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Thursday, March 8, 2012

[UPDATED] New Full-Flat bed seats coming in early 2013 and new elite benefits

[Update: Added business cabin configuration analysis] Japan Airlines (JAL) has just announced their plan of new full-bed business class seats the new FLY ON (aka elite) benefits for 2012 that they will implement to make up for the discontinuation of the upgrade points (UGPs). Below are the details


New State-of-Art Full-Flat Business Class Seats
JAL will start rolling out new state-of-art full-flat business class seats on key US and European routes from early 2013. This is to improve comfort and sleep on these long-haul routes. The brand new seat design, launch dates and routes will be announced soon.

New Elite Benefits

Class J-e Coupons
FY2012 JMB FLY ON status members and those who receive advanced FY2013 JMB FLY ON status will receive 5 Class J-e Coupons for domestic economy to Class J upgrade. These coupons are valid on flights departing on or before March 31 2014. The coupons have already been credited to FY2012 FLY ON status members' account. Those who receive advanced FY2013 JMB FLY ON status will receive their coupons when their advanced status starts.


Translation: Those who qualified based on 2011's flyings and those who qualified based on 2012 flyings will receive these e coupons. But what I am not sure is if I re-qualify for FLY ON status again this year, will I receive another 5 e coupons. My guess is yes but you won't be receiving another 5 next year

Domestic First Class Upgrade Coupons
FY2012 JMB Diamond and JGC Premier members and those who receive advanced FY2013 JMB Diamond and JGC Premier status will receive 2 upgrade coupons for them to upgrade to domestic First Class. The coupons are valid on flights departing from April 1 2012 till March 31 2014. Coupons will be sent together with the elite membership cards.

Similar to the Class J-e Coupons, this is for those who qualified based on 2011's flyings and those who qualified based on 2012 flyings. But I am not sure whether you will get 2 when you reach JGC Premier and 2 more when you reach JMB Diamond or not.

Haneda Domestic Lounge Coupons for Crystal Members
JMB Crystal members will receive 5 Haneda Domestic Sakura Lounge coupons valid between April 1 2012 and March 31 2013. This applies to both FY2012 Crystal members as well as those who receive advanced FY2013 Crystal status. For FY2013 Crystal members, they will receive 5 lounge coupons valid between April 1 2013 and March 31 2014.

So does it mean I will be receiving extra lounge coupons when FY2013 status roll in even though I have received those from advanced status? The language is a bit confusing here.

JAL Global Club (JGC) Entrance at Fukuoka and Itami
As reported earlier, JAL will add the JGC express security lanes at both Fukuoka and Itami airports. Details can be found here.

Reduced Premium Economy Class Upgrade Award on US and European routes
Instead of 10,000 JMB miles per sector, JAL will allow you to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy on flights between US and Japan, and Europe and Japan for just 5,000 miles per sector. This applies to both FY2012 and FY2013 FLY ON status members and the flight dates must be during your FLY ON status membership period. However waitlisting and same-day upgrade is not allowed. You must contact your JMB office to request for such upgrade. It can't be done online. For more details you can refer to JAL website (Japanese, English)

50% off Economy to Business Class Upgrade Award on flights to Asia, Oceania, Korea and Guam
FY2012 and FY2013 FLY ON status members can upgrade on flights between Japan and Asia, Ocean, Korea and Guam with half of the miles required for regular members during their FLY ON status membership period. Waitlist is allowed but not same-day award redemption. For details, you can refer to JAL website (Japanese, English)

That's all the announcements for today. While I am excited about the new business class seats announcement, I am pretty disappointed on the new elite benefits announced to make up for the loss of the UGPs. Basically it sucks if you mainly fly to the US and Europe (yup, that's me!). When they roll out the new seats, there will be a decrease in business class seat and therefore upgrade award supply. So JAL has to decrease the demand on long-haul upgrade awards if they want to maintain the same level of ease of upgrade award redemption...that is if you have the miles :(. That's why they have to axe the UGPs and target the less premium regional routes for discounted upgrade and hope it can make it up to the elites. 


But are they really going to give us a super fancy business class seat that will result in big capacity decrease in the business class cabin? Cathay Pacific (CX) can fit 53 business class seats from behind First Class to L3 on their new 77D. JAL currently has two more rows behind L3 with 77 NEO seats in W82 config. So With a similar design, JAL will be able to fit 61 business class seats, that is 16 less seats IF they decide not to reduce the Premium Economy (PY) cabin. I have the feeling that PY isn't working out for JAL and ANA (ANA originally planned to reduce their PY cabin size by half with the Inspiration of Japan product line). If they reduce the PY cabin size by 50%, they can probably fit in 2 more rows so business class cabin size would reduce by 8 seats only. So why do we need such a big elite program overhaul for this? We can deal with having 8 less seats to redeem per flight. And if you compare with W73 config used on European routes, they only have 63 Shell Flat seats onboard. That's hardly any reduction if they use similar config as CX even without the PY cabin reduction. Are they just making excuses to devalue the elite program? Or is the new business seats really that good!? We will find out soon.

As a JGC member, the Crystal domestic lounge coupons are useless to me. I get lounge access anyway. And they are for domestic lounge at HND only. Unless I am traveling with 6 friends and family members, I won't be able to use them up. And the Class J-e Coupons are similarly useless for me. Unless I fly on 5 domestic flights per year, I will not be able to use up those coupons. I am hoping at least for overseas members, they will give them an alternative options say Sakura Lounge coupon for overseas usage and miles instead of Class J-e Coupons but I doubt that would happen. So with these changes, I wonder what's the point of me staying loyal to JAL? If ANA offers Super Flyer Card to overseas members without requiring them to apply for a Japan credit card, then I will seriously consider joining the dANArkside (you hear me ANA? ;)) But then I would have to change my name to ANAPak instead :P

The JAL Mileage Project 2012 announcement will come on March 14 2012. For more details, you can refer to JAL website (Japanese, English)

6 comments:

  1. Hi JalPak,

    As always, great assessment & comment on the JMB changes.

    For over six years I've travelled every month Sydney to New York on JAL and there's not much in these changes for me except a reduction in benefit. JAL sent me one of those titanium bag tags a few months ago and then announced the termination of UGPs . . . I wish they'd kept the titanium.

    I'd be interested in your assessment of the value of using ANA (Narita / New York) as compared to JAL.

    Patrick

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  2. Thanks Patrick! Sounds like your wish of having less travel doesn't come true :P (yea I remember who you are ;)) But I am glad to hear that you are still sticking to JAL on your monthly trip to NYC :D And now I know what it takes to get the JAL Titanium Diamond card :) Any extra benefits other than the domestic F upgrade coupons they sent with the card?

    In your case, I am not sure if it worths switching from JAL to ANA as ANA does not operate flights to Australia. They only codeshare with NZ to New Zealand. So if you want to take NH instead of JL on the NRT-JFK portion of your trip, it will be a bit more complicated. If you issue two separate tickets, then the cost would probably go up, you might have less protection during irregular operation (though it isn't that common on both NH and JL), change of terminal at NRT which requires you to take the airside bus shuttle, etc And if you switch to *A then you might have to add an extra connection for you.

    Have you considered other routings e.g. SYD-HKG-JFK? CX has a pretty good hard product in J and unbeatable frequencies between SYD-HKG and HKG-JFK. But their soft products aren't something to write home about, esp their terrible catering in long-haul J.

    Have you tried expressing your feelings about all these changes to JAL? Although it's unlikely they will make any changes at this point, I bet they will take your inputs more seriously than the rest of us and would take that into consideration when they review the benefits again next year. They know they are in trouble when their valuable and extremely loyal Titanium Diamond members like you aren't happy with these changes and are considering to switch to other carriers. So far, the only positive feedbacks I have heard is from a Japan region member who mainly flies to Australia. People who mainly fly domestically and to SE Asia and Oceania are the ones who benefit most from these changes. US and Europe flyers are the biggest losers :(

    Pak

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  3. Hi JalPak,

    Still traveling every month and I'd give it away in a heartbeat . . . and still with JAL although I'm going to start looking around for other options.

    I don't recall getting any other benefits with the Titanium card . . . other than the domestic F upgrades.

    You're right that ANA probably isn't an option for me. I did look at CX once before so I might give them a try again.

    I haven't contacted JAL regarding the changes but I will.

    From one of your recent posts I see that I can now use JMB miles to purchase flights on AA. What's the AA product like from Tokyo to New York?

    Thanks,

    Patrick

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  4. Patrick,

    JAL has been AA's partner for years and the only recent change is that you can search for available space and redeem for AA flight award online. Before this enhancement, you had to call JMB center to redeem for an AA award.

    AA has similar business class seats as JAL Shell Flat and inferior soft products and worse catering. Not to mention they will suspend their JFK-NRT flight from May 31. So they will only have JFK-HND service. I guess that wouldn't be an option for you either as it requires an airport change.

    AA will roll out new business class seats this year but no public time frame for installing those on transpacific flights yet. They will be using the same new business class seats CX has (I believe US Airways is using the same seat as their F seats). And JAL will have new full-flat seats in business class on key US and Europe routes from early 2013.

    I still think CX is an option but their elite program does not have Upgrade Points nor elite bonus miles. So JMB might still be a better program even after the recent devaluation. And CX catering is not one of their strongest selling points either, especially in J. But CX is famous for their op-ups for elite although it's not a guarantee. One of the nicest published benefits of MPC is they have seat guarantee for Gold and Diamond members.

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  5. Hi JalPak,

    I didn't realize that AA were suspending JFK-NRT from May 31. Do you know if JAL will provide a night flight from NRT to JFK? A few years ago they used to have a JL008 flight that left NRT around 6pm.

    I ask because I used to be provided with a night's accommodation at Narita when I flew in from Sydney . . . before flying on to JFK on JL006 the next day. But this was changed in October last year when JAL announced that since they had a "same day" connection to JFK (with AA) they didn’t need to provide accommodation. I've been purchasing a night’s accommodation in NRT ever since. Do you think JAL will resume offering the accommodation or reintroduce a JL008-like flight?

    Thanks,

    Patrick

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  6. Sorry I have no info on that you probably want to check with JAL to see if they count JFK-HND as an same day connection. But JAL *might* increase JFK frequency with 787 but that probably won't happen for a while.

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