Travel Tips

4 Cheap Ways to Redeem Miles for JAL Sky Suites to Japan

I started a new job recently and my co-workers have been curious about this hobby and how I’ve managed to get incredible value out of points and miles. After an informal Q&A, one person relayed her goal to travel to Japan. “And you know how on the plane they give you those separate cubicle/pods to sleep in? I want to experience that.” She’s referring to a flatbed business class seat, which is actually really easy to book with points and miles. Her description made me think of JAL Sky Suites Business Class seat, which is one of the best out there. 

JAL Sky Suite Business Class Seat
JAL Sky Suite Business Class Seat

Luckily, flying to Japan in JAL Sky Suites business class on miles is fairly easy. Redemption rates are reasonable and there is generally plenty of award space for two people. Most of us have JAL Sky Suites on our wishlist, so I figured it would be helpful to write a post about how to do it cheaply:

1. JAL Mileage Bank Miles

Miles required: 100,000 miles roundtrip

Credit Cards That Help You Get There:

Using JAL Mileage Bank Miles for JAL Business Class to Japan

JAL MileageBank requires the least number of miles for JAL business class to Japan: 100,000 miles roundtrip! In addition to this already low rate, JAL offers further discounts for award flights during certain days of the week. A JAL business class award between the U.S. and Japan costs just 80,000 miles roundtrip!

The down side? Earning JAL miles through credit cards isn’t easy. SPG points are transferrable to JAL Mileage Bank at a 1:1 ratio plus a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 miles transferred. Of course, this also means that the 80,000 mile discounted ticket will set you back just 65,000 SPG points roundtrip!

2. Alaska Airlines MileagePlan Miles

Miles required: 100,000 – 120,000 Alaska miles roundtrip

Credit Cards That Help You Get There:

Redeeming Alaska Miles for JAL Business Class to Japan

Alaska Airlines MileagePlan requires 60,000 miles each way for a flight between the U.S. and Japan on JAL business class. This includes a free stopover on each one-way award, which is very generous. Award availability is also plentiful, which is a huge plus if you’re new in this hobby and want to redeem miles without the hassles involved. And since there are so many ways to earn Alaska miles, flying JAL business class to Japan is just a few credit card sign-up bonuses away.

Redeeming Alaska Miles for American Airlines Business Class to Japan

Alaska MileagePlan does offer cheaper award redemptions to Japan when you opt to fly American, Hainan, or Cathay Pacific business class. These airlines deliver solid flatbed seats and require just 50,000 Alaska miles each way. 

3. American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

Miles required: 120,000 AAdvantage mile roundtrip

Credit Cards That Help You Get There:

Redeeming AAdvantage Miles for JAL Business Class to Japan

American Airlines requires the same number of miles for JAL business class awards to Japan as Alaska Airlines does. American Airlines has the advantage of offering more ways to earn these miles. There are six credit cards to choose from, some of which offer enough points for a one-way award! also, if you have one of the co-branded American Airlines credit cards, you’ll receive 10% of your redeemed miles back – up to 10,000 miles per year. So that 120,000 mile roundtrip award on JAL business class will actually set you back just 110,000 AAdvantage miles.  That may not seem like much, but it’s a 20,000 mile savings for two tickets booked by two AAvantage credit cardholders.

All of this being said, there are several disadvantages to booking JAL business class with AAdvantage miles. For starters, these awards can’t be booked online. You’ll have to search for award space elsewhere (i.e. the British Airways or Alaska MileagePlan website), then call AA customer service to redeem miles for your ticket. The second thing to consider is that AAdvantage awards are not eligible for stopovers. So if you want to add in an extra stop on your trip to Japan, it will cost you extra miles. 

Redeeming AAdvantage Miles for American Airlines Business Class to Japan

I don’t recommend redeeming AAdvantage Miles for American Airlines business class awards to Japan. Why? Because it will cost you 10,000 miles more than booking with Alaska miles. You also lose out on the free stopover, not to mention you can’t book this award at I know what you’re thinking: Doesn’t it all balance out with the 10% point rebate AAdvantage credit cardholders get? Yes, but if you’ve already maxed this benefit out then you’re spending more points than necessary.

4. British Airways Avios

Miles required: 75,000 Avios each way

Credit Cards That Help You Get There:

Using British Airways Avios for JAL Business Class to Japan

British Airways has a distance-based award chart, so a one-way JAL business class award from San Francisco to Japan will cost 75,000 Avios. The hefty redemption rate is off-set by the fact that Avios can be earned much easier than the other currencies outlined in this post. Currently, the British Airways Visa Signature Card is offering a 100,000 Avios sign-up bonus. Granted, you’ll have to spend $20,000 to earn it but that’s not an impossible feat for most people reading this blog. 

Aside from the co-branded British Airways Visa, Avios can also be transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. An added advantage of booking JAL business class with Avios is that you can do it online. 

Redeeming Miles for JAL Business Class: What’s the Best Option?

So what’s the best way to go if you want to book JAL business class to Japan on miles? The cheapest option, hands down, is to book one of those off-peak JAL awards that require 80,000 miles roundtrip. This is the lowest redemption rate and if you transfer JAL miles from SPG, you’ll end up spending just 65,000 miles per person roundtrip. The obvious down side to this option is that it requires quite a bit of manufactured spending – even if you do earn most of the points through the SPG credit cards. 

The easiest way to earn miles for a JAL business class ticket to Japan is via AAdvantage miles. Right now Citi is offering upwards of 65,000 miles to Citi AAdvantage Platinum applicants. Furthermore, points can be transferred from SPG and earned via the Barclay Aviator Red card. The spending requirements on the co-branded AAdvantage credit cards is also feasible (and in the case of the Barclay Aviator Red card, it’s pretty much just $1). 

The Alaska Mileage Plan route is also appealing, with its low redemption rates, free stopover on one-way awards, ability to book online, and attainability of miles. Realistically, for newbies who don’t want to take on massive spending requirements, the best option is probably to go with American Airlines. The combined spending requirements of two Citi AAdvantage Platinum, Barclay Aviator Red, and one SPG credit card would come to $9,000. That’s the lowest amount of spend I’ve calculated that would also result in enough miles to fly JAL business class to Japan. It may seem daunting to newbies, but there are ways to complete it without going into debt. Not to mention you can spread your applications across several months to minimize the burden of meeting these spending requirements at once.

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  1. What’s the best airline going to Japan if you have excess UR points?

  2. let me elaborate on my previous comment. You can transfer URs to Virgin Atlantic then book ANA

  3. Can’t you also use UA miles (transferring UR points) to book ANA? It may take a phone call to book it and I don’t know the miles involved. I once flew FC on ANA on a United res and it was awesome! Does anyone know how ANA compares with JAL?

  4. Loved this well thought out and timely post. I really enjoy your blog, Ariana. Thank you!! How can we send a question directly to you?

  5. I have been exploring using Asiana miles, by using BofA cc spend at grocery (ms 2x on gcs). Not sure getting to Japan is a good use, but intra Japan flights are 10,000 rt.

  6. I did this trip using AA miles(before the recent AA devaluation). When I did it with AA I had to book as soon as award availability opened up, about 331 days in advance. Those JAL business class seats went fast. Maybe it was because I went during cherry blossom season? I’ve also done business class using Cathay and I have to say I prefer Cathay over JAL. Not only was Cathay’s “pod” more isolated, but the wife and I both thought Cathay’s food was better as well. JAL’s business configuration is 2-3-2, while I believe Cathay’s was 1-2-1. I never even saw my wife unless I got up and walked over to her! JAL business was great, but Cathay’s was the best I’ve ever experienced. Also, if someone is going to use miles on JAL business they should make sure they get the latest equipment. The older JAL planes will be disappointing.

    • That’s probably it. I’ve kept most of my search to summer and December, and award space has been pretty open. I appreciate your feedback RE JAL vs. CX. I flew CX and really enjoyed it but have heard amazing things about JAL’s seat privacy and the food served onboard.

      • With JAL Sky Suites you are sitting next to someone but have an automated divider that can separate you from your neighbor. Cathay’s pods are completely isolated. There is only one row of seats by the window so that you don’t even have a neighbor. The ones in the middle are angled so that you still won’t see your neighbor. And not to be picky, but Cathay’s TV was a couple of inches larger than JAL.

        As for food I found that Cathay had a better Western menu, more snack options and they gave you more. On a flight from LAX to HK Cathay had a gourmet cheeseburger as a snack option. When I ordered it on the remote the FA came over and told me it would take 18 minutes to cook. It was a 15.5 hour flight so I had plenty of time! And the burger was amazing. JAL had a good Western meal but didn’t have fun snack items like the gourmet burger. On one flight I was served cured tongue as an appetizer, something I’m not really into.

        As another example, we flew business class from Tokyo to Hong Kong on JAL, a 4 hour flight. I believe we got a great sirloin steak for lunch, but not much else. We flew from Hong Kong to Seoul in business class on Cathay. The flight was 3 hours and they served us jumbo prawns, a sirloin steak, a large assortment of gourmet cheese and crackers and ice cream. It was all amazing and we were totally full!

  7. Peter Stern

    My wife and I have enjoyed JAL Business Class four times, in part thanks to you. It is her 60th birthday next year and I really wanted to take her in first class. I am having trouble figuring out who to fly and how to get the points. Thoughts?

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