Whilst I am on holiday, I thought it was worthwhile running an updated version of this article by HFP reader Ricardo which originally ran 18 months ago. It contains valuable advice for anyone planning a trip to Japan.
Over to you Ricardo …
Under the old Air Miles scheme, prior to November 2011, you could redeem for UK domestic flights without paying any tax at all. The addition of what is now £35 of tax via Reward Flight Saver made these redemptions look less interesting for me.
If you look further afield, Japanese domestic flights with Japan Airlines offer excellent value. The taxes for these domestic flights are usually negligible, around £3 or less for terminal usage fees. Some airports have no usage fee at all, so you are only looking at the Avios cost of 4,500 or 7,500 points per flight.
The real value of these flights has be viewed within the larger context of Japan’s other domestic offerings. Whilst there are several low cost carriers operating in Japan, these airlines offer nowhere near the value one might expect to find in the European marketplace.
A promotional ticket with Skymark, now owned by ANA, or Peach Aviation, two popular low cost carriers, is often still Yen 10,000 (£58) each way. Because the choices are limited, customers readily pounce when a promotion is launched and the cheapest seats can sell out within minutes, leaving only the higher priced seats. For someone who is flying at short notice, a cheap ticket is very difficult to obtain.
Looking at alternative transport options, the bullet train system (shinkansen) is one of the most efficient in the world, but it’s certainly not cheap. A ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto (2 hrs 19 min) will cost you close to £100 one way. There is no system of discounted tickets for advance rail bookings in Japan which is another reason why cheap airline seats often sell out quickly.
Here are some typical routes which a tourist might want to fly using Avios:
Tokyo Haneda to Osaka (4,500 Avios each-way)
Tokyo Haneda to Hiroshima (4,500 Avios each-way)
Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo(4,500 Avios each-way)
Tokyo Narita/Narita to Fukuoka (4,500 Avios each-way)
Osaka to Fukuoka (4,500 Avios each-way)
Fukuoka to Sapporo (7,500 Avios each-way)
Tokyo to Okinawa (7,500 Avios each-way)
There is usually excellent availability on many popular routes with 4 seats being a common number released on each flight for oneworld partners such as British Airways. Booking at short notice is also often possible, although flights falling on public holidays will need to be booked well ahead of time.
This ba.com screenshot shows that tax of absolutely nothing is payable on a Fukuoka to Sapporo flight (click to enlarge):
Another benefit of booking a Japan Airlines redemption flight is the cheap cancellation option. Whilst BA will charge you £35 to cancel an Avios redemption, this sum is actually capped at the level of taxes you have paid. With typical Japan Airlines domestic taxes being £3 or less, you effectively have the ability to cancel for free.
One odd quirk with the taxes being so low is that when you fly to / from an airport that doesn’t charge a terminal usage fee, you’ll still get directed to the payment page on the BA website – even though no tax is due! Not surprisingly, when the website tries to process a payment of ‘zero’ from your credit card or PayPal, it throws up an error and doesn’t let you book the ticket.
You can find your way around this by adding a £1.00 charity donation to your booking just before the final payment screen. The website will process this one pound transaction and happily generate your e-ticket at the same time. If you try to ring the BA call centre instead, you may find that the call centre will be unable to issue an e-ticket. In one instance I was told a paper ticket would need to be issued and that I would have to pay the telephone booking charge.
JAL is a great airline. The staff are always at the top of their game. The customer service is second to none on domestic and international flights. There is no light meal on domestic flights which is one downside, but they do serve a beverage and occasionally a Japanese lozenge of some sort!
If you are planning a holiday in Japan, flying with Japan Airlines could very well save you hundreds of pounds. You’re sure to enjoy the flying experience and hospitality with JAL while discovering this fascinating country.
(Want to earn more Avios? Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)