Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sakura-ficing Miles - Tokyo 2017: Introduction

Introduction  |  Next >

"In Japan, number one heart surgeon. Steady hand. One day, Yakuza boss need new heart. I do operation. But, mistake! Yakuza boss die! Yakuza very mad. I hide in fishing boat, come to America. No English, no food, no money. Darryl give me job. Now I have house, American car, and new woman. Darryl save life.

My big secret: I kill yakuza boss on purpose. I good surgeon. The best!"
   - Hidetoshi ("Hide") Hasagawa, The Office S6E21, Happy Hour"


Many airlines fly between the U.S. and Japan, so when I decided to head to Tokyo on vacation, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I've flown previously on ANA business class and Singapore Airlines Suites class (trip report) to Tokyo, but hadn't flown on Japan Airlines (JAL) since 1998.

With plenty of AAdvantage miles to spend (thanks to some generous Citi credit-card sign-up bonus offers in recent years), I thought this would be a good chance to try one of JAL's premium cabins.
The first class product is a semi-enclosed suite.

Japan Airlines First Class (777-300ER)
Source:  Japan Airlines

Its business class product provides a suite-like level of privacy for the window seats (which still have direct aisle access).

Japan Airlines Business Class (777-300ER)
Source:  Japan Airlines


Booking award tickets for Japan Airlines using AAdvantage miles isn't that straightforward.

The first step is searching for award space. The award-search function on American's website does not show awards for some of its partner airlines (such as Cathay Pacific and JAL). British Airways's award-search function is much more helpful.

I had to create an account on BA's website, which allowed me to search for partner award tickets (even though I have 0 Avios, BA's frequent-flyer currency).

Japan is a popular destination in April as the cherry blossoms bloom, and award availability was scarce in the premium cabins. I found almost no business-class availability, but managed to find round-trip award availability in first class for an eight-day trip.

The next stop is calling AAdvantage and asking the phone agent to book the award ticket, as it's not bookable online. Although American's website lists an exorbitant $40 fee for phone-booked awards, although the fee is waived for JAL.

My award cost 160,000 AAdvantage miles and $44.96 in fees, but with the Citi AAdvantage credit card, I got a 10,000-mile rebate. The cash price for my itinerary was a bit over $26,000, so the redemption was worth over 17 cents per mile.

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