How I used Avios for a flat-bed from Japan to China – and other Asian Avios deals

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This is my review of Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class, in its regional intra-Asia configuration.

Last year I ran an excellent article, written by a reader, on how to use Avios points to travel domestically in Japan.  As Japan Airlines is a member of the oneworld alliance, with BA, you can redeem Avios for flights on its network.  As cash tickets can be expensive, and Avios tickets in Japan have minimal taxes, it is good value.

You are spoiled for choice when travelling around Asia.  With Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Japan Airlines, Sri Lankan and Malaysia Airlines all available with Avios, there are a lot of options for using your points to put together a trip.

Travelling around Asia is not the same as travelling around Europe.  The distances can be far larger – Hong Kong to Tokyo is a four hour flight, as is Tokyo to Beijing.

Longer distances mean that Asian network carriers often use long haul aircraft for regional flights.  When we flew from Hong Kong to Tokyo last month, it was on a (pretty old, to be honest) Japan Airlines 777-200 in Premium Economy.  I’m not writing about that flight as it was, frankly, very average.

Tokyo to Beijing, however, was more interesting.  Japan Airlines was using a brand new Boeing 787 for the flight we took.

You should note that, even when a long haul aircraft is used, it often has different seating to a ‘proper’ long haul plane.  The business class seats in our 787 were not fully flat – they sloped gently towards the floor, in the style of the old Lufthansa business class seats.  Fly JAL to Heathrow, on the other hand, and you get a ‘proper’ flat bed.

Here are a few pictures (click to enlarge).  Here’s my daughter modelling the seat:

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 business class review

and a broader view of the Japan Airlines Boeing 787 cabin:

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 business class review

and the IFE screen, which had a decent number of Western options:

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 business class review

and a shot of how the seat slopes gently to the floor, not that it mattered one jot to me on a four hour daytime flight:

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 business class review

This is the meal served:

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 business class review

What you have is:

an appetiser plate of lobster and vegetable terrine, caprese salad, liver tart

cabbage and anchovy soup

corn salad with thousand island dressing

a main plate of grilled beef fillet with marsala sauce

honey bread and petit french bread

ice cream

This is what I would have got had I taken the Japanese menu.  You get everything listed below:

an appetiser plate of Japanese pickles, broad bean tofu with light soy sauce, sweet simmered herring with salted squid beak

chilled pork shabu-shabu and mekabu seaweed

mixed plate of grilled salmon, potato ball with minced chicken, grilled taro with shishito pepper miso, smoked duck breast, perila flavoured icefish and octopus

a main plate of steamed soy-marinated flounder with sea urchin sauce

ice cream

What did it cost?

Each Business Class seat from Tokyo to Beijing, one way, cost 20,000 Avios points plus £16.50 of taxes and charges.  I consider this a good deal for a 4 hour flight.  We had no problem getting four seats.

For comparison, our Japan Airlines Premium Economy seats from Hong Kong to Tokyo cost 15,000 Avios plus £15.50 each.  Cathay Pacific also flies this route, of course.

It is difficult to draw many firm comparisons about Japan Airlines from a couple of mid-range flights, only one of which was Business Class.  The staff were friendly and understood English (the menu comes in Japanese and English, the IFE is also in English), the plane was as fresh as you would expect from a new 787, the meal was large although a bit heavy on the beef and the seats were more than acceptable for a four hour flight.  If you get a chance to try out this route, I recommend it.

(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.)

My review of the ANA InterContinental Tokyo hotel
Important dates for your diary - offers about to close which you shouldn't miss (May 2017)

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  1. Aliks says:

    I’m looking at Seoul (ICN) to Tokyo next May. I had thought of flying in to Tokyo and back from Kyoto to Seoul. The cost for cash on Asiana ICN-NRT, OSA-ICN is about £250 but the avios options seem very limited even for economy.

    ICN-NRT is 15,000 avios plus £45, but I cant see any avios availability for flights to Haneda or Kyoto (KIX) at all. I read somewhere that JAL is very selective about releasing RFS seats – anyone got any thoughts on this?

    • Scott says:

      Try GMP-HND. The smaller and some may say more accessible airport in Seoul and then flying into HND which is much closer to the city.. I prefer flying out of GMP as much quicker and lounges at both are nothing to write home about.

    • +1 to Scott

      Kyoto has no airport. The nearest airport is Osaka Itami (ITM) 1 hour by trains (involving complicated changes) or a more expensive coach, and 1-2 hours away from Kansai Airport (KIX) again with faster options costing more.

      As LTN is not in London, likewise ICN is not in Seoul but in Incheon.

      In fact I did the same thing as you were planning last year OZ ICN-NRT/KIX-ICN but used the cheapest options for airport transfers. Left Conrad Seoul at 1100 and arrived at IC ANA Tokyo at 2100. Left Hilton Osaka at 0900, security at KIX took 2 hours so missed lounge, arrived Millennium Seoul Hilton at 1700.

      My friends were arriving at NRT and departing KIX otherwise I would have tried GMP-HND as suggested.

      Technically, RFS is a BA thing only, JAL just has regular Avios redemption seats, but since taxes and charges are lower than in Europe, JAL redemptions may be cheaper than RFS.

      • Aliks says:

        Good information – many thanks – I’ll keep playing around with options to find something decent.

    • Kyoto does not have an airport.
      KIX is Kansai International Airport (Osaka)

  2. We flew a very similar route in April (Japan Airlines Business Class, Beijing to Tokyo), which was very cheap and didn’t cost many avios!

    The service was, as you would expect from a Japanese airline, excellent.

    We opted for the Japanese meal which was comfortably the best meal either of us have ever had on a flight. While it’s not for the unadventurous, those who are willing to try unusual food would find the Japanese meal to be fantastic. It certainly looked a lot better than the Western meals which others in the cabin had.

  3. Gavin says:

    I rate my 20000 avios plus minimal tax Business Class flights from HKG to ICN and back again as my most enjoyable redemption, particularly compared to the equivalent offering within Europe.

  4. As some said, above, I find the greatest value to be on the smaller secondary airports in the major cities – same Avios cost but far more conveniant and also much more cheaper than revenue tickets (for the major aiports there is usually a LCC for £20-50 a ticket and with a PP does save the Avios for the very short hops).

    Airports like SHA, HND, TSA certainly beat PKG, NRT and TPE hands down for City Center / transfer time. For SHA, doesn’t allow the option but just type in SHA and don’t click on PVG (the only fill that appears) and it searches flights just fine.

    I did recently a Y redemption from HND-SHA but got a PE seat on an old JL 777 – don’t think it was an upgrade and for 7,500 + £15, worked out about 3.6p per Avios. Business Class is an even higher multiple – JL and CX often have ridiculously high cash rates (believe this is a legacy airline one way issue).

    The lack of taxes is a boon as well; really making me look at my 2-4-1s and seeing where best to get value this time. Burning 000’s for a F Return looks less appealing with the 10,000 / 20,000 Business hops that can be done around a lot of the world.

    Do note though that CX randomly stop selling award tickets between 6-20 days on most Asian routes now:

    Got caught for this a fornight ago and had to stump up for a MU flight between SHA-HKG.

    As it stands I have managed a mix of Avios and LCC (and an EX-EU) and got good value for this trip which over a few months is LHR-SVG-LHR-HKG-PVG-HND-SHA-HKG-HND-ITM-OKA-TPE-HAN-KUL-SIN-FCO-MAH-STN.

    Must get round to doing a Trip Report.

    Also some ridiculous Asian to Middle East Flights at the moment. SIN-DXB for £110 in Y.

  5. simon says:

    I recently did a small tour of Asia on Business from my base in Jakarta all using Avios

    CGK-NRT JL Business Class Long Haul Config 60,000 Miles (7 hours)
    NRT-DLC JL Business Class Short Haul Config 15,000 Miles (3.5 Hours)
    HKG-CGK CX Business Class Long Haul Config 37,000 Miles (5 hours)

    All very good , only bad point was Air China from DLC-HKG, maybe a contender for worst flight ever.

    For HKG – Bali i would suggest Garuda , even economy is pretty decent

    When looking inter asia , also keep an eye out for MH fares , some business class fares are pretty cheap.

    For reasonable CX business class fares within Asia Taipei and Manila are good starting points , if further north Seoul can be quite good

  6. Nigello says:

    Hello all,
    Is it best to book these Avios redemption seats on the BA website or on Cathay/Japan A, etc?

    • You can only book them at if using Avios. You can’t even use as that site does not handle oneworld partner airlines.

  7. Edwin says:

    I am struggling in finding the best way of using my 2-4-1 voucher. In fact, it’s a 3-4-2 to me as I have to travel with my wife and a 2 year old.
    Curren plan is to get a LHR Beijing business to maximise the value of the voucher, but the taxes and charges are really high, and avios spending is quite high too.

    Any suggestions?

    • Flying such long haul “to maximise the value of the voucher” yet having to fly with “a 2 year old” ?

      You’re either mad, or deluded. Or on reflection, quite possibly both.

      Stay at home or fly short haul to somewhere quiet/less hectic. Or if you must fly such long haul, seek a competent babysitter and leave the 2yo at home (where ironically they will be much happier).

      • the real harry1 says:

        lol quite funny

        perhaps parents want to travel LH somewhere nice with their young kid – I find this quite normal

        we did this many times with similar age kids – New Zealand & Thailand

        3 kids in fact, some of whom wailed & cried for hours on end (well, seemed like that at the time as we quietened them down)

        actually, such young kids prefer to be with their parents, I guess this is news to you as you are simply not a parent but a moaner/ hater of kids on planes

        • You know nothing about me. Sadly I know too much about you, from reading your comments on HfP.

          I could handle the “wailed & cried for hours on end” but I know I could never handle ever meeting you.

      • With a 2nd child, you tend to start earlier because the eldest child misses out otherwise. We had a few years ‘off’ long haul after we had our eldest (sampling the coastal resorts of Germany instead, where you can find some excellent five star beach hotels) but the youngest was in Barbados at 14 months.

      • Edwin says:

        Forgot to mention I am Chinese so we travel back to Beijing every year.
        Just wondering if there are any other good ways of spending this voucher.

  8. Prince Polo says:

    With CX, a little more difficult to book redemptions recently – either blocked by BA/CX closer to the departure or only available via phone. There’s a wiki on FT.

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