Let me preface this post by saying that I have never collected or redeemed JAL Miles before but I am okay at researching travel and travel redemptions so I’m gonna give this a shot.
In the Call for Topics Post, PointsNerd reader Allan asked the following:
Like I said, this is new to me but I am going to do my damnedest to help Allan with his particular question. If I do get something wrong, please feel free to comment below with information and I will update the post accordingly.
JAL Mileage Bank
JAL Mileage Bank (JMB) is the loyalty program for Japan Air Lines (JAL) and while it is not easy to earn the points through flying with JAL, you can transfer to JAL via Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points.
The transfer ratio of SPG to JMB is 1:1 and as with all SPG transfers, if you transfer 20,000 SPG at a time, you receive an additional 5,000 airline miles. So if Allan transferred 40,000 SPG, he would receive 2 bonuses of 5,000 for a total of 50,000 JMBs.
Transfers from SPG to JMB take some time … in fact, it can take upwards of 6 days according to our friends over at FlyerTalk.
While it seems that most transfers take 2-3 days, keep in mind that it can take longer so be aware of that fact when you are planning your redemption.
JMB Partner Redemption Chart
JAL uses a distance based chart and from a lot of the comments I have read, provides the best redemption value for flights with Emirates (EK).
I am showing the award chart below but if you happen to be reading this post years in the future, be sure to search for the newest chart because it has likely changed.
In terms of accuracy, I would rely on the JAL calculator because that’s what JAL will use but the margin of error between the two is minuscule.
JAL Routing Rules for Partner Redemptions
The full rules of partner redemptions on JAL can be found on JALs website here but I will attempt to break down the rules for you.
- One way awards are allowed
- On round trip awards, you cannot route through your point of origin to obtain a “free one-way”. For example, a SYD-DXB-SYD-AKL routing would not be allowed because you are routing through your point of origin. Some airlines allow this which basically gives you a “free one-way” because while you are booking a round trip from SYD-DXB-SYD, that extra leg at the end (which can be flown up to 364 days after in some cases) allows for a free SYD-AKL flight. Unfortunately, that is not allowed with JAL.
- You are allowed a maximum of 8 segments with 7 stopovers on a single award redemption (this is a HUGE benefit)
- You cannot stop over in the same city twice
- Infants and children are charged the same mileage as adults (big bummer … especially the infant part)
Annoyingly, JAL’s website features a broken link to specific blackout dates and rules for Emirates. So while I am trying to provide as much detail as possible, I just can’t help but feel there’s information out there that this post won’t cover (not for lack of trying) but might be of utmost importance.
Finding Award Availability
I am basing the following on anecdotal evidence that I have collected online but it seems that the best resource to find the correct availability for Emirates flights is through the Qantas website. FlyerTalk users are reporting that when they call in, the JAL agents were seeing the same availability that they see on the Qantas site.
The Qantas site is a breeze to use to search for award availability but you will need to open a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account. Once you do, navigate to the search page and start your search.
When you do your search, make sure you check off Search Classic Flight Rewards in the bottom left corner so that you are searching for awards on partner airlines, which Emirates is.
If you check off the Flexible with Dates box, you will be given a calendar of availability. This is a much easier way to search.
You will be then taken to a page where you can search based on the class of service. Allan is looking for First Class only so let’s check that off.
As you can see, having the calendar makes it a lot easier to see when you can fly but be aware, Qantas has other partners that might fly this route so let’s choose a date and go to the next page.
We found availability with Emirates!
If you click on the flight number, you will get details on the plane and with EK, you want to fly the A380 or the 777 to get the suite service. Keep in mind that only the A380 features the shower in First Class.
All in all, finding availability is pretty easy through Qantas and if the reports are correct that the JAL agents see the same availability as what Qantas shows, then booking should be simple.
Word of Caution
FlyerTalk user hyperzulu reports that if you ask the JAL agent to search for availability on a particular route, it is temporarily removed from inventory.
This means that if you know you want to fly on April 17th, don’t ask if it’s available and then ask if April 19th is available. Once they search April 17th, it is “held” for a short period so that others cannot book it. Even the agent that looked at it initially will not be able to see it again until it is released back into inventory.
If you do manage to not heed my warning, don’t fret. Just call back in 30 minutes to an hour and the availability should be there again … assuming nobody booked that flight.
The best thing to do is to figure out your dates and tell the JAL agent the exact dates, times and flight numbers you want to book.
How to Book
Booking a JAL partner award is pretty straight forward. You can book award travel 330 days prior to the date of travel and it must be done over the phone. It is not possible to book your partner award online so you are forced to call JAL.
The JAL contact centre number for North America is 1-800-525-3663 but if you want a full listing of contact centre numbers, you can refer to their directory page.
Without having a route and calling in, it’s difficult to know exactly what your taxes are going to be on an award ticket but if JALs example for taxes is any indication, it’s very affordable on Emirates … not so for other airlines like Air France or British Airways.
As I had mentioned early on in the post, the only realistic way of collecting JAL miles is to get them through an SPG transfer and the only way to get SPG points is to either stay at SPG properties or through the American Express SPG Personal or American Express SPG Business cards.
In truth, I’m a huge fan of SPG points but not a huge fan of how difficult it is to collect them … but I guess that’s part of why they are so valuable. If you are on the fence about SPG points, I would say that you should stay on the fence unless you have a specific redemption in mind that you cannot get through Aeroplan or Membership Rewards as those currencies are much easier to earn.
If you are like Allan and want to take a shower in the sky (I know I do), then collecting SPG and then ultimately transferring to an airline makes a lot of sense. As Allan alluded to in his comment, Alaska (through Emirates’ prompting) doubled the number of miles overnight for redemptions.
If you do end up signing up for the AMEX SPG card, I would love if you could use my referral link. Everything is exactly the same as if you signed up directly through AMEX … you would just really help keep this blog going.
Let me know in the comments below if I made a mistake or glossed over anything that was of significance.