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Is it worth redeeming Avios on Japan Airlines? Trip report with photos

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HfP reader Alan (@nitbix) recently published a review of his recent flight on Japan Airlines on his blog, A Small Geek in a Big World .  Japan Airlines is a oneworld alliance member and you can redeem your Avios points for flights with them.  Despite that, I have never written about them in detail, so I was pleased that Alan has allowed me to reproduce his review here.  Over to Alan ….

Japan Airlines has refurbished its long-haul economy class seating recently.  I had the chance to fly with them this month, on a return ticket booked Paris CDG to Tokyo Haneda (Tokyo’s smaller airport) and back Tokyo Narita to Paris CDG.  On the return flight I would get to try the new Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner.

Let’s have a look at the various features of JAL’s service between Paris and Tokyo, which I think would probably be representative of the rest of their intercontinental offering. Some of the observations (e.g. the lounge), may not be applicable to some readers that do not have British Airways status or equivalent oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status.

JAL Japan Airlines

On the ground: departing Paris

JAL has a strange arrangement at Paris CDG, to say the least. Rather than being in the same terminal as the rest of oneworld (2A and 2C), they codeshare with Air France and are situated in terminal 2E.

This means that unless your oneworld status comes from JAL’s own Mileage Bank program, or you have AirFrance status as well, you won’t be allowed in the lounge. The good news is that if you have a Premium Economy ticket (where they operate a 3-or-more-class aircraft), the lounge is included in the ticket.

I was actually offered the upgrade to Premium Economy on the way out for just €250 – in hindsight this would have been a good bargain. I would advise that if you get the option you should take it.

On the ground: departing Tokyo

Departing from Narita was incredibly simple. Tokyo is a well organised city and getting to the airport was a breeze.  JAL has an impressive 2 bags per person allowance even for travellers in economy, and we definitely needed it given the amount of shopping.

The check-in attendants were incredibly polite and helpful, and they even wrapped up our umbrellas for us. They took the trouble to ask if we had bottles in the suitcases and marked them as fragile. There are separate security lanes, one exclusively for JAL status holders and First class travellers, and one for OneWorld status holders.

For the first time in my life, whilst going through a priority security lane, I had someone actually help me unpack and arrange my things in trays.

The seat

This is the new seat currently in service on JAL’s 777 aircraft:

JAL 777 economy seat

The renewed Japan Airlines economy seat has some very nice features, one of them being a USB connector (on the left side of the screen in the picture).

The screen is about the size of an iPad, and it seems to have very good resolution and brightness / contrast. This is in stark contrast with what you get with BA and Virgin Atlantic, for example, which in many cases are just pitiful and I end up watching things on my laptop.

The meals

This was the first meal we were served (remember that this was an economy seat):

JAL first meal

and this was the MOS burger kit we received as our 2nd meal on our return flight:

JAL second meal

The meals were simply amazing.  Apart from the fact that on the return flight we were served two full meals and two snacks, Japan Airlines is the only airline that I know of that seem to make an effort by giving nice food with a Japanese twist, and plenty of small extras on the side.

Not to mention the metal cutlery, which is a refreshing change from what you get elsewhere nowadays.  Our second meal on the return flight was a build-it-yourself MOS burger (if you’ve been to Japan you know what I’m talking about), which was delicious and fun. 

The only thing I can really say about the food, in-flight and in the lounge, is that I ate too much. But I always do that when I’m flying so I can’t really fault JAL for it.

The service

There clearly are two separate levels of service, and not in the way you think of.  Japan-based JAL staff are way more courteous, polite, and helpful than the foreign ground-based ones. It is part of Japanese culture to be helpful and nice, and I think that shows in the training they receive. They also seemed to be incredibly polite and professional between themselves, and always had a smile on their face (I don’t speak much Japanese, but I do understand enough to tell when someone is being direct, rude, or dismissive).

The lounge

While the slightly odd arrangement they have at Paris CDG meant I didn’t get to see the Air France lounge, the Japan Airlines lounge in Narita is a very strong point in favour of JAL.

This is a fully-fledged oneworld lounge so you can gain entrance with any oneworld status, so we used my Cathay Pacific Gold (thank you Amex!) to get in.

It is one of the best business class lounges in which I’ve been. The food was of very good quality and the drinks selection was excellent. Top that with excellent views of the airport, a free massage (was all booked while we were there though), excellent massage chairs, nap rooms, and some decent alcohol selection, and it sits up there with the best business class lounges.

Avios and tier points

Readers beware.  If you book a JAL discounted economy flight, you will end up with a 25% Avios earning rate based on miles flown, rather than the 100% of miles flown you would receive if you flew BA.

You still get the full tier points though.  It may be the case that if you book a BA codeshare you will get the full Avios as well, but I’m not sure about that.

None of this matters if you are booking a reward seat, of course.  It is worth remembering that, if you take the Paris service as I did, your taxes will be a lot lower because you will not pay long-haul UK Air Passenger Duty.

Final thoughts about the trip

It is hard for me to say anything bad about flying JAL in Economy.  They seem to have nailed most of the things that the other airlines get wrong: basic little touches here and there (like the USB port that I used to charge my phone), the extra baggage allowance, and the fact that you didn’t feel like cattle at any point during the process.

Compared to the experience I had the following day combing back to London from Paris CDG, this was a great experience.


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Comments (32)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Waribai says:

    Great trip report Raffles. We usually fly this route or LHR-NRT 3 or 4 times a year on JAL. The last couple of times we flew in F. Now that our infant no longer flies for free we’ve decided to start using our 241 on BA. From your trip report it would seem that we don’t have too much to look forward to!
    One thing I have noticed is the amount of pax upgrades both NH and JL do at check in. I have found travelling solo or with my partner, if we book seats right at the back of the plane, we have been often up graded to PE or C even before we had status. This is especially true on NH.
    Also, this could be your last trip to Narita as NH and JL are moving their European operations to Haneda. A much nicer airport and closer to the centre of Tokyo. But curiously until now was the preserve of LCC and domestic/package travellers!

    • blenz101 says:

      Did you read the report or just saw the headline and decided to comment… It was a readers report, not Raffles.

      The report was very positive about the experience even in Y – so the comment about not having much to look forward to doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

      Your switch to redeeming 241s is also not relevant at you can’t use those unless on BA metal, this TR was specifically looking at JAL?

      • Richie says:

        Stop making issues with people. What’s the point in trying to turn this site in to another flyer talk . If you actually read waribias initial comment you would see the only mistake was he thought raffles wrote it. He was talking about not looking forward to ba. And he knows you can only use a 2. 41 on ba metal, read the comments before you start trying to pick on people. Like I said …. We don’t need this site turning in to FT.

        • Blenz101 says:

          I’m not making an issue, and the comments on upgrades chances were interesting.

          Comments on this site are on the whole useful and provide additional insight from the original articles.

          I was just suggesting that rather than being ‘first’ to make a comment, the relevance to the article and what value other readers will gain by a comparison of BA 241s and a history of flying F now affected by an infant coming of age may be questionable.

  • Waribai says:

    Apologies…I did read the report but not the intro at the beginning. That’s what happens when you scan on email!
    I’ll clarify the BA comparison. I haven’t flown BA long haul for many years so from the remarks in the report above it would seem it is nowhere as good as JL. Having got used to JAL, I’m now not looking forward to BA which we will be doing to make use of the 241. Have a good day!

    • Worzel says:

      Your initial posting was perfectly understood by me-thank you for the additional information.

      • Waribai says:

        You’re welcome Worzel and I should also have said “Great trip report Alan!”
        Just to clarify further, I have found the upgrades happen much more frequently out of LHR as they are much busier routes while the European hubs tend to offer the paid upgrades at the check in desk but still at reasonable prices.
        Last July we flew LHR-NRT just at the start of the school holidays and they were offering 800 euros to pax prepared to fly the following the day instead. However ,this only applied to revenue fares and not redemptions!

  • Andrew says:

    I know BA only give 25% of the miles flown with various partners in various booking classes but this is at odds with their own ‘collecting avios’ webpage (

    “You’ll earn at least one Avios for every mile you fly with us or any of our oneworld airline partners, with a minimum of 500 Avios per flight.”

    Has some marketing person gotten a little over excited on the website without actually checking the rules?

  • Koshka says:

    Nice to see an airline that has maintained the economy service. I flew this route in 2000 and it’s still the best food that I ever had on an aeroplane.

    • Paul says:

      The last time I flew JAL was 10 years ago from Sydney to Narita and was blown away by both the food and the service. Good to see they have kept it up.

  • James says:

    Just checked and to do CDG-NRT on a redemption at is 30000 Avios and GBP229. I can see why PE seems like a good deal now.

  • Paul says:

    I recently flew JAL from Saigon to Narita on the overnight 767. Sadly the seat was truly awful as it was the old style cradle seat and not the new flatbed that is being rolled out.
    That is where the any complaint of JAL starts and finishes.
    The crew on board were superb from start to finish. Nothing was missed and if you were seen opening the blanket bag or trying to locate the recline button on the seat help was immediate. We were all called by name and just prior to landing my son was presented with a bags of gifts including some Origami made by the crew as it was his birthday!!
    The flight, which leaves at midnight and is just over 5 hours could have been really horrible. JAL however made it bearable. Firstly there is no meal service on departure and the lights went out very quickly after takeoff. This allows you to maximise sleep albeit for just 4 hours.
    Breakfast was served promptly and courteously and was both beautifully presented and delicious.
    On this experience alone I would book JAL without hesitation.
    On our return to the UK on BA we used the Sakura Lounge. I would say that you need to look pretty hard for the fast track /premium security lane which I missed but you won’t miss the Sakura lounge. It is directly in front of the immigration desks.
    The welcome here was fabulous and as you enter there is the smell of the spa which I love. The staff were gracious and escorted us into the lounge which has great views of the airport. It did not have the luxury feel of the Concorde room (though that is tired and tatty in places) but it served its purpose and frankly I would rather the staff be pleasant welcoming and available any day over the Concorde room in its current set up.
    JAL however excelled and domestically there are no fees or charges on Avios, though BA make booking them a chore. Sadly our domestic service from Narita was canned when JAL moved most flights to Haneda but at 4000 avios a sector it is probably still one of the best ways to use Avios.

  • Alex says:

    Good report. But I think there is some confusion over the lounge at CDG. Under OW access rules, if a lounge is operated by a third party (ie non OW airline) for a OW airline, then only the eligible pax travelling on that airline which have lounge access can access that lounge, but not eligible pax travelling on other OW airlines. It isn’t meant to or interpreted as excluding other Ow airline elites from getting in. Otherwise in most of BA’s European outports where it uses a third party lounge non-BA elites would never get a look in.

    JAL is required to offer non-JL OW elites travelling on its metal the same lounge access privileges as JL elites. So it shouldn’t matter in CDG that JL has contracted someone else to use their lounge, all eligible pax (ie F, J, JL elites and OW elites) get access. So either you were told porkies by someone who didn’t know the rules, or JL is openly flouting OW rules.

    • Alex says:

      That should of course be “all eligible pax (ie F, J, JL elites and OW elites) travelling on JL get access”

      • Alan says:

        Thanks for the clarification Alex. I’m the reader that wrote this report.
        Sadly this isn’t what happened. I automatically assumed that I would be able to access the lounge as a CX gold even if I was flying JAL and the lounge was AF operated. Sadly, when I showed up at the lounge I was rudely sent away by the woman at the entrance with typical local attitude. I then went to the gate and asked the person there but she told me the same (and she was an AF operator for some reason).
        Do you reckon I should complain?

        • Alex says:

          I don’t know how often you travel ex-CDG on JL so that it’s worth your time to complain (or if you would like to complain anyway for the benefit of clarifying it for anyone who may be travelling ex-CDG in future!) but I am pretty sure AF was in the wrong here. It may be that JL should have issued you with some sort of invitation card at check-in to allow you access, and AF simply refused (in that delightful Parisian way) to let you in without it. If AF was correct in denying you access, then JL is breaching its agreement with OW, and this should be something which is published on the OW website as an exception (in the same way that BA CCR and QR’s DOH Premium Terminal and LHR T4 Premium Lounge are published as exceptions).

  • Adam W says:

    I feel about shortchanged here unless I’m missing something! The title states “Is it worth redeeming Avios on Japan Airlines” but I see no discussion of this point whatsoever. Mileage earning is briefly touched upon during Alan’s trip report but there’s no value added to the copy & paste job with, what would have been, a rather useful comparison to BA’s World Traveller. Is the reader supposed to be familiar with the BA (or any other airline’s) economy product to enable a valid comparison and to ascertain the answer to the question posed in the title?

    Fwiw I know that the answer but I’d have thought that some analysis or explanation of the value of miles would have added some insight, added value and justification of whether it is worth redeeming Avios on Japan Airlines. BA Amex 2for1s would have warranted discussion and there could even have been the usual whine about the ‘ludicrous’ BA change for all members (but particularly the lovely Golds) whether redeeming on BA or JAL. This could be extended to relate the quadruple cost of the change fee for families of four too!

    A good opportunity has been missed and has left nothing but a rather lazy post. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the “3 posts a day” policy and concentrate on quality???

    • Rob says:

      I agree that if I had written this post it would have been done differently. However, I didn’t write it, and (as I have no intention of flying economy on JAL anytime soon – or indeed ever!) the option was either a) don’t run it at all, which doesn’t benefit anyone, or b) run it on its own terms.

      This is possibly the first ever substantial mention of JAL on this site and I was happy to give it some coverage.

      The headline was my responsibility though!

      “Filler” posts are also in the eye of the reader. The NH Hotels post today is arguably more of a ‘filler’ – and the readership figures so far bear that out – but actually the NH article is exactly what this site claims to do, ie cover ways to earn more Avios. You are not meant to be interested in every post on the site. Given that the readership runs from a large number of high-flying (in all senses) City bankers and lawyers through to students you can’t please everyone three times a day!

      It is also worth mentioning that it takes me more time to edit a post written by someone else than it does to write my own stuff – it is not a time saving measure!

      • Adam W says:

        I’m not knocking the trip report. It is a good report and I did enjoy reading it. It was just that, like you concede, the title implied something different to the actual content.

        I’ll add that I find nothing wrong with “filler” posts either. I saw the NH story headline, realised I wasn’t interested and decided not to read it. However, I do value and wanted your opinion upon whether it is worth redeeming Avios on JAL (before I realised it was regarding economy!) and that was what I was expecting.

    • Richie says:

      Adam, stop being a dick

      • Adam W says:

        Nice. Thanks, Ritchie!

        Any particular reasons why you harbour those thoughts, or why I should care about them?

        • Richie says:

          I just don’t see the point in all these negative posts that seem to be hammering raffles and the site. They seem to be coming in on a daily basis from you, and others. If something doesn’t apply to you don’t kick up a fuss. I have no interest in obtaining points via credit cards , so I simply don’t read the posts relating to this subject. Just accept something’s are not relevant to you, and don’t read them. Sorry for calling you a dick, I’m sure it’s just a temporary personality disorder and not a permanent thing.

          • Adam W says:

            I’m really sorry Richie but I just can’t take you, your holier than thou approach or your flawed logic particularly seriously at all for the following reasons:

            1) At the top of the comments section you tell blenz101 to “Stop making issues with people. What’s the point in trying to turn this site in to another flyer talk” and yet here you are making issues with me! Take your own advice!!!

            2) In that same post you state “read the comments before you start trying to pick on people. Like I said …. We don’t need this site turning in to FT.”. Take your own advice!!! Did you read mine? Where did I say that I was not interested in Raffles post? WHERE? I am interested in Raffles opinion of whether it is worth redeeming Avios on JAL as the title suggested. Did the post actually include that? NO! Hence my comment about feeling shortchanged. Did I say that I didn’t want to read a TR about JAL as the other half of the title suggested? NO! Hence my reply to Raffles reply “I’m not knocking the trip report. It is a good report and I did enjoy reading it. ”

            3) I can and do “Just accept something’s are not relevant to you, and don’t read them” as, and again – you’d know this if you’d actually read and understood my comments, I stated “I’ll add that I find nothing wrong with “filler” posts either. I saw the NH story headline, realised I wasn’t interested and decided not to read it.” Take your own advice!!!

            4) You call me a ‘dick’. Seriously, how old are you? I’ll overlook it if you’re under 10 but otherwise I think there’s some maturity issues that need addressing there.

            5) You apologise for calling me a ‘dick’ and then reassert the insult. Again, if you’re under 10 I’ll overlook it, otherwise please try not to contradict yourself in the same sentence! Leave it for separate posts like you do in 1) and 2) above. You’re more likely to get away with it than to appear so obviously disingenuous.

            6) You tell me that “If something doesn’t apply to you don’t kick up a fuss.” Did either of my posts apply to you? NO! Take your own advice!!!

            7) “I just don’t see the point in all these negative posts that seem to be hammering raffles and the site. They seem to be coming in on a daily basis from you, and others.” Personally, if you wanted to be taken seriously, you should have just left your reply like that. If you had, I’d have told you that:
            a) I like HFPs.
            b) I value Raffles opinion
            c) I do not like to be mislead with inaccurate titles – as has happened here and on a couple of other occasions.
            d) I correct factually incorrect assertions by Raffles.
            e) Yes – I find the whole ‘family of four thing’ entertaining/slightly grating at times
            f) Yes – I am really fed up of hearing about BA Gold’s having to pay a £35 change fee.
            g) let’s kiss/hug/handshake and make up

            and finally, and I hope you understand why I’ve left this until last….

            8) You clearly take exception to my post and offer the solution of “simply don’t read posts” if they aren’t relevant to me. If my posts annoy/frustrate/offend you, then take your own advice and don’t read my comments!

          • Worzel says:

            Adam, i’m all with point G.

          • Lady London says:

            And me.

          • Richie says:

            Point taken, sorry I hurt your feelings Adam.

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