Japan Airlines First Class Awards Wide Open from Sydney, and the Best Availability to/from Australia

Japan Airlines has a really fantastic first class product, it’s one of the best with a fantastic mattress pad and excellent (very Japanese) service. I’d suggest they’re in the top seven (in no particular order: Singapore, Emirates, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, ANA, Asiana, JAL).

They’re switching the Tokyo – Sydney route to a Boeing 777-300ER and that means the route will get first class. Award space is widely available on the route, much better flying Sydney – Tokyo than it is flying Tokyo – Sydney.

American AAdvantage charges 60,000 miles for a one-way award between Australia and Japan.

Let’s have a look at November, as the season for travel between the US and Australia begins to heat up.

Here’s first class award availability for two passengers on Japan Airlines, Sydney – Tokyo:

There are even a few days where four first class award seats are available.

Now, this may be of limited use to many of my readers although a not insignificant number of readers are actually based in Australia (and I have family there). American Airlines doesn’t let you route via Asia on a single award ticket between the US and Australia. Instead you’d have to book one award US-Asia and a second award Asia-Australia.

Japan Airlines miles are actually quite reasonable for this, they charge only 130,000 miles roundtrip for first class awards on their own metal between the US and Australia ticketed by October 31 for instance (though you probably wouldn’t book an all JAL roundtrip). They do add fuel surcharges to awards, and Starwood Starpoints transfer but not instantaneously in fact it can take some time for the transfer so I wouldn’t use this route if you don’t already have JAL miles in your account (as the space could be gone by the time you get the points).

Instead the way I would play this as someone in North America is:

  • Book a one-way award to Australia
  • Then book Australia – Asia (one-way JAL first)
  • Separate award back from Asia, after your Asia stop on the return

Neither American nor Delta allow stopovers on awards any longer (though United and Alaska still do) so it’s not uncommon to have to pay extra miles for a stopover. And some will want to fly JAL’s first class and may find it worthwhile, or may want an Asia stop on an Australia award.

Now, how do you get to Australia? The best way is almost always using Delta SkyMiles for travel on Virgin Australia. Delta charges 80,000 miles one way, and availability remains pretty good. Keeping with the November theme, here’s two passengers in business class:

Virgin Australia availability goes in waves, this isn’t historically great but sometimes it dries up completely. I’ve seen as many as four seats available around Christmas and New Years — although I’ll predict that space gets tougher in the future as Virgin Australia rolls out their new business class product (I’m guessing delayed until early next year at this point).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This has been out there for about 2-3 months now, this is not a new development. And JAL F is just an OK product. The cabin is extremely warm and makes it difficult to sleep and the wifi is unreliable. Not worth 60K IMO.

  2. My apologies if this seems very obvious, but where would I look to find the 60K one-way JAL flight from Australia to Japan? I’m not seeing it on American’s site. Would I need to call American?

  3. I just booked 2 J tickets from LAX-SYD (80K each DL/VA) and AKL-BNE-LAX (80k each) for next May.

  4. @Caroline – American’s website doesn’t show Japan Airlines award space. personally I use the British Airways BA.com site to search for it, then call American

  5. @Bob you’re pretty negative on everything, claiming JAL first class on a long haul flight isn’t worth 60,000 miles just seems crazy to me. And just an ok first class product? GREAT bed, food, service. Your complaint is a warm cabin? Every Asian and MIddle Eastern carrier keeps it warm. And wifi is unreliable? Whose overwater wifi is always spot on?

  6. Gary

    So the only way I can transfer miles to JAL Mileage Bank is from SPG – correct? None of the other 3 (Amex Reward, CUR, or Citi TYP) transfers to JAL Mileage Bank.

    Will JAL populate the BA website with their own availability (JAL) before JAL’s normal 330 days out protocol?

    Other than the JAL website, are BA and AA the only other sites where I can purchase award tickets on JAL?

    Does JAL convert miles with to any other airlines?


  7. @Bob…Totally agree with Gary. Negative people like you are great for the rest of us though, stay away from great redemptions like this, more for the rest of us. Maybe stick with American etc? The seats and service are awesome for you?

  8. @bobbieddie – SPG transfers to JAL, I can’t think of others. Not sure I understand the other questions. You can use points from Emirates on Japan Airlines (and Emirates is an Amex partner) but awards are pretty pricey.

  9. Lol, this JAL “warm cabin” thing is becoming quite the urban legend – every JAL thread on FT has it brought up at least once by somebody. Yeah, the first time when I flew with them it seemed a little warm, but I figured that was just the bottles of $300 champagne talking. Feel free to skip on this redemptions and pass on your advice to as MANY people as you can! 😉

  10. AusBT reckons that JAL has yet to confirm the change of aircraft, are we sure he aircraft won’t change (and hence rewards get cancelled)

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