Fabulous Fridays: Business Class Seating With Economy Class Tickets In Unused Cabin Sections


It’s Fabulous Friday again and today I want to write about something that happens to me multiple times per year: Being offered Business Class seating in unsold/unused cabin section when having an Economy ticket.

FF Premium Seating

It happened once again yesterday on my Japan Airlines flight from Beijing to Tokyo/Haneda which is operated with a B787 Dreamliner that has longhaul Business Class in two cabin sections.

Apparently the Beijing-Haneda route is strong but not strong enough to fill the rather large Business Class of the Dreamliner entirely with paying passengers. Keep in mind the frequency of other flights on that route (Air China and ANA both fly it at least twice daily – so does JAL).

What Japan Airlines does it they offer the seating in the second Business Class section complimentary to Elite Members (not sure what’s the minimum status level as I’m Emerald with British Airways) and also offers upgrades at check-in to all other passengers for a price between 10-14,000 JPY (which then also includes lounge access).

Upgrade Offer JL PEK

I fly the Tokyo to Beijing route frequently and have been using that 787 Dreamliner flight a few times this year after I learned the first time that they offer free seating for status passengers in the second Business Class section.

Usually I use BA Avios miles for redemption as flights out of Japan and China can be pretty expensive (especially on JAL). Once the ticket is issued I’m able to select my seats on the Japan Airlines website. Keep in mind that your booking code may vary from the one JAL uses so you might want to check on checkmytrip. When I entered my online booking and saw that the business cabin with 2-2-2 configuration was available for selection I locked it in immediately and chose seat 8K.

JL20 Boarding Pass

The paid upgrade offer for booking classes Y, B, K and H (expensive ones!) is 10,000 JPY and all other booking classes may upgrade for 14,000 JPY. I find that very reasonable for a 3:30h flight with longhaul equipment especially considering the long ground delays in Beijing (55 minutes yesterday) with pre-flight Lounge access (BGS Premier Lounge) on top. Of course the value when using 10,000 BA Avios is hard to beat!


Airlines sometimes offer this premium seating to top tier status members (especially their own). I had the same happening a few times with ANA when I was still Diamond with them but since I mostly switched to oneWorld I have been using JAL more frequently. My operational upgrade ratio to Business Class as BA Emerald is also pretty good on all sorts of oneWorld Airlines which rarely happened to me in my 15 years as Star Alliance Gold.

You should always check in the airlines online seatmap if you can find such premium seats in advance! Situations like these make me realize how valuable airline status is at times (especially in Asia).

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