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UPDATE 3/14/2017 3:30pm: Alaska has reached out to us to assure us that this is just a temporary technical problem and not a permanent change:
Rigorous TPG testing has established that Japan Airlines has one of the best economy, business class and first class products on flights across the Pacific. So, we were happy to see Alaska MileagePlan add Japan Airlines awards last December, and even happier to see that the rates were reasonable (the same can’t be said for Alaska’s revised rates for Emirates awards, however).
One of the sweet spots was premium economy awards — when Alaska first opened up JAL award bookings, premium economy was priced at a very reasonable 5,000 miles more each way than economy.
On my transpacific Japan Airlines flights, I’ve found that the service is similar in both economy and premium economy — which is to say that JAL economy service is more like premium economy service than the other way around. However, the premium seat alone is well worth the extra 5,000 Alaska miles each way.
Sadly, however, this sweet spot no longer exists — Alaska has pulled JAL premium economy awards (without notice) from its award chart, as you can see below.
This doesn’t seem to be part of a larger elimination of premium economy awards from Alaska’s chart, though, as Cathay Pacific premium economy awards remain on the chart at 35,000 miles each way between the US and Asia. So, all is not lost if you’re looking to use your Alaska miles to get to Asia in premium economy.
If you really want to try out Japan Airlines’ premium economy product, you can book an award ticket between the US and Japan for 32,500 JAL Mileage Bank miles each way. However, you’re going to have to stick to flights on JAL — you can’t connect in the US on an AA flight at the same price. Need Mileage Bank miles? Japan Airlines is a partner of SPG — but make sure you account for the seven day transfer time.
This is a particularly disappointing move from Alaska’s MileagePlan. Just months after launching an award, Alaska has made a no-notice elimination from the chart. While one could argue for Alaska’s need to increase the rates on the previously spectacularly-priced Emirates awards, it’s hard to see how Alaska would need to eliminate this award so quickly.
H/T: One Mile At A Time
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