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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  • That is an interesting seat. It’s odd they have the cabin 2-1-2 for first class. How were those drinks? The list is quiet extensive.

    • David

      On a 767 not unusual since that’s been the “front premium” cabin arrangement on most airlines, at least for international configurations. The in-between cabin, if it exists (or on a 2-cabin J/C and Y), is 2-2-2 while economy is 2-3-2. The cabin width has always been a bit of an issue on this plane.

  • Flyboy

    Did you have such a bad upbringing that you look down on anything that doesn’t suit to your standards?

    Quote “…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.”

    The offerings were sufficient and very Japanese. If they had wanted to provide more, they would have. No one is going to have a 8 course meal before a domestic flight. Its mostly for business people anyway and they are quite happy with a cup noodle if they’re hungry.

    Writing a good blog is to be able to see the positive side of things. I can even say that about you.. that your reviews are ‘pathetic’ too but I’d rather say that you are inexperienced to appreciate the little things that matter to most.

    • Denis D

      What’s wrong with calling a poor lounge lounge/service/product out? I personally LOVE Japan, love Japanese people, love Japanese culture and approach to service. However I’m also saying that JAL Sakura domestic lounges are simply joke (and John wasn’t visiting F class lounge which is supposed to be a step above). I don’t even know why they bother maintaining them. What’s wrong with calling them miserable if they are in fact miserable?

      I also find ridiculous typical “it’s domestic” justification? Domestic. Yes. What’s next? Why domestic must mean miserable? If an airline bothers to provide 3 classes of service on a domestic flight (nobody forces it, it could’ve gone with Y only service and that’s it) then it should provide service on a proper level. For very short flights ground service (fast check, nice lounge and overall seamless experience) means more than onboard product.

      Your “domestic” logic brings us right to the states, where domestic flights (that are often charged at a way higher fares than competitive International ones) offer no service altogether. 6 hours long. No meal. No beer. No lounge access. No bag. Paid $450 one way. What do you want?! It’s domestic!

    • wthielen

      I have flown with JAL domestic in both the J-Class and First, and I agree with the review here. I have also flown Premium on ANA domestic routes, and I must say that the ANA domestic lounges are way better than JAL’s. Even the ANA lounge in Naha Airport is better than Haneda’s domestic JAL lounge. Maybe “pathetic” is a strong word, but I can relate to it (if you’ve been to TK’s CIP in IST, or in SQ’s SilverKris lounges, JAL’s domestic lounge is just pathetic indeed, but I really shouldn’t compare domestic and international lounges…)

      Also note that you don’t have lounge access if you fly J-Class. I wouldn’t call the J-Class business at all. It’s just a slightly upgraded seat and that’s all you get: no food, no special service. I’d compare it to premium economy on international flights. The First is where things get interesting, and I felt that’s where the business class experience starts, as compared to an international Y class. Too bad it isn’t available on all flights.

      So in short, I wouldn’t bother going for J-Class. Try getting a First seat instead.

      • Harry Webb

        I agree with the review also. Why the messenger (Sebastian) was attacked for telling us of his experience is a mystery.

    • Banga

      I visited the ANA dometic lounge at HND a few months ago and the JAL domestic first class lounge at Chitose. The ANA one in particular gave me feelings of pathetic too. The lack of food save for savory snacks covered in Bonito (fish) – the only way to pass the time was to drink beer and access the internet.

      With a four hour connection I eventually left to find dinner and didn’t return.

      The JAL lounge at CTS at least had some azuki bean buns.

  • David

    How was the “Raw Ham”? Loses something in the translation…

  • Thanks for the details. Was definitely curious about the tier points on an upgraded Avios ticket.