A few Christmas gifts from ANA and Japan Airlines

I have some interesting news to report from the two Japanese airlines, All Nippon (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL), which are sort of a little Christmas gift for those interested in using those airlines to fly to Japan… though you are going to have to wait one or two months if you want to take full advantage.

Star Alliance carrier ANA has announced wonderful news that they are going to increase their free checked baggage allowance from one piece of luggage to two pieces. This is a revision from a policy announced last year that reduced the free checked baggage allowance. But don’t itch to get your ANA tickets right away.. the policy applies only to economy tickets purchased on or after January 8, 2015. So if you purchase a ticket prior to that, you will still be allowed only one free checked bag. The new two bag policy is wonderful news for those who want to bring home more souvenirs from Japan, given the weakness of the yen and the new tax refund policy for foreigners. The new policy matches the current policy of JAL and a few other carriers, but keep in mind that ANA’s checked bags in Economy must weigh no more than 23 kg/50 lbs each, and size must not exceed 158 cm/62 inches for the total of length, width and height.

On another ANA-related story, they will be launching nonstop service from United’s hub in Houston to Tokyo in June 2015.

You may have heard in the news that while crude oil prices have reached a 5 year low, many airlines are still keeping their fuel surcharges high and are not dropping them … prompting some in the US congress to consider launching an investigation. But if you are a fan of Oneworld’s Japan Airlines, you will be happy to know that they are the first airline to reduce their fuel surcharges. JAL monitors fuel costs every two months and revises their fuel surcharge policies on that same frequency. They recently announced that they will be amending fuel surcharges for tickets issued between February 1 and March 31, 2015. This means of course, if you purchase your ticket BEFORE February 1, you will still be subject to the higher fuel surcharge. Examples: The current fuel surcharge of US$259.00 for flights from North America, Europe and Oceania to Japan will be reduced to US$173.00 in February and March. The surcharge from Hawaii would drop from US$166.00 to US$105.00, and the surcharge from the Philippines would drop from US$80.00 to US$49.00.

Whether it’s the new two bag allowance on ANA or the reduced JAL fuel surcharges (one would expect ANA to follow suit on that, too), good things come to those who wait…. to purchase their tickets.

What expired fares? Sale from US to Japan continues!

9/16/14 Update: As of today, sub- $1,000 fares to Japan are no longer available. Most fares have risen to the $1,100-1,200 range for the same time period.

Well it looks like I was duped – apparently the fare sale I had mentioned before on this blog lives on – and the fares may be available for a few more weeks! If you want to visit Japan, these fares are some of the best I’ve seen this year. Seats are limited so snatch up the fares that you want!

Once again it appears that the prices are for travel from certain “hub” or focus cities of a major airline. A competing airline will offer fares from the other airline’s city – which means, unless you’re on the west coast, you will be connecting en route to Japan.

The main airlines that are part of the sale are United and American/US Airways. This means that if you are flying out of Chicago – you are out of luck I’m afraid, since both airlines have a hub at O’Hare!

United continues to offer fare sales to Tokyo from American/US Air hubs in Philadelphia (Starting at $979 round/trip), Charlotte ($977 r/t), Miami ($979 r/t), Dallas ($979 r/t), Phoenix ($982 r/t). United also offers $967 r/t fares on their Dreamliner flights from Los Angeles.

American continues to offer fares to Tokyo from United hubs. These, however, are now a little more expensive than before but still reasonably priced: Newark, NJ ($1,082 r/t), Denver ($1,082 r/t), Houston ($1,080 r/t), Washington Dulles ($1,082 r/t).

These fares are for most dates between now and early December – heck, you could book tickets today and be flying tomorrow, as just about all fares have no advance purchase restrictions like so many others.

While searching these fares today I came across a few others – among them, for my friends north of the border in Canada! Air Canada has sale fares from Toronto nonstop to either Tokyo Narita on their 777 or to the closer Tokyo Haneda on the Dreamliner starting at $1,161 CAD r/t. From Vancouver in British Columbia, fares from as low as $1,135 CAD r/t can be found on Air Canada’s nonstop to Narita. There are also excellent fares from all over Air Canada’s network in Canada, connecting in Toronto or Vancouver.

Price War leads to cheap airfare to Japan for the fall

After searching more airfares today, it appears that a Price War is yielding cheaper-than-usual airfare for immediate travel to Japan in September, October and November. If you’ve thought of visiting Japan and haven’t had the chance, or you are desperate for the return trip, then you should seriously take these airfares into consideration… and don’t waste time purchasing the tickets!

The price war essentially focuses around flights operated by American Airlines and United Airlines from the hub and focus cities of their competitors. Many of these flights will require connections somewhere in the US.

American Airlines has hubs in New York – JFK, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami, with added hubs from the acquisition of US Airways in Philadelphia, Charlotte and Phoenix. United’s hubs are in Newark, Washington Dulles, Chicago O’Hare (shared with United), Houston, Denver and San Francisco.

United has sale fares from American Airlines hubs: As low as $940 round/trip from Dallas, $942 r/t from Los Angeles (nonstop on their 787) and even $940 r/t from Miami! From US Airways hubs, $940 r/t from Philadelphia, $939 r/t from Charlotte.  Delta Air Lines also has matched the $942 fare from Los Angeles.

Conversely, American Airlines sale fares are from the United hubs: $943 round/trip from Newark, $943 r/t from Washington Dulles AND National, $942 r/t from Houston, $943 r/t from Denver. 

All of these fares require purchase no later than September 3 for travel in the fall on most Sundays through Thursdays until early December. The exception is the Delta airfare from Los Angeles, which has to be purchased by August 25.

Autumn Fare Sale for flights from New York, Houston and Washington to Japan

One of the most difficult aspects – and one of the biggest expenses – of a trip to Japan is the airfare. Right now (April 14, 2014) the round-trip airfares from New York, for example, are a staggering $1,500 per person. So it helps to occasionally do some research to see if there are any good airfare deals.

I stumbled upon a few cheap airfares that are worth mentioning if you are interested in making plans to visit Japan in the fall.

First is a fare sale that Air China (Star Alliance carrier) is having on its flights to Beijing from Houston-Intercontinental and Washington-Dulles, which then extends to connecting flights operating out of Beijing to Tokyo and Osaka. I am guessing these fares are on sale because they are relatively new air routes. If you don’t mind a longer trip (18-19 hours or so each way) and an evening arrival in Japan then you may want to look at what they are offering.

The second cheap airfare is something I’ve mentioned before – it’s the service from China Airlines (Skyteam carrier) that operates from New York-JFK nonstop to Osaka-Kansai three times a week, as part of its route that continues to Taiwan. While Air China also offers a similar fare sale from New York to Tokyo and Osaka via Beijing, China Airlines’ nonstop to Osaka is, in my opinion, the better and less time consuming deal.

Before continuing, a reminder that these airfares were researched independently by myself on April 14, 2014 and the expiration date for sales is not known. Information provided is for use at your own risk and subject to the Jose’s Japan Tips Disclaimer.

NEW YORK TO OSAKA KANSAI (Nonstop on China Airlines)
$1,111 round/trip including taxes and fees.
The fare is valid for outbound travel from September 15 through November 22 and requires a minimum stay of 6 nights in Japan. Maximum stay is 30 days or returning on November 29, 2014, whichever is sooner. Travel between New York and Osaka operates on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays in both directions. There is a free checked baggage allowance of two bags per person.

HOUSTON TO TOKYO HANEDA/NARITA (via Beijing on Air China)
$909 round/trip including taxes and fees.
As the Houston to Beijing flight is a redeye (leaving 1 AM and arriving 4:50 AM), you can choose a flight to either Haneda or Narita airport. The flight to Haneda is recommended since it arrives one hour sooner than the flight to Narita (12:50 PM vs 1:55 PM), and because Haneda is closer to Tokyo than Narita.

HOUSTON TO OSAKA KANSAI (via Beijing on Air China)
$913 round/trip including taxes and fees.

WASHINGTON, DC TO TOKYO HANEDA/NARITA (via Beijing on Air China)
$1,051 round/trip including taxes and fees.
The flight from Washington requires an overnight layover in Beijing, yielding an arrival in Japan two days later. You can choose a connecting flight to either Haneda or Narita airport. The flight to Haneda is recommended since it arrives one hour sooner than the flight to Narita (12:50 PM vs 1:55 PM), and because Haneda is closer to Tokyo than Narita. On the return trip the layover in Beijing is only 1 1/2 hours.

WASHINGTON, DC TO OSAKA KANSAI (via Beijing on Air China)
$1,054 round/trip including taxes and fees.

All of the AIR CHINA FLIGHTS are valid for outbound travel from September 5 through December 8, with a few blackout dates (more from Washington than Houston). The maximum stay is 30 days or returning on December 31, 2014, whichever is sooner. With Air China there is a free checked baggage allowance of two bags per person.

No matter how long your layover, Beijing has a transit visa waiver for passengers staying in the airport and connecting to another flight within 24 hours. When transiting in Beijing you will have to go through border inspection for your transfer, followed by a security checkpoint.

There is also a 72-hour transit visa waiver for citizens of over 50 countries, including the US and Canada, who stop and sightsee in Beijing en route to a destination outside of China.

Of course, if you live on the West Coast of the US, the flights are pretty competitive, with nonstop flights in the fall – particularly on ANA, as well as Singapore from Los Angeles – going for about $1,000 round/trip. 🙂

I hope this information helps you if you decide to go and experience the wonderful country of Japan in a few months!