How American & Delta Loyalists Can Get Two First or Business Class Tickets for the Price of One to Europe with JAL


A deep dive into the lucrative nuances of the JAL award program.

Get First Class for less than Business on other international airlines and up to 68% off.

As I said last month, at the start of this series, upgrading starts with having options—the more you have, the more opportunities will surface. And options often start with Multi-Airline-Currency Cards (MACs).

FCF started recommending MACs long before they became popular. The big advantage: The points accrued can be turned into miles on more than one airline.

For years Starwood has been my favorite MAC, as it partners with 40+ major airline mileage programs.

In this special report I will show why this is so important for travel to Europe on oneworld airlines. Next month we’ll spotlight a different alliance and route.

Leveraging Award Pricing Discrepancies & Why Starwood Is King

Fly with These Japan Airlines Partners to Europe:

First Class: American, British Airways, and Emirates (NYC-Milan).

Business Class: airberlin, Air France, American, British Airways, Emirates, Finnair, and Iberia.

Oneworld airlines generally charge 136,000 to 200,000 miles for a First Class round-trip ticket from the U.S. to Europe on its own flights and 80,000 to 150,000 in Business Class. But here’s the deal: Combine underutilized loyalty programs with our favorite credit card, Starwood Preferred Amex, and you can get First Class starting as low as 80,000 Starpoints. American charges 115,000 miles for Business—so this strategy costs 35,000 miles less than First Class (think free upgrade). In other words, if you have a Starwood card and book via Japan Airlines (as opposed to earning miles via an American Airlines credit card) you’re getting a free upgrade.

Closer Look: The Japan Airlines + Starwood Opportunity

Japan Airlines, based in Tokyo, only charges 100,000 to 115,000 miles on non-stop partner flights—up to 100,000 fewer than British Airways—for First Class between Europe and North America. And only 63,000 to 80,000 miles for Business Class on partner flights—up to 70,000 fewer than other major airlines to Europe.

These are the lowest oneworld First and Business Class awards to Europe. They cost even less if you have a Starwood account: starting at only 80,000 Starpoints for First Class—35,000 fewer miles than American charges for Business (think free upgrade)—and starting at 53,000 Starpoints for Business Class, 7,000 fewer miles than American charges for coach, in effect also a free upgrade. In other words, if you earn points via a Starwood card and book via Japan Airlines’ mileage program, as opposed to earning miles via an American AAdvantage credit card, you’re living in paradise.

Wait! How to Save Even More

The savings are even higher if you compare partner mileage rates between Japan Airlines and United. For example, Japan Airlines First Class mileage awards start at only 100,000 miles (80,000 Starpoints) to Europe. That’s 120,000 fewer miles than United charges (think two-for-one) and 40,000 fewer miles than United charges for a Business Class partner mileage award (think less than free upgrade). See chart below for sample savings with Japan Airlines.

Cheap Business & First Class Oneworld Awards Between
Europe and the U.S.

Class of ServiceOperating AirlineRouteOperating Airline Mileage CostJapan Airlines Mileage-Partner CostStarwood Strategy SavingsOther Airlines Mileage-Partner CostJapan Airlines Mileage-Partner CostStarwood Strategy Savings
BusinessairberlinNew York - Berlin80,00063,00017,000 (22%)115,000 (AA miles)
63,00052,000 (46%)
Air France*New York - Paris125,00063,00062,000 (50%)140,000 (Delta miles63,00077,000 (55%)
Los Angeles - Paris80,00045,000 (36%)80,00060,000 (43%)
American*New York - Madrid115,00063,00052,000 (46%)120,000 (BA miles)
63,00057,000 (48%)
Dallas - Frankfurt80,00035,000 (31%)150,000 (BA miles)
80,00070,000 (47%)
British Airways*New York - London100,000 to 120,00063,00037,000 - 57,000 (37% - 48%)115,000 (AA miles)63,00052,000 (46%)
Los Angeles - London125,000 to 150,00080,00045,000 - 70,000 (36% - 47%)80,00035,000 (31%)
EmiratesNew York - Milan90,00063,00027,000 (30%)210,000 (Alaska miles)
63,000147,000 (70%)
FinnairNew York - Helsinki198,000**65,000133,000 (68%)150,000 (BA miles)
65,00085,000 (57%)
IberiaNew York - Madrid68,00063,0005,000 (7%)115,000 (AA miles)
63,00052,000 (46%)
FirstAmerican*New York - London170,000100,00070,000 (42%)160,000 (BA miles)
100,00060,000 (38%)
Dallas - Frankfurt115,00055,000 (32%)200,000 (BA miles)
115,00085,000 (43%)
British Airways*New York - London136,000 to 160,000100,00036,000 - 60,000 (27% - 38%)170,000 (AA miles)100,00070,000 (41%)
Los Angeles - London170,000 to 200,000115,00055,000 - 85,000 (33% - 43%)115,00055,000 (33%)
EmiratesNew York - Milan135,000100,00035,000 (26%)360,000 (Alaska miles)
100,000260,000 (72%)
*Can be booked online. **Booked online with Finnair.

How to Book & Things to Know

Getting the Miles: Japan Airlines does not sell miles and has only one transfer partner, Starwood. The transfer time takes about 5 days.

Price Your Flight: Japan Airlines uses a flight distance chart for partner flights, meaning each segment is charged based on the number of miles flown. The longer the flight, the more miles required. Flight distance programs work best if you are flying non-stop; if you make a connection, each segment is often charged separately.

More JAL Partner Options: Most airlines have partners outside their alliance; what is surprising is that you can use JAL miles to fly Air France—yes, a SkyTeam member—in Business Class (no First Class award), and save as much as 62,000 miles (50%). In other words: Use a Starwood card and JAL, instead of earning miles with popular Delta credit cards, and you will get two tickets for the price of one.

You can also use JAL miles to fly Emirates and save as much as 35,000 miles (26%) in First Class and 27,000 miles (30%) in Business Class on its New York-Milan non-stop.

Award Taxes: They are often about the same as American charges. However, taxes for bookings on airberlin, Air France, British Airways, Emirates, Finnair, and Iberia—JAL’s other partners flying between the U.S. and Europe—are, at times, lower than the operating airline charges by up to $300. (See sample screenshot below.)

Screenshot from

Screenshot from

Check Availability & Book: You need a JAL frequent flyer account to search for partner award space (no miles need to be in the account). Once logged-in, click on the “JMB Partner Airlines Award Ticket Reservation” under the “Award Redemption” page. Award bookings for American, Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Qantas can be done online here. For other airlines call (800) 525-3663.

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