Double Duty Daddy

‘Booking Japan’ – How I Booked A $15,000 Flight For $5.60

I couldn’t wait until New Years to start my resolution of traveling more in 2016, so I didn’t. I started in 2015. This year is a big travel year for my family and I. My first travel post of 2016 starts off with a bang!

Months I’ve spent planning the booking process for our (wife and I) trip to Japan in November 2016. I started 13 months out not because I’m sick in the head and obsessed over booking trips (ok, I am) but because to fly Japan Airlines (JAL) First class, you need to be meticulous. Very meticulous or very lucky.

Most airlines open award space 330 days out and if I wanted a chance at snagging 2 seats in a highly coveted JAL First class premium product, I needed to book 330 days out and not leave it up to chance. That means booking in December 2015 for a flight in November 2016.

JAL First Class is beyond anything I’ll probably ever experience in the sky. I’m perfectly fine flying coach 95% of the time but for an aspirational, once-in-a-lifetime trip, not to mention a 14.5 hour flight from New York, trying to fly business or first class is the way to go.

JAL Suite - Side View

JAL Suite – Side View

JAL Lie-Flat Bed - You get a choice between soft or firm airweave mattress and the flight attendant makes your bed!

JAL Lie-Flat Bed – You get a choice between soft or firm airwaves mattress and the flight attendant makes your bed!

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Comfy Love Seat Turns Into Bed

Choice of Western meals or Japanese Meals. You can have both if you want and eat multiple times if you want too!

Choice of Western or Japanese meals. You can have both if you want and eat multiple times if you want too! This one is a Japanese meal with all sorts of sushi.

Caviar and Champagne as an appetizer!

Caviar and Champagne as an appetizer!

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A snack in JAL First Class

The plan all along was to fly First on JAL because amongst people in our points and miles hobby, it’s one of the best premium redemptions in the world since it only costs 62,500 American Airlines miles to fly First to Japan from North America. That cost will go up to 80,000 one-way on March 22nd when American Airlines’ new award chart replaces the old one. Thanks to credit card sign-ups and a few paid trips last year, I had more than enough miles to be able to book 2 roundtrip tickets on JAL’s beloved First class seat which would require 125,000 AA miles per person. JAL is a Oneworld Alliance member with AA so therefore you can book AA partner awards (like JAL) with AA miles.

Tidbit: Business and First class products on international airlines are usually greater in seat quality, service, in-flight entertainment (IFE) and food than their American counterparts. Not always the case but many times they just are.

The real question remained, would there even be aware space on my date for this highly-coveted airline product and route? I heard through the grapevines that JAL opens up award space 330 days out at 10:00am Japanese time which is 8:00pm EST. That meant I had to count 330 days backwards from my preferred date of origin in November 2016 and then call on that same day at 8pm to check on seat availability. I had been checking ExpertFlyer after I opened up a free trial to test their service and set up alerts which informed me when and if space opened up in first class on my potential flight. ExpertFlyer.com searches for award and upgrade availability on many airlines and allows you to set up e-mail alerts for seats to open up or for space to open in particular booking classes. In my case, I know First class seats to Japan on JAL are very hard to come by and sometimes when the date opens for you to book 330 days out, there are NO SEATS available because others were quicker to call and book or simply put, the airline decided to keep seats for revenue customers (not using miles) rather than open up award seats.

At 8pm on the dot, I called American Airlines to inquire about availability and hopefully put the reservation on hold. Since I was using AA miles, I had to call American Airlines to book. To my benefit, JAL award seats don’t show up on AA.com and therefore millions (yes, millions) of people don’t realize this and give up searching. The catch is that JAL award tickets can be booked through American Airlines over the phone.  That’s amazing news for those of us who know this little secret. You can’t beat a $14,975 flight for 62,500 AAdvantage miles and $5.60.

I booked our $14,975 flight JFK-NRT non-stop for 62,500 miles and $5.60!

I booked our $14,975 flight JFK-NRT non-stop for 62,500 miles and $5.60!

I spoke to the AA rep, he confirmed availability and I was able to add my connection flight of MIA-JFK ALSO in First class for no extra miles. I value that leg in First class at $350 one-way so that would put my value proposition of $15,000+ worth of First class products for 62,500 AA miles and $5.60. FIVE BUCKS! An incredible redemption for my hard earned miles.

A week later when the schedule opened up 330 days from my desired return date, I did the same thing for our return flight. Although they didn’t have NRT-JFK space, I was able to snag 2 seats in the same JAL First class product I flew to Japan in but this time through Chicago. So I booked NRT-ORD non-stop and then added the “free” connection flight ORD-MIA in First class for no extra cost.

Conclusion: Ultra rich people aren’t the only ones that can fly first class internationally. You can too! With a little leg-work, any regular Joe Schmoe can fly in an exclusive premium first class product and spend less than you would for a meal at Burger King.

 

Next Post: How I was able to get 6 nights at 5 star hotels in Japan for FREE. Stay Tuned….

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3 Comments

  1. Darren May 17, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Wow, this is amazing stuff Juan. You have truly inspired me to start using my miles the right way. I am new to the game and have like 75k in AA miles, but I am going to find the perfect trip to maximize the miles to my best advantage. Thanks for the post.

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