The biggest mistake the average member of a frequent flyer program makes when it comes to using their miles for travel is believing that you just go to your airline’s website, enter the city you’re traveling from and where you want to go, and the website will spit out your options.
It’s a perfectly reasonable expectation in 2019, but it’s not how it works. Different airlines do better and worse jobs at this, of course. Some don’t have all their partners online. Some won’t show all possible combinations of flights.
American Airlines has been a laggard even compared to United and Delta. AAdvantage started talking about adding booking of partner airline awards to their website back in fall 2011.
Last August American made several partner airlines bookable online only to pull the availability the next day. Clearly it was a test, though perhaps not one meant to be made live yet. They brought web booking for a couple of those partners back a month later. Then in May they made it possible to book Etihad awards online.
Now American has introduced online booking for their transpacific joint venture partner Japan Airlines. Award space can be plentiful, and they’re quite good about releasing award space close to departure as well.
JAL flies a number of routes between the U.S. and Japan.
- With business class as the top cabin: Boston – Tokyo Narita, Dallas Fort-Worth – Tokyo Narita, Honolulu (Narita, Nagoya, Osaka), Kona – Tokyo Narita, Los Angeles – Osaka, San Diego – Tokyo Narita, Seattle – Tokyo Narita
- With a first class cabin: Chicago – Tokyo Narita, Los Angeles – Tokyo Narita, New York JFK (Haneda, Narita), San Francisco – Tokyo Haneda
- Flying between the U.S. and Japan runs 35,000 miles each way in coach, 60,000 in business, and 80,000 in first.
- Flying between the US and most of Asia runs 37,500 miles each way in coach, 70,000 in business, and 110,000 miles in first.
You can fly between the US and Japan on Japan Airlines and then connect onward with another partner like Cathay Pacific.
This won’t be good news for everyone, though it’s certainly good news for the median American AAdvantage member. More members will be aware of more options to fly to Asia with their miles. Until today none of American’s partners between the US and Asia were bookable online, so you’d only see American flights which are almost never available in premium cabins.
Customers thought they just couldn’t use their miles. With this improvement of course means more competition for limited space for those of us who already knew what we were doing!