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Thursday, February 11, 2010

JAL 101 Part 1: Upgrade points expiration and usage

[Update: JAL has announced the discontinuation of upgrade points. All upgrade points will be expired on March 31 2013 and no more upgrade points will be awarded to the JMB elites]

I am trying to document some of the Japan Airlines and JAL Mileage Bank knowledge I gained over the years so more people can benefit from it (and save you some time posting the questions on FlyerTalk :P). In some ways, this is kind of similar to a "sticky thread". Just like the trip reports, you can click on the title bar menu below the banner to search for all JAL 101 posts.

What's a better way to start this than to talk about the upgrade points JAL has just credited to your JMB account. If you have attained JAL Mileage Bank most frequent flyers status for 2010, the upgrade points should have been deposited to your account.


Introduction
(You can skip to the next section if you already know what upgrade points are)
Upgrade points was first rolled out last year to replace the old upgrade certificates. The number of upgrade points one receives depends on his/her last year's flight activities. The standard number of upgrade points for Crystal, Sapphire, JGC Premier and Diamond are 10, 20, 30, and 40 respectively. For every 10,000 Fly On Points (FOPs) or 10 flights over your status requirement (but not enough to reach the next level), you will receive an extra 2 upgrade points. So if you have accumulated 69,000 FOPs in 2009, you will receive 20+2 upgrade points in 2010 (NOT 10+2*3+20!).

How should you plan your flights to make most out of your upgrade points?
Just like miles and the old upgrade certificate, the upgrade points have an expiration date. It has the same expiration date as your JMB elite status, i.e. upgrade points from 2009 which are based on 2008's flights expire on March 31 2010. So this March is the first time ever the upgrade points expire. Make sure you use your points on flights before April.

The good news is, upgrade points from different years can be combined and used at the same time. Meaning if you have upgrade points left over from 2009, you can use them together with the ones just credited to your account. However, what you can't do is to combine the upgrade points with different expiration dates to extend the expiration date of your upgrade points. Below are some scenarios.

Example 1:
Current Balance
Upgrade points from 2009 (expires on March 31 2010): 6 points
Upgrade points from 2010 (expires on March 31 2011): 20 points

Flight: One-way JFK-NRT (JL005) on March 31 2010 in Economy class. Upgrade to Business class requires 8 upgrade points.

Balance After the award redemption
Upgrade points from 2009 (expires on March 31 2010): 0 points
Upgrade points from 2010 (expires on March 31 2011): 18 points

Explanation: Before the 2010 upgrade points (20 points) were credited to your account, you only have 6 points and is not enough to redeem the upgrade award on your flight. Luckily your flight is on March 31 2010, which is the last date that your 2009 upgrade points are still valid. So you can still use the 2009 points together with your 2010 points to redeem this one-way award.

Example 2:
Current Balance
Upgrade points from 2009 (expires on March 31 2010): 6 points
Upgrade points from 2010 (expires on March 31 2011): 20 points

Flight: One-way JFK-NRT (JL005) on April 1 2010 in Economy class. Upgrade to Business class requires 8 upgrade points.

Balance After the award redemption
Upgrade points from 2009 (expires on March 31 2010): 6 points
Upgrade points from 2010 (expires on March 31 2011): 12 points

Explanation: Your flight is just one day after the 2009 upgrade points expiration date. Even though you are requesting the upgrade points now (say in Feb 2010) when the upgrade points are still valid, you still won't be able to use your remaining points from 2009. Because it is the actual departure date of your flight that matters. You will have to use points from 2010 for your April upgrade.

Example 3:
Current Balance
Upgrade points from 2009 (expires on March 31 2010): 6 points
Upgrade points from 2010 (expires on March 31 2011): 20 points

Flight: One-way JFK-NRT (JL005) on May 3 2010 in Economy class. Upgrade to Business class requires 8 upgrade points. So what should the balance be?

Result: NO award redemption.

Explanation: This is a trick one. Just like upgrade redemption using miles, there are restricted travel dates on upgrade points rewards. And May 3 2010 is one of the few restricted dates for transpacific flights to Japan. So you won't be able to redeem an award even though you have plenty of upgrade points.

Example 4:
Current Balance
Upgrade points from 2009 (expires on March 31 2010): 6 points
Upgrade points from 2010 (expires on March 31 2011): 20 points

Flight: One-way AA coded JFK-NRT (AA5819) operated by JAL (same flight as JL005) on February 26 2010 in Economy class. Upgrade to Business class requires 8 upgrade points. So what should the balance be?

Result: NO award redemption.

Explanation: Just like upgrade using miles, your ticket has to bear a JAL flight number. You won't be able to redeem an upgrade award even though the flight is operated by JAL.

Hopefully these examples will help you do a better planning on how to use your upgrade points and avoid costly mistakes (e.g. example 2) in the coming year. My original plan for my 2010 points are to redeem two LAX-NRT upgrades and 2 Class J e-Coupons. But after finding this out, I might shuffle the travel plan a bit and combine my 2011 upgrade points for another transpacific upgrade in 2011 before the 2010 points expire! No way I am going to spend the 4 points on upgrades that only worths 2,000 yen when I can use them for one that worths much more. Hey the value of my upgrade points have just increased :)

For details of how to redeem upgrade awards using upgrade points, JAL has set up a really nice page to guide you through each step. And for JAL upgrade points general rules and conditions, you can refer to here. For Class J e-Coupons handling procedure, you can refer to here.

Let me know if you find this helpful. I will keep writing (assuming I don't run out of materials) if people find this useful. If there are specific topics you want me to talk about or you want to contribute to this JAL 101 series, feel free to contact me. My e-mail address is pak @ jalflyer dom com

1 comments:

  1. Nice review, Pak. I would add to your 4th example that not only does your flight need to have a JL flight number but you need to buy it through JAL as well. I bought a ticket for next month through AA COS-DFW-NRT-MNL with the last leg being JL 745 and that is the flight number, not AA 5XXX. I called JAL to try and upgrade that flight but was told that since I bought it through AA, it is not eligible even though it booked into L. Now whether the same would be true if the ticket was bought through Orbitz or something similar, I've no idea.

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