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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:

Molly Burgess

…. 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.

British Airways BA Amex American Express

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

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British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

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You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

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American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

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The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

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You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (57)

  • Alex W says:

    Sounds like nearly all of the food had seafood in it. That would have ruined my flight. Or maybe I should just avoid Japan then!

    • Yuff says:

      Me too……the seafood part that is 😉

    • Fenny says:

      Yes, it’s very difficult for us to avoid.

    • John says:

      You can request special meals although East Asians tend to eat everything so the special meals on these airlines are often disappointing.

      There is food everywhere in Japan so while you may have to be careful, there won’t be any problem feeding yourself. Unless you cannot even be in a restaurant where you are exposed to other people eating seafood.

  • Scott says:

    Nice article Rob. Intra Asia is my favourite use of avios. I have too a lot of these routes like HND-PVG GMP-HND and HND-HKG and always one way so the cash prices are extortionate. Think £1000 for two hour flight from HND-PVG in Y. Avios has saved me thousands upon thousands of pounds.

  • Jovanna says:

    I did QR Hanoi – Bangkok last month in business. 9000 Avios and £65.

    • Rashad says:

      same flight for me was in cash only £55 per person

      • Lumma says:

        In business?

        • Rashad says:

          above prices are in economy, business is 18000 Avios + £ 95.40
          this is such a short fligh,t even though it shows 2 hrs we landed in less than 1,5 hours

          • Jovanna says:

            9000 Avios for business and £65 in taxes – I’ve just checked Cash price for a one-way business ticket was around £260 at the time when I booked.

  • 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.

    • John says:

      +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.

    • JP says:

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

  • Rob says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • Ryan says:

    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.

  • 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

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