|JAL First Class Award is wide open for the next 11 months!|
GaryD on FlyerTalk pointed out that the First Class award inventory on Japan Airlines (JAL) flights are extremely generous today. In fact, you can find a First Class award seats on JAL flights to the US on a lot of the dates in the next 11 months!
Personally I don't keep track of JAL award inventory that closely. But I have never seen something like this before. Usually JAL release the First Class inventory to Jakarta the same time they announce the winter and summer schedule because they usually use a 777-200ER as placeholder for that route and there's no First Class service on 777-200ER. For the US routes, JAL usually does not release the inventory until a few weeks out. Of course being a JAL Mileage Bank (JMB) members, you can waitlist on the flights and might get it earlier. The only time I saw plenty of inventory well in advance was last year when I was planning for my First Class trip using BA Avios points. But even back then, there were only a few weeks which there were plenty of award seats available. It was nothing like this!
I didn't look at the Europe routes before. I just need some random search, looks like there are plenty of inventory available right now too except for the London route which is scheduled to be the first one to receive the new SKY SUITE 777 cabins! There was only ONE day after January that as First Class award available on the Tokyo Narita to London Heathrow flight!
So did someone make a mistake and released whole bunch of inventories? Or is this a new practice of JAL to be generous on First Class award inventory? Or this is just JAL's normal practice to make older generation First Class products widely available? Honestly I have no idea. But the lack of availability on the London route might indicate this is not a mistake. If that's the case, I am disappointed. Why? Because that means all partners will get the award inventory at the same time. Before JMB members have priority because we are the only ones who can waitlist on the flights. I would rather them keep the inventory close and release them to JMB members when they waitlist on the flight. So this would be an improvement for JMB partners but a devaluation for the JMB members unless members from partners who gives out miles like grocery coupons (AA? BA? :P) don't dry out the inventory.
Another thing that we might need to worry about is if the inventory on the London route is an indication of what's to come, it will be really hard to get an award on the SS7 routes. I checked the business class award inventory on the London route too, the same as First Class inventory, only ONE day has seats available after January when JAL roll out SS7. Getting a premium award seat on the SS7 far in advance might not be an easy task :(
Last time they fixed the inventory problem pretty quickly (or maybe people took the seats quick?). So if you want to redeem a First Class (or Business Class since SS7 rollout will be completed by 2014) award on JAL in the next 11 months, do it now just in case it is a mistake or the inventory will disappear once the SS7 rollout schedule has been determined! And, as if you need more reasons :P, JAL is raising the fuel surcharge by 2 zone levels from December 1 2012. Ticket now could potentially save you some money on fuel surcharge.