Fabulous Fridays: Cheap Upgrades To First- & Business Class On Japan Airlines Domestic Routes

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This weeks Fabulous Friday is about the very cheap upgrades Japan Airlines (JAL) sells on their domestic routes at the time of check-in.

These upgrades are available for both revenue and mileage redemption tickets and can also be used as double upgrades from Economy to First at very attractive prices.

While there was some conflicting information that even an upgraded reward ticket would earn new tier points and miles this was not the case when I ran a recent test on the route from Tokyo to Osaka.

Nevertheless the price can’t be beat and it was indeed an interesting experience to fly First Class on the short Haneda-Osaka/Itami route.

These upgrades are also widely advertised in Japan, including on JAL’s own website:

You can access the detailed product description for Japan Airlines Class J (Business Class) here.

First Class (I ended up using First Class due to Business being full) details are available here.

I decided on the very last minute to fly from Tokyo to Osaka and the only sensible thing to do was to use a British Airways Avios Redemption for 4,500 Avios plus $2 in taxes.

The fare for this flight would have been roughly 27,000 JPY in Economy Class. Premium Redemptions for Japan domestic routes are not offered via BAEC.

A few weeks prior I talked to a friend about these low priced upgrades (1,000 JPY to Business Class, 8,000 JPY to First Class) and then he received updated tier points for the new class of service for this. When I reached the airport I inquired about this and was told Business Class was not available anymore (the flight was indeed packed to the brim) but there was one seat in First Class which I could purchase for 8,000 JPY. I accepted that offer.

The flight is 40 minutes long, I’m oneWorld Emerald and the onboard benefits are likely negligible but I was curious and since the price was just about US$70 I thought I’d give it a try for the experience alone and maybe to get some extra tier points for it (didn’t work out that way).

The domestic First Class (Diamond Premier) lounge at Haneda Airport which I would have had access to regardless was pathetic, especially the F&B. No loss there. In fact I found the gate area more accommodating.

On board I found myself in a very interesting Captain Kirk style, single “Commanders Seat” in the middle of the cabin.

The configuration on this Boeing 767 was 2-1-2 in First Class. The flight offered complimentary WiFi access for all passengers and in First Class there was a cold meal option as well as an extensive beverage selection.

I was impressed for such a short flight. Keep in mind though that the First Class is usually sold at rather expensive rates compared to the Business Class cabin (~ 70,000 JPY for the one way) so they better offer some performance for that.

Conclusion

My hopes for getting tier points after the upsell weren’t realized but I’m sure if you upgrade a revenue ticket (usually around $100 except on the day of departure) you would have gotten extra credits.

I had a brief look into the Business Cabin (which did not receive a snack/meal during this flight) and have to say that 1000 JPY ($8) is a great deal even for a 40 minute flight while 8,000 JPY ($70) is probably not. Sure there are still big savings compared to the retail price and it was definitely worth it for the one time experience. I wouldn’t pay this on a regular basis though except that it’s a very good source for tier points on BAEC if they end up posting when upgrading a revenue ticket.

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