Airlines

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.

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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

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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
  • KaligoYou 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

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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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jtv_tm
Member
jtv_tm

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?

Byang
Guest

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.

petrina
Member
petrina

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.

Miati
Guest
Miati

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.

blue_phantom
Guest
blue_phantom

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 »

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

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.

Ding
Guest
Ding

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

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

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?

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

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

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

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.

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

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.

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

*edit: AS/MP and SQ/KF

You really need an edit option in your comments section.

June
Guest
June

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.

CK
Guest
CK

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 »

Aaron Chan
Guest

Hi! Are you based in Singapore? If so, which number did you use to contact Alaska Mileage to book your award tickets with Cathay Pacific?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

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

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

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)?

JT
Guest
JT

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.

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

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.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

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

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

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).

flyway
Guest
flyway

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

SooShe
Guest
SooShe

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

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

So where *do* you want to go?

SooShe
Guest
SooShe

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

banner
Guest
banner

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

keithmaxx
Guest
keithmaxx

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

flyway
Guest
flyway

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.

JK
Guest
JK

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 »

WilliamLee
Member
WilliamLee

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.

Ferris
Guest
Ferris

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?

J
Guest
J

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?

edmund.xmb
Member
edmund.xmb

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

SK
Guest
SK

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

Vee
Guest
Vee

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 ?

Vee
Guest
Vee

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

Ferris
Guest
Ferris

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

CK
Guest
CK

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

sabotender
Member
sabotender

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).”

ZW
Guest
ZW

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.

J
Guest
J

Hi ZW and Joey,

I have the same issue. I am wondering if it is fine to call Customer Service?
Will they jump on me of having a strange one way ticket with such a long stopover?

Johnson
Guest
Johnson

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!

Andy
Guest
Andy

Hi, any idea how long it takes for Mileage Plan to deposit the miles into account after purchase?

Neoh Jiun Hao
Guest
Neoh Jiun Hao

Bought 75k Mileageplan miles during the 40% bonus sale and successfully bought 3x KUL-NRT, HND-SIN business class tickets.

Had a bit of difficulty processing it at first. Gave up and tried again the next day, booked and ticketed.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hi, just saw this post, I am planing from KUL to NRT and SIN too, but because this is multi cities ticket in one way, when you check in at counter, did the staff ask anything? thank you

Neoh Jiun Hao
Guest
Neoh Jiun Hao

Shiwei:

Sorry for not seeing your question earlier. I made sure there was availability using the BA Executive Club website, and double checked using the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan website, then bought the miles.

Adam:

They don’t care, plenty of people don’t return to their city of origin for any number of reasons. Japan immigration will definitely look at you suspiciously if you don’t have a ticket OUT of Japan though.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Did they remove Cathay from the list of airlines?
I cannot seem to find CX in the list of airlines when i tried selecting my flights departing Singapore to the U.S.
Anyone encountered this issue?

Aaron Wong
Admin
Aaron Wong

You must call in to book CX. Not avail online

Paul
Guest
Paul

Thanks Aaron!

Paul
Guest
Paul

Any recommendations (skype,etc) to call Alaskan? Or an international calling card will do the trick?

Brandon Wong
Guest
Brandon Wong

Hi Aaron, I just chanced upon this while im planning my trip to Japan for me and my family. Now, i just signed up for Alaska MileagePlan account today, and I tried to book the trip (have yet to purchase the miles). Couple of question: 1) Account activation – seems that they will mail something to my address for me to verify the account? Is this your experience as well? Seems pretty long to snail mail from Alaska (assumption) to Singapore. Not sure if there is a faster way since 40% bonus miles is expiring on 9 Apr. 2) In… Read more »

linda
Guest
linda

Hi,

I am currently attempting to book using this method for April 2019, however the phantom seat error always appear.

Using Qantas FF, the award space also shows as available, however no luck when when I am at checkout….

Could you please provide any further tips to search for award space or if this method still possible?

thanks in advance

Linda
Guest
Linda

Hi,

Gave up last after trying so many times and moving my dates around. However, same experience as previous posters, booking was confirmed on my first attempt this morning for the dates and flight I wanted!

Were you able to select seats after booking was confirmed on JAL? Gives me an error and to call when I try to log onto JAL.

Thanks in advance Aaron!

C
Guest
C

Hi Linda, same question as Brandon above – is it possible to confirm if the award space is real before I purchase the miles?

Thanks!

Linda
Guest
Linda

Hi C,

Unfortunately no, you won’t know for sure until you click submit.

In my case I had actually searched on Qantas FF to confirm availability was actually there as per the guide, but still had issues.

However, I was ok with any date in April. My intentions was to change dates later on since my booking at that point was just before the new fee changes came into effect.

Goodluck with your booking!

C
Guest
C

Thanks Linda!

Linda
Guest
Linda

.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Hi, just saw this post, I am planing from KUL to NRT and SIN too, but because this is multi cities ticket in one way, when you check in at counter, will the staff ask anything or don’t allow you check in? thank you

Ken
Guest
Ken

It doesn’t really matter in MOST cases.. unless (no flames, pls, bcos it’s true, whether anyone wants to admit it or not) of one’s ethnicity (yes, skin colour).. sometimes.. but.. in most cases, they don’t care.. some cities tho, regardless of ehnicity, simply want to know that you actually want to ‘go home’ and therefore want some form of proof of this.. so, in your case, so long as you have a booked ticket from SIN>KUL.. be it a plane ticket, bus ticket or train ticket.. I’d say you’d be safe..

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[…] programs on the market right now. Some of the good use cases of Alaska Mileage Plan are for the redemption of a ‘return’ Business Class flight on JAL to Japan and also for Cathay Pacific awards to Europe and the United […]

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[…] Get a free stopover, even on one-way awards (which allows you to do a rather unique JAL trick) […]

Sai
Guest
Sai

Hi Aaron, i think JAL has changed the redemption page to remove the multi-stop option. Am i missing the navigation or indeed they have changed?

Ethan
Guest
Ethan

Hi Aaron, yes it seems like the interface has indeed changed. Can someone confirm if the multi stop option can still be used?

Simian
Guest
Simian

Still works.. i used these dates:
Singapore (SIN) to Tokyo, JP (All Airports) on Feb 13, 2019
Tokyo, JP (All Airports) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) on Feb 22, 2019

But there were many other pairs showing up on the search.

Happy Camper
Guest
Happy Camper

Hi Aaron..

Can the same JAL trick be done using either BA or Iberia Avios miles? Cos I don’t have any Alaska miles.. And if so, would you know how to go about doing the redemption?

Thanks!