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Back in May, we first found out about Alaska Airlines’ new partnership with Japan Airlines. At the time of the announcement, a company spokesperson highlighted that the partnership would give “Mileage Plan members more ways to earn and redeem miles for travel from the West Coast to Japan and beyond.” The MileagePlan earning chart was posted soon after, but no timeline was provided for when redemptions would begin.
Well, the time has finally come. Alaska MileagePlus members can now redeem Alaska MileagePlus miles for award flights on Japan Airlines “to Japan and beyond.” Unfortunately, the “and beyond” part isn’t as extensive as we’d like. But, we’re happy to see that award redemption options are now live.
As with all Alaska MileagePlan partner awards, there isn’t a straightforward published chart. Instead, you need to search by region pair to see your redemption options. We checked all of the region pairing for flights to or from the continental US. Sadly, there’s only one region pairing that has Japan Airlines options: flights from the continental US to Asia.
Within this region pairing, there are two sub-charts: Asia and Southeast Asia. The footnotes clarify the difference: “On Japan Airlines … Southeast Asia travel includes Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, and Cambodia.” Meanwhile, the remaining chart should apply to the rest of Japan Airlines’ destinations within the light-blue shading.
Unfortunately, this means that you won’t be able to fly JAL from the US through Japan for destinations in Australia, New Zealand or — if you wanted to go the really long way — Europe, South America or Canada.
For our readers to the north, the redemption rates from Canada to Asia are identical to the continental US-Asia award rates.
Besides transpacific flights to/from the US and Canada, the only other option for redeeming Alaska miles on Japan Airlines fall within Asia. There are no footnotes provided for which countries are included or excluded, so you should be able to redeem flights between the countries shaded in Alaska Airlines’ map.
Unlike some of Alaska Airlines’ other partner redemption rates, the Japan Airlines one-way awards price at exactly half of round-trip prices. If you’re short on Alaska miles, you can redeem one way of your trip with Alaska miles and the return with another program. Or, you can redeem one way in Japan Airlines’ top-notch economy product and the other direction in JAL’s spectacular business class.
Also, Alaska Airlines allows a stopover on award redemptions — even for one-way award redemptions. For certain destinations, you’re able to visit Tokyo on your way to your final destination and then visit Osaka on your way home for a three-in-one trip.
And, unlike using Delta SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, the redemption rates for Japan Airlines premium economy are remarkably reasonable. Premium economy costs just 5,000 miles more than economy each way for transpacific flights and just 2,500 miles more for intra-Asia flights.
If you’re looking for a first-class flight on Japan Airlines, Alaska Airlines’ redemption rates are better than on Japan Airlines’ Oneworld partner American Airlines. Compared to the 70,000-75,000 rate each way charged by Alaska, American Airlines charges 80,000 AAdvantage miles each way to Japan/Korea and a whopping 110,000 AAdvantage miles to other destinations in Asia.
On the flip side, redemption rates for economy and business-class flights are right in line with AAdvantage redemption rates. This wouldn’t seem like an issue, except that TPG values Alaska miles (1.8 cents each) greater than American Airlines miles (1.5 cents each). If you’re not planning on utilizing Alaska Airlines’ free stopover option, you might as well redeem the less-valuable AA miles than Alaska miles.
We are a bit disappointed to be limited to only three region pairs: the continental US to/from Asia, Canada to/from Asia and intra-Asia. We’d love to see an option for an Alaska MileagePlan award flight from the US to Australia with a stopover in Japan. Also, it’d be great to have award flight options between Japan (Asia region) and other destinations in JAL’ worldwide network, such as South America and Europe.
We’re always glad to see more options to book award flights on Japan Airlines. The ability to redeem Alaska miles at reasonable rates for one-way flights on JAL — including a free stopover — makes this announcement even sweeter. Hopefully, Alaska Airlines and Japan Airlines will work to add more region pair options soon.
H/T: One Mile At A Time