How to use Avios for domestic Japanese flights – with no taxes!

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We’ve run this article by HFP reader Ricardo before.  However, it contains valuable advice for anyone planning a trip to Japan and I like to revisit it every 18 months or so for the benefit of new readers or for people who didn’t have Japan on their radar when it originally ran.

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.

JAL

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 four 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:

Booking Japan Air Lines flights on Avios

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.”

Ricardo

(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.)

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Comments

  1. WhiteManVan says:

    Used this neat little trick to book HND-CTS in February to go see the Yuki Matsuri, would highly recommend it if you’re in Japan around that time of year…!

  2. Ian Booth says:

    But the Japanese government is widely reported to be considering a departure tax so book quickly

  3. Ruth Findlay says:

    We are off to Tokyo on a 241 in F in February. Need to get from Tokyo (FS Marounuchi so near the station) to Tanba (about an hour on a local train north west of Osaka), then to Kyoto FS and then on to Tokyo FS again. It would be great to use some avios for internal flights but with only a week in total it looks like the train will be quite a bit quicker. Shame!

    As others have said the only annoyance about the Shinkansen apart from cost is having to change stations in Osaka for onward train travel. As it’s my husband’s first trip to Japan he’ll probably want to take the train.

    • If you’re there a week the rail pass will be cheaper than 2 one ways on the trip between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto and you’ll get free transport on many local trains and to/from either of the Tokyo airports

      • Ruth Findlay says:

        Thanks Lumma. The rail pass is great value but doesn’t include the fastest trains (Nozomi I think) which is the one we want to take. We will probably end up stumping up for
        Nozomi and then buying a 2 or 3 day Kansai rail pass of some sort.

  4. You can get a discount if you are travelling on the Tokaido Line by using the Platt Kodama offer:
    http://www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/en/
    This is like advance ticket for National Rail which means must book a day before, no change or refund and must be on a specific time.
    Reading through JPRail website, you can get the following saving:
    Segment Regular fare
    for Nozomi Platt Kodama Your saving
    Tokyo to/from Shin-Osaka 14,450 yen 10,500 yen 4,150 yen
    Tokyo to/from Kyoto 13,910 yen 10,300 yen 3,810 yen
    Tokyo to/from Nagoya 11,090 yen 8,100 yen 2,990 yen
    Nagoya to/from Shin-Osaka 6,560 yen 4,400 yen 2,160 yen
    Nagoya to/from Kyoto 5,800 yen 4,300 yen 1,500 yen

    You can also book them at the local station.

  5. OT – no bits today so trying my luck here… are there any options to redeem direct flights London – Riga apart from using Air Baltic PINS? I have avios and MR.

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Nope, only airBaltic, Wizzair and Ryanair from London I think. With Avios, I believe you can redeem LHR-HEL-RIX with AY, but that’ll almost certainly be more hassle than it’s worth.

  6. The JAL domestic lounges are peaceful and have self pour draft beer and a few spirits, but serve no food aside from rice crackers and sweets.

  7. Tel Anaw says:

    Enjoyed a JAL domestic earlier in the year on Avios. Flew a 777 on the 30 minute flight from Tokyo to Osaka and… and the crew still managed to serve a free beverage to everyone. Both flights took off to the second. Highly recommended.

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