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Here’s how Alaska’s Mileageplan can get you really cheap JAL business class tickets

Alaska's Mileageplan FFP can be your way of getting really cheap business class tickets. Find out how.

When I learned that Alaska and SQ were forming a partnership that would allow for reciprocal mileage earning and redemption, I got really excited. Excited because MileagePlan is one of the best tools of the miles game, and despite their big no-notice devaluation of Emirates awards some time back, still offers a great way to try out CX and JAL’s premium cabins for less.

I’ll talk about CX another time, because I want to use this post to focus on the JAL award chart and one particular aspect of it. JAL became an Alaska partner back in December last year. Here’s a summary of their award chart for one-way awards to and from Asia.

credit: One Mile at a Time

65,000 miles for one-way business from Singapore to the US is already very good value (Mileageplan does not impose fuel surcharges on redemptions), but I want to draw your attention to the Intra-Asia chart because that’s where the money is. MileagePlan charges 25,000 miles for a one-way redemption within Asia, and that creates an interesting opportunity…

MileagePlan’s JAL Trick

Thanks to a few people who commented on the previous Alaska post, I’ve learned that it is possible to buy a round trip business class award on JAL to Tokyo for ~US$550.

Let’s look for award space on JAL between Singapore and Tokyo. The trick is not to use the one-way function on Alaska’s search engine, but the multi-city tool. 

Put the first leg as SIN-TYO (this will cover both HND and NRT) and the second leg as TYO-KUL. You can leave the returning flight fields blank. Remember to check the “use miles” option on the left. Your first leg date is when you want to leave Singapore, and your second leg date is when you want to return.

If you’ve entered your details correctly the screen below will pop up

See what’s happening? The system is offering to let you fly on JL38 from SIN-HND on 8 June 2018, and then connect from NRT-KUL on JL723 on 15 June 2018. And it’s pricing this at the cost of a one-way intra Asia award of 25,000 miles plus some taxes (US$62 in this case). All you have to do is book yourself on a cheap budget flight back from KUL-SIN.


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Note that your second leg doesn’t have to be Tokyo-KUL. You could also fly to BKK if you so wished for the same price, or any other destination that JAL serves in SEA. The point is, you’re getting a round trip ticket for the cost of a one-way. And that’s really sweet.

JAL operates its 787 aircraft between NRT and KUL, and depending on the day you fly you may either get this

WORLD AIRLINE WINNER SKYTRAX AWARDS 2013 BEST BUSINESS CLASS AIRLINE SEAT

or this

GOOD DESIGN AWARD 2016

Either product should be fantastic. You can read a review of my experience flying JAL business class from SIN-HND here.

Alaska sells miles as low as 1.97 US cents each, so the total cost of this award for you will be US$554.50. That’s fantastic for a round trip business class ticket.

Now here’s a point to note: sometimes, you may make it all the way through to the page where you enter your credit card details, but when you click submit to try and ticket, you get a notice saying:

Space on partner flights cannot be confirmed. Please change the dates, cities, or flights of your original request. -1620

Don’t panic, and please don’t call up customer service because such a routing would raise some serious eyebrows. This is a well known issue, and what it means is that Mileageplan is showing you phantom award space. That is- the system shows award space, but it’s not really available. In this case unfortunately you can’t really tell whether it’s your first leg that has issues or your second.

There are a few things you could do- you could try trial and error by moving the dates around one at a time, or you can try to use one of the methods mentioned here to search for oneworld award space (I am assuming that JAL releases the same award space to oneworld partners as it does to Alaska, which may not be the case. Someone confirm?) on JAL.

This happened to me the first time I tried to ticket, but by moving my trip one week back everything worked out great. I’m now booked to fly to Tokyo end of April next year. I know, I’ve just been, but this time I’ll probably take a further flight to Hokkaido.

What if I need to change an award?

Mileageplan doesn’t charge anything to change routes, flights or dates so long as you’re at least 60 days out from the first leg of your reservation. Once you’re inside 60 days, you pay US$125 per change, so be careful.

The good news is that you can make award changes online without having to call up anyone. Suppose I decide that instead of flying NRT-KUL, I want to head to Bangkok instead, get some shopping and spa treatments done and then take a cheap BKK-SIN flight home.

I just find my booking and click on “Change Flight” for the second leg. Enter Bangkok as the new destination:

And there you go- I merely pay the difference in airport taxes of US$1.60 and I’m all set. No human intervention needed.

How do I earn MileagePlan miles?

From 27th September 2017 you will be able to earn MileagePlan miles when you fly on SQ and credit to Alaska. Here’s how the different classes of SQ tickets will accrue to Alaska.

Crediting SQ revenue tickets to Mileageplan. Remember to add up all 3 columns for the total

But until then you can do the following:

  • Buying from Mileageplan: Mileageplan does not limit the number of miles you can buy per year. They often go on sale at up to 50%, which means buying miles at 1.97 US cents each. Even if you were to get a 40% bonus you’d be paying 2.11 US cents each. There’s a current sale ongoing till 5 October with a 35-50% bonus
  • Transferring from SPG: SPG points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Mileageplan, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. You can either earn SPG points the old fashioned way, or buy them when they go on sale. If you’re lucky enough to be targeted for a 50% discount, paying 1.75 US cents each for 20,000 points means you could redeem the aforementioned trip for US$411.90. That’s ridiculously good value
  • Kaligo: You can choose to earn Mileageplan miles as a reward when you book hotels via Kaligo

When Alaska bought over Virgin American, they gave out 10,000 miles to Virgin America Elevate members who had an account open as of 5 December 2016. It didn’t matter if you, like me, had totally 0 activity in that Elevate account. So in actual fact I only had to buy a further 15,000 miles to redeem my itinerary, lowering the effective cost even further. Apparently it’s still possible to claim your 10,000 miles, so if you have an Elevate account you should check this out. 

Conclusion

Awards like this are why I love Mileageplan. Now that it’s going to get easier to earn Mileageplan miles in Singapore, it may be worth your time to study the Alaska award charts to find other opportunities for good value.

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75 Comments on "Here’s how Alaska’s Mileageplan can get you really cheap JAL business class tickets"

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Hi Aaron, just asking what happens if we try round-trip instead of single trip-multiple city? The system will not throw out any options for redemption?

Prev experience i had. The request wasn’t ticketed. I click submit again and everything went thru with confirmation code. So yea DUN CALL. Ymmv.

Just had the same experience.

First try, I got the “request was not successful” error message. Hit the purchase button again (no changes made) and purchase went through with both Alaska and JAL confirmation code.

Hi Aaron,
Thank you for another great sharing. Do you know if you need to take your bags, leave immigration and re-check your bags and re-enter immigration when you in KUL and taking a budget flight back to SIN? Or the checking-in to the budget flight (back to SIN) could be done in the transit area?
Thank you.

That was what i was thinking after the deal was announced! 25k miles for biz round trip to japan is unbeatable. Though it’s really the sort of stuff that shouldn’t be publicized too much lest they change the generous routing rules. Does this work on CX redemption as well? Now the issue is how to get alaska miles. It doesn’t seem to be a quarterly sales thing like lifemiles? If anyone can pull up some historical records about that. I have some Sq flights coming up but i’m not sure if i should speculatively accredit miles to alaskan instead. If… Read more »

Theoretically CX for an Asia-to-Asia trip should be possible, because it’s available here:
https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/use-miles/award-charts

Whether or not you can book availability with their phone customer service is another matter, though.

this trick does not work for CX award booking since CX does not allow stopover at HK dor inter-Asia award booking!

Huh, that so. Must be an error on MP part, showing this possibility on their site. I haven’t tried this before, but it wouldn’t hurt to try?

Yeah I was thinking of booking a route using this for the longest time. It’s just a bit hard trying to look for the dates I can take the trips on… but thanks to you there’d be more competition for these seats!

*furiously searches for award space

Hi Aaron,
In a hypothetical case where i have lots of KF miles. How is the best way to convert KF miles into mileageplan miles?
I am of course picking 25k mileageplan miles + an additional holiday destination like KUL over SQ business return at 86k miles in this case.
And do you think it is worthwhile?
Thank you.

Aaron, now that AS and KF can credit to each other, what do you think about crediting miles to each other’s FF programs? Which program is valuable for which regions/routes? I think that’ll be a good thought experiment and ML article altogether.

*edit: AS/MP and SQ/KF

You really need an edit option in your comments section.

I recently booked a CX one-way asia to asia from HKG to SIN for 22500 alaska miles. You can search for CX award availability on BA or Qantas and then I called the guys at alaska mileage and booked my award ticket. All done in under 10mins and a great experience overall.

Glad this works out fine for you. Just a note of caution to readers, they are discussion thread on flyer talk forum on availability of cx tix to AS. It seems that partner airlines allocate less seats to AS than to say BA and thus when BA site showed available flights, it does not necessarily translate to a bookable flight on AS. But I guess this should be a lesser issue for intra Asia routes as I assume not many Asians would enrol in AS in the first place. I was contemplating getting one-way cx tix to Canada next year… Read more »

Really?! Could you not had left it just at the comment sections? Must an article be written so publicly?

The screen grab shows that’s this booking counts as a layover. Does this mean you can’t leave the airport ( vis a vis a stopover)?

Yes in Tokyo. You don’t have to leave the terminal though, you can get on the plane and fly right back if you want.

Doesn’t have to be just Tokyo though. You can fly SIN-TYO and then out NGO-BKK if you wish. Great if you wanted to explore Japan without having to go back to your entry port.

Sorry for the noob question but what’s the difference between a layover and a stopover?

Layover is an airport stop, usually less than 24 hours depending on an airline’s definition. You don’t get to step out of immigration into the country.

Stopover is a stop that is longer, anywhere from a day to months again based on an airline’s definition. You get to enter the country in the interim, provided you have the legal privilege to do so (i.e. visa).

Wow!!!
65K in J and 75K in F to US really puts KF to shame…

Question – I have no interest in travelling to Japan or the US; is it still worthwhile for me to collect Alaska points?

So where *do* you want to go?

I generally travel westwards but LHR is as far as I can go without cabin fever (even in non-Y).

Seems like this is dead, cannot search for any flights using the multi-city option

Availability depends on the route or date, usually. I also have trouble finding space on particular days, but the feature is still there.

Generally for us in SG & most of MileLion readers might be LEISURE (excluding company paid business) travellers. MP defo a winner from out of pocket cash context. MP is cheaper and sold at ~2c vs KF 4c. KF miles is not easy to accrue if we don’t fly business trips. Most are converted from CC. Well US resident is a separate discussion due to how easy to acquire 50k miles.

Fantastic post. One way of earning tons of Alaskan miles as I have done a few times is to purchase J class CX tickets out of KUL or TPE and credit them to Alaskan. 200% miles accrual and with KUL-HKG-PEK/PVG regularly going for around 1k SGD, it can’t get better than that. Alternatively EK J class BKK-HKG return with a380 going for 500sgd and CX J class TPE-HKG-CGK return for around 800- 900sgd all yield 200% miles… these sectors are some of them you can ultisise for MP miles accrual….Aaron can perhaps run a more detail post on this in… Read more »

i managed to do it after waiting for 2 days for the miles to be credited with a 35% discount via bkk.
using both hnd and nrt so that probably answers the stopover/layover question above.

Thanks for this amazing tip! I can only seem to find award flights for Tokyo (and possibly Osaka, via a very convoluted 15 hr Taipei layover…), but not for Sapporo or other destinations though. Anyone else has a different experience?

Nope, no virtualpay amex. Is there any way to get one now? I googled and saw thatUOB has discontinued theirs. Can’t try the VPN tip now as I’m at work, but do you have a good VPN provider to recommend?

noob qns:

how do u accrue the miles from flying sq to alaskan from 27th sep? or for that matter, any other airline partner of sq

Managed to book SIN->HND and NRT->BKK during christmas period. thanks for the heads up

Hey something came up here : have anyone received an error saying they are unable to complete your purchase at this time. That the flight reservation has been placed on hold and to please call Reservations …. within 24 hours to complete the purchase and avoid cancellation ?

If so didja wait it out and try again or say a prayer and call anyway? lol

Anyone managed to use this trick for other Japan destinations such as Sapporo?

You are only allowed 1 stopover so going to Sapporo would use up that stop over at Tokyo.

I received this message when I tried to make changes by clicking on Change Reservation. Anyone else received this same message?

“This reservation is not eligible for online changes. Please call reservations at 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522).”

I had this error before and called customer service. Their explanation was the airline (presume JAL) did some changes to one of the flight(s), hence you could not make online changes. Calling customer service seems like the only option to change the reservation.

Could someone share their experience pls?

Will JAL issue you two boarding pass (one for SG to tokyo and another for SG to BKK) when you are departing SG?

Will your checked in luggage be transferred directly to bkk instead of tokyo?

Thank you!

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