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Memorial Day weekend is a time for barbecues, spending time with family and, apparently, devaluing award charts. On the heels of Qatar’s no-notice increase of up to 77% in award prices, Japan Airlines has quietly posted a new set of columns on its Mileage Bank distance-based partner award chart (thanks to TPG reader Derrick for the heads up). Beginning November 20, any award bookings made after 9:00am Japan time (7:00pm Eastern time on November 19) will utilize a new award chart that determines the price of your partner operated award ticket:

Overall, while most distance bands are not increased substantially and there are a few zones with slight decreases, many premium class redemption zones do take a large hit, with price increases of as much as 31%. Here’s a quick rundown of the winners and losers in the new chart:

  • Prices for Japan Airlines operated flights are not affected.
  • Economy, premium economy, business and first class redemptions on itineraries up to 2,000 miles will decrease in cost. This is great news if you can maximize domestic American itineraries with stopovers and book flights as close to 2,000 miles as possible.
  • Most round-trip business class itineraries from the US to Europe increase from 63,000 or 65,000 miles required for a round-trip to 80,000 or 85,000 miles round-trip.
  • Miles required for first class partner redemptions decrease or stay the same on itineraries up to 6,000 miles in length.
  • Business and first class itineraries between 6,000 miles and 20,000 miles in length average an increase of 21% in miles required across the five zones.
  • Economy itineraries between 2,000 and 20,000 miles in length only require an average of 8% more miles.

Transfers from Starwood Preferred Guest are currently the best way to earn JAL Mileage Bank miles — the 5,000 mile bonus given by SPG for every 20,000 points transferred results in a 25% bonus. With average premium cabin class redemptions increasing an average of 21% for the majority of itineraries, these changes can be equated to wiping out your SPG transfer bonus.

You can still book round-trip economy to Europe from the US on Oneworld airlines and Air France for 45,000 or 47,000 miles, depending on where in the US your departure city is. Round-trip business is possible for 80,000 miles, making it equivalent to the other best priced award tickets from the US to Europe (Korean Air SkyPass redemptions), but JAL doesn’t pass on carrier surcharges on American or Air France-operated tickets, while Korean does pass on surcharges on all SkyTeam partners to Europe. This makes JAL still one of the best programs to consider for transatlantic flights, even post-devaluation.

Bottom Line

The JAL Mileage Bank partner award chart has been ripe for devaluation for several years now, given how generously priced it was. Award zones that gave an additional 2,000 miles in potential flying but only charged 2,000 more JAL miles for the ticket were illogical and couldn’t exist forever. A 20% average increase in premium cabins is tough to swallow, but could have been much worse.

Kudos to JAL for giving its customers a near six-month notice of the changes — that’s exactly how a loyalty program should behave to engender goodwill with its customers. Make sure you book your ticket by November 19 at 7pm Eastern time to take advantage of current partner award pricing.

Know before you go.

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