetBlue (though the domestic connection was only available in economy on the first couple of dates I found).
I believe that if you book the nonstop leg to Tokyo and you’d later like to add a connection beyond Tokyo, you may be able to do that with either program. Remember that American Airlines will not allow a stopover, but a layover of less than 24 hours should work. I am more confident that you could later add an onward connection from Tokyo if you book via Alaska Mileage Plan (and turn Tokyo into a stopover).
Again, Japan Airlines is known to often show phantom space, but in this case I can confirm that at least some dates are ticketing for multiple passengers, so if you recently booked a one-way to or from Tokyo and you are looking for transportation in the opposite direction, this could be your ticket.
The day after publication, Travel On Points reached out to let us know that they had flagged this hours before we discovered it. We were unaware of their post (we had booked flights from Tokyo to San Francisco last week in the ANA deal and have been searching various options daily since we now need to get to Japan as part of our 2023 team challenge) but hats off to them regardless.
I’m seeing 8 (!!) on ORD-HND on several dates in late January of 2024. Clearly not on AA yet, but should be bookable with CX or BA, albeit at higher prices. 75k CX + $390 or ~93k BA + ~$370.
What’s your recommendation for transportation within Japan? flying (5k one-way), or high speed train? TIA!
These are Sky Suite III or apex?
Depends which flight. 787-9 should be the slightly larger regular Sky Suite (Apex Suites) and 787-8 would be the slightly smaller SkySuite / Apex Suites. 777 flights would be SkySuite III (reverse herringbone) I believe.
Thanks! This tracks, and mine is marked 789 and has 2-2-2 seat selection. But something in the booking made me think it was III.
Easy way to know is to search for a paid seat on your flight. I think it says what it is on JAL site.
Thanks for the heads-up 🙂
Was able to snag 2x J seats for 60k AA miles each:
SAN -> NRT out on a Wednesday in Nov, and
HND – > SFO return on a Thursday in Dec
Had to top-off my AA acct with 25k miles (ouch) to complete transaction, and it took about 24 hrs to be ticketed.
Grabbed 3x RT SFO-NRT for June, thanks for the heads up Nick! Took several hours to ticket, but chose seats on JL’s site while they were still on request at AA.
I found 2 seats from London to Haneda in Oktober got ticketed within 2 hours used AA miles starting in Gothenburg with a night in London
I just booked SEA to NRT for a three week stay leaving Sep 1, and then a stopover flight from KIX(Osaka) to BKK on Alaska for 65K miles. All flights are business, but many of the selections were mixed cabin awards.
I was glad to see this would work as I intended to end my Japan stay in Osaka, and was expecting to have to return to Tokyo to find a decent award.
I just booked 2 tickets in December through ORD (DFW on return) so it must work at some level. One question I have is when or “will” I be able to change my seat selections to the 773 row 5 mini-cabin as I am OW Sapphire with AA. I understand that closer to departure this will or may open up but it seems you have to have seat selections completed within 3 or so days before departure from what I’ve read. I’ve flown a ton of AA awards just not JAL is the reason for my question. I couldn’t find any First class seats on the AA award searches btw.
Just grabbed three seats for NRT-SFO. Now I tried to add the domestic segment and it seemed to be completed as well. But when I click Trip Details, it asked me to call the reservation line. The hold time is 2+ hours! Not having good feelings about this.
Read this and figured I’d try my luck. Some data points for anyone who is interested:
Was able to book HND-LAX in Business in March for 2. I found it on the AA app on my phone and proceeded to book. Had issues with getting the app to accept my credit card. Tried to pull up the availability on aa.com on my laptop and it would not show up. Ended up using another card to ticket the reservation through the app. Got a record locator, however it shows “status: on request Flights on other airlines are subject to confirmation and the response may take 24 hours or longer. You can view the status of your trip online to verify confirmation or contact Reservations.”
Does this mean it’s phantom space? I was looking earlier today on a desktop and it did not appear. Then I looked late at night on the app, with my search being for NRT-SFO. That search gave me an itinerary for HND-LAX-SFO on JL & AA, so I resubmitted the search for HND-LAX and went to ticket. Thoughts or advice? Much appreciated in advance. (Planning my honeymoon around award space and a husband who doesn’t really get the points & miles game).
Someone else asked about it being “on request” a few comments below. We had the same thing, it just took a few hours to ticket. Sometimes that’s just the way it is with American Airlines partner tickets. You should be good to go.
Awesome! I’ve read about tacking on a domestic AA flight to an itinerary like this, do you have any idea if that’s still a thing? I live in Miami and am looking to add an AA nonstop LAX-MIA to this reservation.
I see the other comments below about it maybe being possible . . . just wondering if there is anything I should need to know before I contact AA. Much appreciated in advance!
Can the connecting segment be added later if available at no cost? Or should I try to book upfront?
Also, I made one way reservation, but realized in the speed of typing I used my newborn (lap child) name for ticket instead of toddler (first name difference only). Is that something I could call in and correct? I’m worried if I cancel and rebook , it may disappear.
I mentioned in the post that I believe it can be added later with either airline, but I’d be more confident about doing that with Alaska (better customer service regarding these kinds of things in general).
I don’t know about correcting the name. Fixing a misspelling by a letter or two is usually possible, but an entire first name might not be. But rather than guess, I’d call.
Do you use multi-city option to add connecting flight to SFO? Or how is connecting flight added on Alaska or AA?
Via AA, just search to/from wherever it is you want to start. You won’t always find connecting space (obviously this depends on a lot of factors), But like I just put in NRT-NYC and it gave me results in business on the NRT-SFO leg and continuing to NYC.
If you want to do a stopover (only possible with Alaska), you would use the multi-city search.
It’s a good deal if you’re SFO based but I wouldn’t fly from the east coast for that. I’d rather fly economy nonstop than make ridiculous connections.
Different strokes for different folks. I can accept that someone might not want to connect, but I’ll take the bait and disagree with you as someone based in New York State: I don’t find it ridiculous at all to add 3.5 hours to the trip in order to sit in a lie-flat seat with champagne and excellent service for 11.5 hours of it.
If my choices were to pay 35K to fly 14+ hours nonstop in economy or 60K to fly 6.5 in economy + 11.5 in business, I’d not even think twice about it unless the miles were a stretch — I’d take the business class with a connection every time.
That’s partly because flying nonstop has just never been a priority for me (like I said, I know it is for some people, but I’ve bever valued it). Because flying nonstop doesn’t matter to me at all, I see the enjoyment of 11.5 hours in business yielding far more enjoyment over flying economy than the cost.
And realistically, there are a lot of people living in the Eastern half of the United States who don’t live in a city with nonstop service to Tokyo, so they’re going to connect anyway. In that case, I’d much rather connect in SFO for business than connect in NYC or DFW or ORD for economy. Again, different strokes for different folks, but I live about 3hrs from both NYC and Boston and I’ve still flown through San Francisco plenty of times to get to/from Asia.
Not considering the current inventory you’re considering, many times ORD and IAH have ANA/JAL awards when JFK, LAX and SFO have none.
Yep! I booked 3 tix in J from ORD to HND and back for a couple different dates last week. I’m based in CLT so adding a connection to ORD is a breeze compared to having to get to SFO. Plus, more time in JAL J!
Couldn’t agree with you more, Nick. I’d rather take a stick in the eye than fly nonstop to Japan in economy. I’m willing to position to anywhere in North America for 10+ hours in JAL J or F. That said, I was able to snag 3 J seats ORD – HND for both September and December on JAL, so the deal definitely wasn’t just for SFO.
I remember, not many years ago, if one desired to fly to Europe, your gateways were JFK or BOS, only. For Austral-Asia, the gateways were SFO or LAX. One didn’t have a choice, the vast majority of flights were from those airports. I guess in a way, people have become spoiled by all the choices that we have now. But now as I am older, I do prefer non-stops. Which luckily for me, my gateway ORD, is a city that usually has more award availability over coastal cities.
I only see SFO availability. Are there any other cities? Perhaps the title of this article should be “Wide open Japan Airlines business class space from San Francisco.”
See the paragraph about connections. Yes, it’s only from San Francisco. But you’re booking with AA or Alaska, so you can book with a connection almost anywhere to/from San Francisco. I saw one stop connection options to Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Diego, etc. The domestic legs were in economy. Obviously YMMV, but I had no trouble finding the domestic space to connect to it.
I booked, it says ‘ON REQUEST’…is this normal? BTW – thanks for the amazing work you guys do. Booked ANA F the other day and now this!
Yes. It took a couple/few hours to go from on request to ticketed.
Great write up Nick! I am going to bookmark this amazing post.
Any info on JAL First? Been eyeing that, tho I don’t want to get greedy. Any secrets to finding space?
Saw some seats yesterday that I think probably were phantom on that.
It opens up two weeks before departure. My son booked his flight that way 3 weeks ago.
Just got this from ANA:
(March 26 – October 28, 2023)!!!
ANA Haneda 2023 Flying to the center of Tokyo
Additional route for New York = Haneda
In addition to our daily New York=Haneda flights (NH109/NH110)…
THE Room will become available on the San Francisco=Haneda route
Enjoy your flight with THE Room on Business Class and updated interior for all cabin classes on the San Francisco=Haneda route (NH107/NH108).