It’s true that the American Airlines AAdvantage program just officially went dynamic with its award prices and that, much like cash prices, average flight award prices have been on the rise in recent years.
However, good deals still exist. For example, how does flying to Tokyo in a lie-flat seat during next year’s cherry blossom season sound?
Right now, you can book a great deal for as many as three seats in business class on Japan Airlines for as low as 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles one-way. These flights are available on Japan Airlines directly from various major cities (San Francisco, Dallas and Chicago, for example), as well as from connecting airports on various Oneworld partner airlines like Alaska and American.
Related: TPG flight review of Japan Airlines business class
Airlines: Japan Airlines and other Oneworld carriers.
Routes: From Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and more to Tokyo.
How to book: Book with the Oneworld partner you want to use miles from; with American Airlines, you’d book on American’s website.
Travel dates: From January through April 2024.
Book by: ASAP.
Related: These are the best credit cards for earning airline miles
How to book business-class awards to Japan
As you can see by running a flexible-date search, there is widespread availability in February and March for one person from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Tokyo-area airports (represented by the code TYO).
However, this isn’t just a deal for solo travelers (or just from California). Those same flights were available for as many as three passengers, but availability isn’t as widespread when you add more passengers to the search.
Note that the booking calendar is open through mid-March 2024 with American Airlines, but it’s already open into early April 2024 if you want to book via British Airways.
The costs for mileage and taxes and fees are higher with British Airways, but you have the availability to transfer points to British Airways from most of the major credit card points programs. This makes it a good option if you don’t have American or Alaska miles at the ready.
To book round-trip business class on Japan Airlines using American Airlines on this example itinerary from San Francisco, it would be 120,000 American miles plus $52.65 all-in. That’s a fantastic deal for a seat that sells for thousands of dollars.
As you can see, availability is (as of this writing) much better than usual.
Availability from the New York City area
I booked tickets from the New York City area to Tokyo for 120,000 American AAdvantage miles.
In my case, I found availability from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). I ended up paying the same number of miles to start in New York and connect in California as if I had booked directly from the West Coast — just 60,000 miles each way.
I’ll be flying from Newark to San Francisco on Alaska in first class before connecting to Haneda Airport (HND) on Japan Airlines business class. That’s one of the best values I’ve found for American Airlines miles in a long time.
In fact, that may be the best deal I’ve had since I flew Japan Airlines in business and first class in 2017.
On the way back, I’ll fly Japan Airlines to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) before connecting to an American Airlines flight to LaGuardia Airport (LGA). In all, I spent 120,000 American Airlines miles and just $58.25 in taxes and fees.
Example from the Boston area
You can find similar routing from Boston. In this case, to Tokyo via San Francisco with a return via Chicago. Again, for just 120,000 miles and $58.25 in taxes and fees.
Flying from Los Angeles via Alaska miles
As mentioned, you can also find these trips using Alaska Mileage Plan miles. The availability doesn’t appear to be as widespread via Alaska, but I was able to find flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Tokyo for 120,000 Alaska miles plus about $81 in taxes and fees.
Again, that is routing via San Francisco. A note of caution: Alaska shows a lot of availability for mixed-cabin redemptions, so make sure that you are put in business class on all the legs. Sometimes Alaska will show you first class on the short-haul leg and not the long-haul leg, where it’s most important.
If you see a little business-class-seat icon on the award price, know that means the long leg will be in coach. If the shaded box doesn’t show a little symbol, both legs are in business (first class domestic).
This is an incredible chance to get to Tokyo in comfort, or even tack on a trip to farther destinations in Asia once in Japan. We rarely see opportunities for business-class travel at these award prices, so we recommend that you jump on this as soon as possible if Japan has been on your wish list.
To give a flavor of just how sweet a deal this is, the cash price for that Boston-to-Tokyo itinerary is more than $18,000 if booked with cash.
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