For now we’ll have to mark this as “developing,” though it sure looks like something may be up…
I love redeeming miles for Japan Airlines first class
While Japan Airlines first class isn’t the easiest product in the world to book on miles, the airline is fairly good about releasing award seats (sometimes a couple of first class seats per flight in advance), and this can be a phenomenal use of Alaska Mileage Plan or American AAdvantage miles.
However, it looks like something is changing.
Japan Airlines’ 777 first class
Is JAL now restricting first class awards?
Historically Japan Airlines hasn’t placed restrictions on partner first class award availability. That’s to say that if Japan Airlines made first class award seats available to members of their Mileage Bank program, they could also be booked through partner frequent flyer programs.
That no longer seems to be the case, as noted by Point Me To The Plane:
- For flights through April 1, 2021, all Japan Airlines first class award space also appears to be bookable through partner programs
- Beyond April 1, 2021, Japan Airlines first class award space to & from the US only seems to be bookable directly through the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program, and not through partner programs
What should we make of this?
There are a couple of different ways to look at this development. It’s possible that Japan Airlines has had a change of strategy, and going forward will only make (most?) first class awards available directly through their program.
They wouldn’t be the first airline to have such restrictions:
- Singapore Airlines exclusively makes first class award seats available through their own program
- Lufthansa only makes first class award seats available to partner programs at most 15 days out
- Cathay Pacific releases more award space to members of their own program than to partner programs
But it’s also possible that this isn’t quite as it appears:
- It could be that this is a temporary technical glitch
- It could be that Japan Airlines first class award space won’t be blocked altogether in first class to & from the US, but rather may only be made available to partners closer to departure
- It could be that this restriction is only being put in place for a limited time, given Cherry Blossom and that the Olympics are expected to be in Japan in 2021
- We’re working with a fairly limited sample set here, since this only seems to be the case as of April 2021, and the schedule mostly only goes as far as May 2021
Japan Airlines’ 777 first class
If you’re hoping to redeem miles for Japan Airlines first class next spring or summer, that isn’t possible through a partner program at the moment. It would appear that all Japan Airlines first class award space to & from the US as of next April is being restricted to members of Japan Airlines’ own frequent flyer program.
Japan Airlines wouldn’t be the first airline to have such a policy. I’m hoping this is just a temporary situation and not a permanent change, though only time will tell. I’ll try to get to the bottom of this and figure out what’s going on, and will update this post if I learn more.
What do you make of JAL’s current first class award situation?