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 re-run 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 £35 of tax via Reward Flight Saver (economy) made these redemptions look less interesting for me.
British Airways has recently been rolling out variable pricing which includes £1 taxes and fees but, of course, these come with a substantially larger Avios points tag.
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 6,000 or 9,000 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 or Peach Aviation, two popular low cost carriers, is often still Yen 8,000 – 10,000 (£75) 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 (economy):
Tokyo to Osaka (6,000 Avios each-way)
Tokyo to Hiroshima (6,000 Avios each-way)
Tokyo to Sapporo (6,000 Avios each-way)
Tokyo to Fukuoka (6,000 Avios each-way)
Osaka to Fukuoka (6,000 Avios each-way)
Fukuoka to Sapporo (9,000 Avios each-way)
Tokyo to Okinawa (9,000 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 taxes and charges are just 70p on a Fukuoka to Kochi 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.
If you fly from an airport with no terminal usage fee, your total taxes may be literally £0. Historically this has caused issues with ba.com, which refused to issue the ticket if there was a zero balance. The way around this was to add a £1 charity donation as part of the booking process. Comments below suggest that this has now been fixed and no donation is required.
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.”
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (February 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
SPECIAL OFFER: Until 21st February 2023, the sign-up bonus on the British Airways Premium Plus American Express card is increased to 35,000 Avios from 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.