Change Your Altitude

Breaking: Japan Airlines Significantly Expands New York Operations

In what surely is to be good news for oneworld and AAdvantage elites based out of the New York area, Japan Airlines (JL) has announced a raft of changes to their New York JFK schedule, and they are almost all universally good.

The thing is with American Airlines (AA) – despite having a solid hub operation out of JFK, the beautiful new terminal 8 that they almost solely operate out of and brand new state of the art kitted out aircraft capable of efficiently doing long hauls to Asia – they simply don’t really bother.

Japan is their only real presence in Asia, with token flights to Hong Kong and China out of their Dallas, LAX and Chicago hubs.

But the great news for oneworld folks is that where AA falls a bit behind, JAL excels in the market (in many more ways than one, mind).

And the other great bit of information is that Japan Airlines and American share very deep partnerships pretty much across the board, so AAdvantage folks are at a good position to take advantage of their Asian partner. This shouldn’t be taken for granted, as the same can definitely not be said over at SkyTeam and the inexplicable row between Delta and Korean Air.

The Scoop:

Japan Airlines has announced the commencement of new services between their growing international hub at Tokyo Haneda (HND) and New York’s JFK International Airport.

In an announcement yesterday, JAL has also said that the new Haneda flights will be in addition to their existing JFK-Narita flights, which marks a departure from the approach Delta has taken in cutting their own New York to Narita link completely in favor of Haneda.

The new flights will launch on April 1, so quite soon – and in even better news, it will be operated by JAL’s flagship Boeing 777-300ER product that have been configured with the carrier’s latest First (full suite), Business (Apex suite), Premium Economy and Economy products.

In the same statement, Japan Airlines seems to want this route to focus on domestic and regional connections while keeping Narita their primary hub for other points further afar in Asia:

“This flight is being offered to enhance customer convenience and to provide greater access to and from Japan-domestic connecting flights at Haneda Airport.”

Options. They’re great, aren’t they?

The airline also then announced that they were further increasing capacity from the existing JFK to Narita flight, upgrading the flight from their current 787-8 to also the 777-300ER.

This represents a massive boost in capacity per flight, going up from JAL’s premium heavy 161 seats offered on the 787 to the proportionally equally premium heavy 244 seat 777. And with the addition of the Haneda flight, JL goes up from offering 161 seats per day from the New York to Tokyo to 488 seats per day – which represents an over 30% increase in capacity – and once again it’s dissproptionaly skewed towards much more premium availability.

Furthermore, with the introduction of the 777 on both these routes, JAL now offers their industry leading First Class product on the route, with 8 suites available per flight. 49 Business Class seats are now also offered per flight (up from 38 on the 787), and 40 in Premium Economy (up from 35). JAL’s 777’s only have 147 seats in standard economy class, but that’s better compared to the meager 88 offered on the 787 – all a testament of just how premium and high yielding the Tokyo market is.

Japan Airlines uses the cutting edge award winning Apex Suites in Business Class on their long haul aircraft such as the 777s that will be flying to New York from Tokyo Narita and now Tokyo Haneda.

The Takeaway:

Well, this is a massive development for all oneworld fliers and especially AA given their hub in New York – and in a very positive way. There’s no other way to look at it.

First off, there’s just been a huge increase in premium seats on the route – which while might not translate to drastically lower fares, chances for elite upgrades and redemption on the route – which as things stand are hard to come by – have just skyrocketed. You’ll also be treated to JL’s product which is routinely classified as one of the best in the world. When ANA announced Ippudo as their caterer for their premium cabins for long haul flights, JAL one upped them in a big way by announcing Nihon Ryugin – a 3 star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo and considered one of the best restaurants in the world – would be catering their First Class meals.

This is now available for redemption on AAdvantage for travel between JFK and HND/NRT. I mean American’s new 777s are very nice indeed, but they just don’t compare to the hard and soft product that JAL offers.


Not to beleaguer the point, but contrary to the frosty relationship between Korean Air and Delta, Japan Airlines and American share a very close relationship. KE and DL don’t really do elite qualification with each other, and in some cases don’t even code share on important intra-Asian routes, with DL preferring to partner with China Eastern or China Southern.

AA and JL on the other hand, are completely mental neutral across the Pacific. This means that all revenue, profit and loss are shared between the two carriers – and this applies for all transpacific operations for both airlines between the United States and Japan (United and ANA also have the same agreement in place). So for the passenger, flying on a Japan Airlines flight/plane is exactly the same as flying on an American Airlines plane – all benefits, earning and redemption opportunities are afforded to elite fliers from either carrier. This is massive because as witnessed in the case of KE and DL and so many other carriers within the same alliance, this isn’t always the case. And on a 15+ hour flight and the potential associated spend, this is a big deal.


Another massive boost for oneworld fliers traveling past Japan and deeper into East and South East Asia is connections. This is also a key component at play here.

Narita Airport, which is about 1 hour away from the city by high speed train, is preferred for connections as the airport is much bigger and thus hometown airlines NH and JL can offer more flights at more frequency to more destinations. Haneda is the older Tokyo airport and very much slot constrained – as in operations need to be much more limited. But, located in the middle of Tokyo Bay, it is in a prime location to get into the city within 15-20 minutes car ride, much more convenient for travelers ending up in Tokyo or domestically within Japan.

With most Tokyo bound traffic now probably switching over onto the Haneda flight, this means more seats and more options available for the Narita flight -i.e. folks who want to use their AAdvantage miles to get to somewhere like Bangkok or Manila with only one-stop from JFK and still earn and make use of their status on oneworld. This isn’t something that can be done on Delta – for instance DL pulled out of Bangkok completely, so now requires a flight on China Southern through CAN which is not ideal for the business traveler. Nor is it ideal for anybody to be thinking of double transfers on Delta from New York to Manila – whilst DL still flies into MNL, it’s only through Detroit or Minneapolis and then onwards to Tokyo then Manila. oneworld has SkyTeam beat here (indeed Star Alliance does too with United going metal neutral with ANA and Asiana via Tokyo and Seoul respectively).


So overall, it’s excellent news. Maybe this might spark Delta or United into doing something of their own with their respective alliance partners, but with this latest development oneworld becomes a lot more competitive on the lucrative New York-Tokyo market.

I’m a bit jealous honestly – and I hope Star does something to match. How about you oneworld elites out there…are you happy? Or are you too busy booking your flights on the new JL services to respond right now


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