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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

[Updated] JAL changes elite qualification and discontinues upgrade points

Japan Airlines (JAL) has announced planned changes in the JAL Mileage Bank (JMB) FLY ON Program. Specifically, the JMB elite qualification requirements will change from January 2012. JAL has added number of FOPs/sectors earned on JAL Group flights as extra requirements. And also a bit of more sad news is that the upgrade points program will be discontinued after this year. But if you pay attention to the explanation, this might mean a new lie-flat business class seat will finally come in 2 years or so.


Elite Qualification Change

JMB Diamond
- 100,000 or more FOPs with at least 50,000 FOPs earned on JAL Group flights - OR -
- 120 or more flights with at least 60 JAL Group flights and at least 35,000 FOPs

JGC Premier
- JGC members with 80,000 or more FOPs with at least 40,000 FOPs earned on JAL Group flights - OR -
- JGC members with 80 or more flights with at least 40 JAL Group flights and at least 25,000 FOPs


JMB Sapphire
- 50,000 or more FOPs with at least 25,000 FOPs earned on JAL Group flights - OR -
- 50 or more flights with at least 25 JAL Group flights and at least 15,000 FOPs

JMB Crystal
- 30,000 or more FOPs with at least 15,000 FOPs earned on JAL Group flights - OR -
- 30 or more flights with at least 15 JAL Group flights and at least 10,000 FOPs

As a result of this added FOPs/sectors earned on JAL Group flight requirement, the previous 4 JAL Group flights requirement will be discontinued.


Discontinuation of Upgrade Points
This year will be the last year JAL will offer upgrade points to JMB elites. The reasons quoted are as follow

Going forward, we plan to improve our in-flight service, especially seat specifications and contents of services in higher classes such as First Classes and Executive Classes. We consider it necessary to review the Mileage Program from the long-term point of view so that mileage award may be exchanged, maintaining the satisfactory quality in order to offer high quality cabin space and upgraded seats to members. This discontinuation of UGP is one of the ways to improve contents of the FLY ON Program in order for members to accumulate and redeem mileage more easily. We will inform the contents of our future program to our JMB members in due course of time. 
So what does this mean? There are a couple of **possibilities**.

1. JAL plans to introduce next generation of long-haul business class and perhaps first class seats in 2 years. This will be a lie-flat seat in order to maintain competitiveness. Unfortunately, this will mean a decrease in number of business class seats at the same time. Therefore, JAL will have to discontinue the upgrade point program to reduce the upgrade demand. 
2. It also says easier to earn miles. So there's a slight possibility that we might even get 100% miles on discounted economy classes.
3. People have accumulated too much miles and seats are getting harder to redeem, especially the upgrades.

My bet is on number 1. After all, even AA plans to introduce lie-flat seats on their newly delivered 777-300ERs. JAL can't lag behind them right :p And sounds like more changes might come in the future...hopefully more enhancements will be announced in the near future to make up for this sad news.

For more details, you can refer to JAL website (Japanese, English)


Update: JAL has announced the time frame for the announcement of the upcoming program change. We can expect announcements in early March.

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