You Can Now Book Japan Airlines Awards Using Flying Blue Websites
Most airlines using Flying Blue as their loyalty program (most notably Air France and KLM) are members of the SkyTeam alliance, but some of the program's partners are not. One example is Japan Airlines, a Tokyo-based carrier that belongs to the Oneworld alliance. While it's not uncommon for airlines to have codeshare and frequent flyer agreements with airlines in other alliances, it's fairly rare that you can book award flights between cross-alliance partners online.
Earlier this year I wrote about the amazing award flight opportunities when using the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank award engine to book Air France-operated flights — to the tune of 63,000 JAL miles for round-trip business from the US to France. During a search this morning of the Flying Blue website, it appears the opposite is now possible. I found a result I've never seen before with Flying Blue: the ability to use miles to book Japan Airlines flights online.
Here's an example of a nonstop flight from Osaka (KIX) to Los Angeles (LAX):
It appears Flying Blue adds the same fuel surcharges to JAL flights as you would see when booking through British Airways. Tokyo-Narita (NRT) to Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) incurs an unwelcome $185 in fees in addition to 46,000 miles for a one-way economy award through Flying Blue:
In my searches, I found that any space available on the British Airways search engine displayed for Japan Airlines on the Flying Blue Engine as well. For Tokyo to Dallas on the same date, British Airways requires a more tolerable 30,000 Avios but the same $185:
This opens up some interesting possibilities. If you really want an oddball award ticket, here's an Air France-issued, Japan Airlines- and Delta-operated, mixed cabin itinerary from Tokyo to New York-JFK connecting in Dallas. I also do not recall many mixed cabin options ever showing on Flying Blue, so this certainly caught my eye (in addition to the fact that it's a single ticket with a JAL flight connecting to a Delta one):
Tokyo to New York is also pricing at 46,000 miles in economy, so it appears that flights from Japan to anywhere in the contiguous US is the same amount of Flying Blue miles on Japan Airlines:
Short haul flights within Asia are also possible, but domestic flights operated by JAL do not appear bookable online after trying 5-6 different routes.
There's one major downside here: it appears that only economy award flights are available online. No matter which route and date I searched, Flying Blue never displayed a Japan Airlines business class seat, even when other Oneworld search engines (like British Airways and Qantas) show JAL business space available.
Flying Blue shouldn't be your first stop if you want to book award flights on Japan Airlines. Using Alaska miles and American miles don't carry fuel surcharges on JAL flights and charge reasonable mileage amounts for these tickets. However, those currencies can be difficult to come by, while Flying Blue is a transfer partner of Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Marriott (and even runs occasional transfer bonuses). There isn't spectacular value at stake with JAL now on Flying Blue's different websites, but I am never going to complain when another airline partner is added to online capabilities, especially if business class results are added in the near future.