Up until now, you can make an international upgrade award reservation before you issue your ticket. Japan Airlines (JAL) will usually hold it for 5 days and cancel it if the lower class ticket hasn't been issued before the deadline. However, JAL will shorten the hold period to 3 days from September 2 2013.
JAL announcement is a bit confusing. At first it says it will no longer accept upgrade request until your lower class ticket has been issued. But then it starts talking about the 3-day hold period. So sounds like to me it is only shortening the hold period instead of not allowing you to hold the award before ticketing.
Until now, we accepted upgrade reservations in some cases even if tickets prior to upgrade were not yet purchased, but in the future, operations will be such that basically we will only arrange upgrade after you purchase a lower class ticket from the perspective of efficient use of award seats.
However, if you wish to upgrade prior to purchasing the ticket due to various reasons, we will accept upon asking you to purchase the ticket within 3 days* once upgrade seats are arranged.
Please note that we will cancel your upgrade seats if we cannot confirm your purchase.
*If the ticketing deadline of the flight ticket or the day before your departure date is within 3 days, please purchase the ticket by whichever date is earliest.
According to JAL, this is to allow JAL Mileage Bank (JMB) members to reserve the upgrade more easily. Now that the unused upgrade seats will get back to the pool faster than before. Not quite sure if it would allow you to hold it again after the initial 3 days have passed and there are still upgrade awards available after canceling your original reservation. Well, I don't want to find out myself but I hope it does allow that. Sometimes, you don't have a choice if one of the flights in your ticket is still on waiting list. You will have to wait for inventory control to clear that before you can ticket. If it doesn't allow us to extend the hold in this case, I can foresee there will be cases which the upgrade seats are no longer available. So looks like you will have to even more flexible than before if you want to secure your upgrade :( Shall I blame the JAL New Sky Project for all these?