How To Redeem Miles For Japan Airlines A350 First Class

How To Redeem Miles For Japan Airlines A350 First Class

29

Japan Airlines has started flying the Airbus A350-1000, featuring an all-new passenger experience. I just shared my experience flying the carrier’s new first class, and it’s spectacular, in my opinion. The airline is expected to roll out this product on additional routes in the coming months, so I can’t wait to see this available on a more widespread basis.

Now, understandably OMAAT readers probably have one most common question — how do you redeem miles for Japan Airlines’ new first class? The good news is that it’s absolutely possible to redeem miles for Japan Airlines’ new A350 first class. The bad news is that it’ll take a bit of effort.

Japan Airlines first class award space when schedule opens

Currently, Japan Airlines seems to make one first class seat available as an award ticket when the airline first opens its schedule. This not only applies to routes operated by the carrier’s old 777s, but also to routes operated by the carrier’s new A350s.

Japan Airlines opens its schedule 360 days out, so you’ll immediately see one award seat available at that point. It’s not only bookable by Japan Airlines Mileage Bank members, but also by members of select partner frequent flyer programs.

So this brings us to the challenge, as I’ve written in the past about when airlines open award seats. While Japan Airlines opens its schedule 360 days in advance, American AAdvantage only opens its schedule 331 days out, and Alaska Mileage Plan only opens its schedule 330 days out.

In other words, you couldn’t use Alaska miles or American miles until those respective windows, meaning you have a roughly one month delay with accessing that award space. In almost all cases, that first class award space will be booked by then.

I’m finding that more often than not, that one first class award seat on a particular flight is snagged within hours of becoming available, and sometimes within minutes.

One has to wonder if those seats are being legitimately booked, or if there might be some brokers somehow locking in these seats, and then finding a way to monetize that. The consistency and speed with which these are being booked makes me think there might be some funny business going on.

Japan Airlines Airbus A350 first class seat

Why Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is probably your best bet

While it would be nice to directly have Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles, the reality is that those miles are hard to come by, as the program doesn’t partner with any major transferable points currencies. So you want to find a points currency that partners with Japan Airlines and transferable points currencies, and that opens its schedule 360 days out.

There’s one program that fits the bill — Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. The program opens its calendar 360 days out, Cathay Pacific also belongs to oneworld, and the frequent flyer program partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, and Citi ThankYou.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles allows Japan Airlines first class awards to be booked directly through its website, and you’ll usually find a Japan Airlines first class award seat right when the schedule opens.

Japan Airlines first class award availability

For example, an award between Tokyo and New York will run you 135,000 Cathay Pacific miles in first class, plus a few hundred bucks in taxes and carrier imposed surcharges. So it’s not quite the same value as if you were redeeming American miles (80,000 American miles plus no carrier imposed surcharges), but at least you have access to availability.

A couple of other important things to note:

  • While Cathay Pacific’s award search feature often says “only a few seats left,” that’s not actually accurate, and it says that even if there’s only one award seat available
  • In the calendar function you’ll see the price of 160,000 miles listed, but that’s the pricing in the event that there were first class award space on Cathay Pacific
  • Japan Airlines hasn’t formally scheduled the A350-1000 for the winter schedule yet, so you’ll see all routes show as being operated by the 777-300ER; however, I’ve written about the carrier’s planned A350 routes, and we know what to expect
Japan Airlines Airbus A350 first class seat

What about award space closer to departure?

If you don’t want to (or can’t) snag a Japan Airlines first class award a year out, do you have any shot of still finding space?

Back in the day, Japan Airlines would consistently make unsold first class seats available as awards as the departure date approached. Unfortunately as of mid-2023, that’s no longer the case, and the airline doesn’t generally release unsold seats as awards as the departure date approaches. For the most part, the airline just seems to release the one first class award seat when the schedule opens, and that’s it.

So, do you have any chance of scoring a first class award through American AAdvantage? In theory, it’s absolutely possible. If someone cancels the award they book right when the schedule opens, it could be bookable through another partner program as well at a later date.

However, at the moment it seems to be nearly impossible to find first class award space this way. I imagine this comes down to how few award seats there are, combined with the amount of competition for these seats. Still, it’s always worth keeping an eye on availability, because you never know what you’ll find.

Japan Airlines Airbus A350-1000

Bottom line

Japan Airlines has introduced one of the world’s best first class products, in the form of its new A350 first class. The good news is that it’s absolutely possible to redeem miles for this product, as the airline makes one first class award seat available on each flight as soon as the schedule opens.

The trick is that Japan Airlines opens its schedule 360 days out, so you’ll need miles with a currency that also has access to award space 360 days out. This is why booking through Cathay Pacific Asia Miles might be your best bet, because the program has access to award space right away.

You can expect to pay 135,000 Cathay Pacific miles one-way for first class to or from Tokyo, plus there are some carrier imposed surcharges. So while this isn’t the world’s greatest bargain, it is the best realistic option for booking this space.

What’s your take on Japan Airlines’ A350 first class award availability?

Conversations (29)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Matt Guest

    A quick search seems to show a decent amount of last minute F availability. Granted none of these routes are operated by the A350 (yet). Also it's winter so there's likely more available. So one could imagine that maybe sometime down the road it would be possible.

  2. CPH-Flyer Gold

    @Ben
    You should not necessarily assume that it is brokers that grab the F seats at release. There is a very active miles community in Japan, and a lot of Japanese language resources regarding booking JAL and ANA with miles. People sit on a lot of JAL miles, and they sit ready to grab their awards at the right time. Look at the speed awards in all classes for JAL and ANA disappear for Golden Week, Obon, and New Year....

  3. Miami305 Member

    @Lucky...
    "Back in the day, Japan Airlines would consistently make unsold first class seats available as awards as the departure date approached. Unfortunately as of mid-2023, that’s no longer the case, and the airline doesn’t generally release unsold seats as awards as the departure date approaches."

    I don't think that is true. About 10 days out, I have been able to snag JAL FC awards using AA miles - twice in the last 3...

    @Lucky...
    "Back in the day, Japan Airlines would consistently make unsold first class seats available as awards as the departure date approached. Unfortunately as of mid-2023, that’s no longer the case, and the airline doesn’t generally release unsold seats as awards as the departure date approaches."

    I don't think that is true. About 10 days out, I have been able to snag JAL FC awards using AA miles - twice in the last 3 months. (They were not previously available.)

  4. S Gold

    Just one reference point: BA Avios had an F seat open on HND-SFO fairly recently about five days out from departure.

  5. Serge T Guest

    Hi Ben,
    Probably the best way to redeem for First class is to upgrade using JL miles. You mentioned there isn’t a transferable currency; but you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to JL. The upgrade costs only 35,000 miles. Yes you have to buy a business class ticket. But it’s the easiest way. As long as the flight has A inventory available! Which for the most part a lot of flights including the A350 has 2 (unless seats already booked).

  6. Alvin | YTHK Diamond

    "and it says that even if there’s only one award seat available"

    Actually, the Cathay website *only* says this if there's only one seat available.

  7. Jennifer Guest

    As a point of reference, I was able to find 2 JAL First Class seats HND-DFW (777-300) and on to my home town on American on October 25th for a November 8th flight. Booked them, and then cancelled the Polaris reservation we had.
    We were already at LAX readying for departure on the outbound when I noodled around on AA and found those return seats.

  8. Nate nate Guest

    When do BA and QR open their rewards programs for booking? I think they both allow booking JAL flights through their websites.

    Also, can you explain how mileage brokers work? Do they have ways to change the name on the ticket later?

  9. pstm91 Diamond

    @Ben, I've been searching for weeks (maybe even months at this point), including right when the schedules opened in all of the programs you mention, and nada... I do need 2 seats, which makes it more difficult.
    Question - if I book premium economy via a partner program, am I able to then upgrade using points after that's ticketed?

  10. Andrew Y Guest

    I grabbed a JAL First Class seat for a flight departing on Jan 20th, JL3 departing JFK to HND. Granted, it was on the 777 and not the A350. But a data point nonetheless.

    I booked it about 8 days out, and honestly I was floored when it became available (and two seats no less). I had been looking for weeks and JAL has released almost ZERO space in business on the direct NY-Tokyo...

    I grabbed a JAL First Class seat for a flight departing on Jan 20th, JL3 departing JFK to HND. Granted, it was on the 777 and not the A350. But a data point nonetheless.

    I booked it about 8 days out, and honestly I was floored when it became available (and two seats no less). I had been looking for weeks and JAL has released almost ZERO space in business on the direct NY-Tokyo flights.

    So, it's possible. Anything is possible, but Ben is right... JAL is being super stingy about F out of New York. I do see DFW open up much more often.

    1. Chris Guest

      It's been a while but I was returning from Tokyo last October.
      The day before my return flight, two F seats opened up HND-DFW and I was able to grab those for my wife and me. It seems there is occasionally more availability to/from DFW. Since they are operating a 777-300 on that route these days, it would appear there is slightly better chance to book F compared to earlier when they were only operating the 787.

    2. Chris Guest

      p.s. As i write this there are 3 F award seats available HND-DFW Feb 1 on AA and for several days after this there is 1 F available each day. I realized this doesn't help snag the A350 flight but it is still F on JL!

  11. David Guest

    So how impossible would it be to snag two first class seats and 2 businss class seats on the same flight? Am I being delirious that I can make it happen?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ David -- Based on current availability trends, I'd say that's unfortunately very unrealistic. However, trends to change over time, so I'm sure there will be a point in the future where it's more realistic again.

  12. KD Guest

    I checked at least 10 times a day, as I suspect most F/J award flyers do. Speculatively booked JL5 in 777 F when one showed up a couple of weeks ago. Thrilled that it switched to A350X. Rescheduled my NH F for free and confirmed JL.

  13. FoxtrotMikeLima Guest

    Clearly there are brokers doing shady things.

  14. BearBoss Guest

    When I was looking for flights for end of this year last December, I saw a few JL5/6 F awards available for days, but now I see none. Maybe one out of multiple searches.

    I also think that some funny business is going on, though I wont rule out that many Cathay Pacific elites book the JAL A350 the moments the awards are released. There's a group that I follow where people share photos...

    When I was looking for flights for end of this year last December, I saw a few JL5/6 F awards available for days, but now I see none. Maybe one out of multiple searches.

    I also think that some funny business is going on, though I wont rule out that many Cathay Pacific elites book the JAL A350 the moments the awards are released. There's a group that I follow where people share photos of airline meals. Many share CX F photos, so pretty sure people are flooded with miles.

    By the way, what do you think of the First Class Entrance? Some say that Starlux F hard product isn't comparable to others, but the airline excels in its soft products and door to door service. Would be nice if the First Class Entrance experience is more like a check-in at a luxury hotel, with beverages and small bites offered.

  15. James K. Guest

    Hey Lucky,

    You're missing an obvious one - BA avios. Since it's distance based, you might have to pay a little more than the Asia Miles to JFK but it should be less for LAX/SFO/DFW. Plus so many transfer partners and people often have some handy.

    That's how I have mine for November to JFK. Excited to (probably) get the new cabin!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ James K. -- Good point, but unless I'm missing something, British Airways only opens its schedule 355 days out? I find most Japan Airlines first class awards on A350 services are booked within the first day, so that's a major disadvantage, unless I'm missing something.

    2. James K. Guest

      Yeah I suppose when I booked it in November it was for the 77W and thus less demand? But back then there was no issue with finding a seat on LAX/SFO/JFK

  16. Tom Guest

    Wow, another time when you and I were probably in the same place at nearly the same time! I just flew JAL F HND-LHR. I was going to send you my photos of the new F “entrance” but I’m guessing you don’t need them now.

    Regardless, I loved the experience. I don’t mind the old seats — I value soft product over hard…except for showers, lol — and JAL’s food/service are near perfect, especially...

    Wow, another time when you and I were probably in the same place at nearly the same time! I just flew JAL F HND-LHR. I was going to send you my photos of the new F “entrance” but I’m guessing you don’t need them now.

    Regardless, I loved the experience. I don’t mind the old seats — I value soft product over hard…except for showers, lol — and JAL’s food/service are near perfect, especially from Japan. I haven’t flown all of your top 10 first class experiences (just EK, pre-pandemic ET, CX, LH, SQ) but JAL is the one I keep coming back to.

    FWIW - I used BA Avios to book the ticket. I don’t remember the cost, but I only booked it a few months ago.

    Thanks again for keeping everything fun and current!

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Tom -- Hah, were you on the Tuesday flight? If so, I suspect we were at the JAL F Lounge at the same time!

    2. Felix Guest

      Same for me! I was flying HND-HKG on Saturday morning. Once in months the flight is operated by a B777 instead of the B787. That is why I choose this specific date knowing that you would not fly on this date. I guessed either Sunday or Tuesday with a higher likelihood of Tuesday given the positioning flights.

      BTW the JAL First Lounge felt pretty crowded. Can‘t complain having access as OWE but as paying F customer it does not feel like First.

  17. Luis Guest

    JL has become very stingy with awards seats. I recently flew HND to LAX in J class and 70% of the cabin was empty. Why not release some of those empty seats to award tickets? Makes no sense.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Luis -- Yeah, the airline has gone from one extreme to the other. On the Japan Airlines A350 flight I just took, business class was roughly empty, but there were still no award seats.

  18. Anteo Guest

    I have also noticed what you wrote about seats disappearing the minute they are released. This happened to me with ANA’s First class (HND-LHR)while booking it through Aeroplan! I tried for 8 consecutive days to book it the moment it appeared, I practiced on previous dates and became really quick but everyday, the exact moment it appeared , I selected it and then on next page it said, not available anymore ! I am pretty...

    I have also noticed what you wrote about seats disappearing the minute they are released. This happened to me with ANA’s First class (HND-LHR)while booking it through Aeroplan! I tried for 8 consecutive days to book it the moment it appeared, I practiced on previous dates and became really quick but everyday, the exact moment it appeared , I selected it and then on next page it said, not available anymore ! I am pretty sure some funny business is going on as you said …
    Got luck few weeks after as an Expert Flyer alert(when it was still possible for Aeroplan) popped out saying a seat appeared and I was able to snag it otherwise it was near impossible !

  19. Christian Guest

    How did you book your flight? Using Cathay miles almost a year in advance?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Christian -- No, I booked with American AAdvantage miles, by making a speculative booking before the A350 was even scheduled. At the time, the airline had a bit more award space.

  20. Willem Guest

    There’s been some close-in seats to and from SFO and DFW recently, but that may stop once the A350 arrives on DFW

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ James K. -- Good point, but unless I'm missing something, British Airways only opens its schedule 355 days out? I find most Japan Airlines first class awards on A350 services are booked within the first day, so that's a major disadvantage, unless I'm missing something.

1
Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Christian -- No, I booked with American AAdvantage miles, by making a speculative booking before the A350 was even scheduled. At the time, the airline had a bit more award space.

1
Matt Guest

A quick search seems to show a decent amount of last minute F availability. Granted none of these routes are operated by the A350 (yet). Also it's winter so there's likely more available. So one could imagine that maybe sometime down the road it would be possible.

0
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
5,163,247 Miles Traveled

32,614,600 Words Written

35,045 Posts Published