How I Used My Travel Points For a Japan Airlines First Class Flight to Singapore

How I Used My Travel Points For a Japan Airlines First Class Flight to Singapore

By |2018-12-30T19:06:51+00:00April 5th, 2018|Categories: Case Studies, How To Travel Hack|Tags: , , |

Japan Airlines First Class To Singapore Introduction

We recently returned from a trip to Maui where I was able to redeem 360,000 Marriott Reward points for a hotel+air package including a 7-night stay at the Marriott Wailea Beach Resort (full review coming soon – it was a bit disappointing), and 120,000 Alaska Airline miles. I didn’t actually use the miles for this trip since British Airways has a sweet spot for redemptions from the west coast to Hawaii, and instead decided to save them for a future trip. Well, the future is now, as I just finished booking Japan Airlines first class for a trip to Singapore next week!

Singapore is one of my favourite destinations in the world, and somewhere I would seriously consider living. Everyone is friendly (at least in my experience), the food is great, everything is spotlessly clean, Changi Airport is widely considered the best airport in the world, and the hotel market is great (including some good point redemption options). What’s not to love?

American Express Platinum Canada

American Express Platinum Card®

Apply Now!

Japan Airlines First Class To Singapore Booking

When originally planning this trip, I knew I would stay two nights in Singapore and preferred to fly Japan Airlines first class on the outbound and try a new business class product from Tokyo to Vancouver on the inbound. Japan Airlines operates a Boeing 787 from Tokyo to Vancouver featuring a very subpar seat (angle flat) and I was curious to see how it compared with the ANA staggered business class product on the same route. It was a bit of a tough pill to swallow though, since Alaska charges 65k for a one-way business class ticket from Singapore to North America, with first class costing only an additional 10k miles. Spending almost the equivalent number of miles for an inferior business class product instead of first class was going to be tough, but a compromise I was willing to make for a side-by-side comparison between the two Japanese carriers with service to Vancouver.

As luck would have it though, all of the inbound availability showing on Alaska was phantom space! For those who aren’t familiar, phantom space is kind of like fake news, and the bane of my existence. Availability shows in the search results, but doesn’t confirm when trying to ticket. After getting the dreaded ‘unable to ticket, please try again message’ I headed over to a couple other oneworld search engines where sure enough I couldn’t find the award space. I did, however, see space for Japan Airlines First Class roundtrip, so decided to book that instead. While I won’t be able to compare Japan Airlines business class to ANA, I will get a more thorough impression of Japan Airlines first class, as two flights are always better than one!

Japan Airlines First Class - Alaska Mileage Plan Booking

Japan Airlines First Class – Alaska Mileage Plan Booking

Japan Airlines doesn’t fly any aircraft featuring first class to Canada, so I needed to position to San Francisco for the flight. Alaska Airlines allows connecting flights on their own metal on the same ticket for no additional charge, but not mixed with partner awards (though thankfully Virgin America flights will soon have Alaska flight numbers opening up routes significantly), meaning options were limited getting to San Francisco. There were a few options leaving Bellingham through Seattle and Portland, but I wanted something more direct, and something that would allow for plenty of time in San Francisco before my flight. As an alternative, I opted to redeem some Aeroplan miles for a very early morning flight on United.

United Airlines Positioning Flight

United Airlines Positioning Flight

There’s always some risk when adding positioning flights, regardless of whether it’s attached to the same ticket or not. Each option had risks , and I wanted to share my thought process when making the decision on how to get to San Francisco.

Scenario 1: Add positioning flights to Alaska award – same day

This would be the preferred option for many, since it doesn’t really cost anything (maybe a few more dollars in airport taxes), and you’re protected by the airline in the event something goes wrong positioning. The problem on this ticket was the risk of misconnecting, and what that would mean for my two days in Singapore in the event I was pushed back a day at SFO. Options were limited, with two-stop options between Bellingham and San Francisco through Seattle and Portland, with a scheduled arrival mid-afternoon. With two stops and not a lot of time to spare, I calculated the misconnect risk at low to moderate, but enough that I wasn’t willing to chance it. Also, even if I did arrive on time, it wouldn’t give me much opportunity to try the few lounges at SFO before my flight.

Scenario 2: Add positioning flights to Alaska award – day before

This is the option I usually choose, as I like to have close to zero risk of misconnecting. Unfortunately this time it just didn’t work for me to leave the night before. Furthermore, San Francisco has one of the worst airport hotel markets in my opinion, and I didn’t feel like wasting points or money and go through the hassle of taking an airport shuttle. Pass.

Scenario 3: Add positioning flight on separate ticket

While maybe the least favourable under ideal circumstances, sometimes this just makes sense. Star Alliance has a lot of flights between Vancouver and San Francisco, many of which depart early (and I have more Aeroplan miles than I know what to do with). While I wouldn’t always recommend booking first class for such a short flight, in the event of irregular operations first class passengers will get priority for re-accomodation, and it’s always nice to have the extra space that early in the morning. Speaking of irregular operations, if I miss my flight to Tokyo I’m essentially up the creek, since United is only obligated to get me to San Francisco. If you do plan to book positioning flights on separate tickets, I strongly suggest having travel insurance (Aeroplan Visa cards offer insurance on award tickets when taxes and fees are paid with the card) and the ability to think under pressure.

The Flights

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the flights! I’ve flown Japan Airlines first class once before, on a route that no longer offers first class between Tokyo and Jakarta. While the flight was amazing, it simply wasn’t long enough (around 7 hours), so I’m excited to try the product again (twice) on longer routes to see how it compares with ANA first class, which is probably my favourite first class product overall. Japan Airlines first class might not be the fanciest, featuring 8 open suites, but what it lacks in ‘wow factor’ it makes up for in service and understated luxury. Dining, service and sleep quality all get top marks with Japan Airlines, which combined should make for a truly great first class flight over the Pacific. I’ll be flying this product on the Boeing 777-300 from San Francisco to Tokyo, and Tokyo to San Francisco.

Japan Airlines First Class Suite

Japan Airlines First Class Suite

Japan Airlines First Class Dining

Japan Airlines First Class Dining

For my flight from Tokyo to Singapore (and back) I’ll be on a Boeing 777-200 featuring a reverse herringbone product similar to what’s found on Cathay Pacific in business class. I’ve flown Japan Airlines business class on a different route featuring Apex suites, and found the space a bit claustrophobic. Furthermore, the service was not great, so I’m looking forward to trying a new route with a new configuration, as Japan Airlines business class is often well-reviewed by frequent travellers!

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class - Image Courtesy Of Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class – Image Courtesy Of Japan Airlines

The Hotels

I’ll be in Singapore for two nights, and opted to stay at two different hotels. First I’ll be at The Marriott Tang Plaza in one of the most desirable neighbourhoods on Orchard Road, close to the subway, shopping malls, and eating options. As Marriott Gold, courtesy of my American Express Platinum Card, I’ll get guaranteed executive club access, which includes breakfast, canapés, evening cocktails and more. Rates at this hotel are highly variable, and given it was fairly last minute, were pricing at roughly $550CAD, which is steep, even for Singapore.

Marriott Tang Plaza Singapore Paid Rates

Marriott Tang Plaza Singapore Paid Rates

Thankfully Marriott award redemptions were available for 40,000 Reward Points per night, inclusive of taxes. While this is a lot of points, it represents a value of roughly 1.38cents/point, which is good value for Marriott points (or roughly 4.13cents/point when converted to SPG).

Marriott Tang Plaza Singapore Points Redemption

Marriott Tang Plaza Singapore Points Redemption

For my second night, I’ll stay at The JW Marriott Singapore South Beach Hotel, which is located in my favourite part of Singapore just opposite the Fairmont where Brad and I had a truly memorable experience using our Fairmont President’s Club certificates. I stayed at this hotel previously and had mixed feelings about it, though I was very jet-lagged on that trip and thought it would be nice to try it again for a more thorough review. While this is flagged as a JW property, it feels more like a W Hotel, with hip rooms and funky common spaces designed by Philippe Starck. At 40,000 points per night, the value isn’t quite as good as the Marriott Tang Plaza, with rooms pricing out around $400CAD per night, or 1.00cent/point (3cents/point when converted to SPG).

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach Hotel

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach Hotel

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach Executive Lounge

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach Executive Lounge

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach Pool

JW Marriott Singapore South Beach Pool

I’ll be posting content as I go, so make sure to check back and follow along on Instagram and Facebook for live updates! Japan Airlines first class even offers free wifi, so I’ll likely do some posts live from the air!

Have you flown Japan Airlines first class before? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below!

American Express Platinum Canada

American Express Platinum Card®

Apply Now!

About the Author:

Champagne taste on a beer budget has always been reminiscent of Tyler’s travel style. Raised in British Columbia, Tyler has an unquenchable thirst for more adventure, which is fueled by leveraging airline and hotel loyalty programs to travel the world in luxury and style.

2 Comments

  1. Michael April 6, 2018 at 1:50 am - Reply

    Hi Tyler,

    I love these “booked” posts especially for someone who is most interested in reading about your thought process when booking these awards. Just curious though, is there a reason why you always seem to only stay at your destination for a few days at most or never truly utilize the free stopovers that many of these award bookings allow? I’ve booked a couple mini-RTW trips myself and I find it so difficult to forgo the free stopovers since it means I can visit more places and take more premium cabin flights! Is it more of a time constraint issue for you or something else?

    • Tyler Weatherup April 6, 2018 at 8:30 am - Reply

      Hi Michael – Glad you liked the post!

      You basically nailed it – time is certainly a big factor when planning a trip, and I seem to have less of it these days. Even a quick trip like this is about a week away, and managing work priorities from an airplane, even with wifi, can be difficult.

      Also, when I do these trips that are seemingly there/back it’s really just for flight/hotel/lounge reviews, and less about the destination since I’m solo. I prefer taking the scenic routes and lingering a bit when I have my partner with me.

      Lastly, for these work trips, I try to be strategic with flight schedules/turnaround times that allow me to stay on my original time zone as much as possible, which helps a lot.

      Thanks for reading!

      -Tyler

Leave A Comment