When an airline changes their award chart, you expect the miles required to increase quite a bit. For example, Delta recently changed its partner redemption rates so that a one-way business class award to Europe on Virgin Atlantic, Air France, KLM, or Alitalia costs 85,000 SkyMiles. That’s an increase of 15,000 miles from the previous requirement of 70,000 SkyMiles!
Malaysia Airlines also recently announced changes to its Enrich program that will significantly increase award cost of partner awards. Even in the middle of a struggle to rehabilitate its global image, Malaysia Airlines decided to devalue their loyalty program.
Few frequent flyers felt that the Malaysia Airlines Enrich program offered much value anyway, but Delta’s SkyMiles program at least provided some decent options.
This is why we were worried when we looked at Japan Airlines Mileage Bank partner award chart and noticed that it now lists award prices separately: one for awards prior to October 1, 2017, and a separate chart for awards after that date.
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank has been the go-to program for several award bookings for at least the last year, including Emirates first class. It would be a huge blow for award travel if the award chart were devalued in the same manner that Delta and Malaysia Airlines changed their redemptions.
Fortunately, Japan Airlines only made subtle changes to its partner award chart. In fact, these changes will have very little impact on those hoping to book with Mileage Bank miles.
Unlike Japan Airlines’ region-based award chart for flights it operates, their partner award chart is a distance-based award chart. The latest changes do not impact economy and premium economy redemptions at all.
Only 3 partner award rates were changed in business class (1) and first class (2). For trip distances up to 1,000 miles, the business class rate has actually dropped from 35,000 to 32,000 Mileage Bank miles. The equivalent first class redemption has dropped from 60,000 to 55,000 miles.
Finally, 1 award tier did increase. For total trip distances of 8,001 to 10,000 miles, the redemption rate increased from 100,000 to 105,000 Mileage Bank miles.
This might be the first time we’ve seen an award chart change and not felt like an airline was taking advantage of its loyalty program members. Japan Airlines made small changes that did not significantly affect the value of their miles.
This change is important for more than just people with Mileage Bank miles though. Many people earn SPG Starpoints through their Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express with the intention of transferring them to Japan Airlines to book Emirates first class.
While the 5,000-mile bonus you receive when transferring 20,000 SPG Starpoints is a great perk, it can’t make up for drastic increases in award prices.
Though unlikely, other airlines should consider how Japan Airlines went about changing their partner award chart. It’s not necessary to institute huge award price increases to be competitive. In fact, if the purpose of a loyalty program is to build relationships with customers to keep them coming back for more flights, then Japan Airlines has provided an example that airlines like Delta and Malaysia Airlines should consider following.