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How to use Avios points for domestic Japanese flights – with no tax

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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 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.

Using Avios on JAL in Japan

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!

Using Avios for domestic flights in Japan

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 points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (August 2022)

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:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Amex Gold

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points, £200 travel credit and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

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.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

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.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

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 (23)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • lumma says:

    I found cash tickets on JAL to be decent value when I went in Feb last year. I paid £80 one way Haneda to Okinawa in business (basically premium economy seats but 40 tier points and 2000 Avios). Was only a few weeks in advance too

  • tony says:

    The problem with re-running old articles is that the world moves on…. I had booked flights from Amami to Kagoshima for this summer which had no tax payable at all. BA.com is evidently now happy to issue these without requiring a donation.

    I can also confirm that BA was happy to return the miles to me without penalty after I cancelled, but I don’t know if that was related to the fact they had first been turned into FTVs.

    • Rob says:

      Thanks Tony, will update.

      We were a bit stuck this morning because the Barclays stuff wasn’t available first thing.

      • KP says:

        Barclays has put you guys (and other bloggers I guess) in a very tricky situation with their indecisiveness and the manner the story has been leaked on a drip-feed basis !!

  • Gavin says:

    It used to be fantastic value when most domestic flights were 4500 Avios, but since it was increased to 6000 it’s not such a no-brainer anymore. You can book any domestic flights with “JAL Japan explorer” or the “ANA discover Japan” promotion for between 5,500 and 11,000 Yen.

    I like Avois bookings for the flexibility and almost zero cancellation cost, although it’s significantly more hassle now that you have to phone BA to cancel.

    • KK says:

      IIRC the cheaper fare (for JAL at least, I ran JAL status for like 7 years now) is between Tokyo and osaka, and to Tohoku where the bad earthquake was in 2011- paying for these is a good idea.
      For other routes (like Sapporo/Kyushu/Okinawa) it’s 10K yen++. That’s where i think even using 7500 avios is cool (I normally do that unless I needed the tier points/FOP for JAL)… or UA miles if you have some.

  • marcw says:

    Well…. The world has moved on. Prices for domestic tickets by JAL and ANA are not that expensive anymore if booked ahead of time.
    Also remember that JAL has special fares for tourists, “JAL Explorer” with very attractive prices.

  • Peter Mc says:

    Also the Japanese low cost carriers use the less desirable airports and sometimes a terminal building not directly connected to the railway station. Likewise the JAL Explorer fares are sometimes limited to these airports, for a Tokyo-Osaka trip I would rather fly Haneda-Itami than Narita-Kansai.

  • John says:

    I can’t see me wanting to use flights for many internal Japanese routes vs. the Shinkansen.

    I mean, your flight might be cheaper, but it’s night and day in terms of convenience, assuming you’re going roughly city centre to city centre.

    • Bloomers says:

      I have to agree, and the Shinkansen is such an experience too! Precision timing, a huge amount of space and, in fair weather and with a seat on the correct side, a smashing view of Mt Fuji when travelling west out of Tokyo!

    • Alan says:

      Ditto, I was planning to use redemption flights then realised I wanted a rail pass anyway so it made far more sense to just stick with the train for all the travel I was doing!

    • Gavin says:

      Personally I fly most years to/from Sapporo with skis so flying is a better option. A previous trip to Shikoku was much easier and cheaper flying too.

    • Alex Sm says:

      You can’t Shinkansen to Sapporo (yet) or Okinawa!

      • John says:

        Very true, Okinawa did spring to mind as I wrote that comment!

      • Dubious says:

        Nor Shinkoku nor many of the smaller cities away from the mainline of Kyushu.

  • Pete M says:

    This is useful, but the author forgets the Japan Rail Pass for rail travel. For instance, a 7-day ordinary Rail Pass for an adult is only about £200 if bought abroad. It won’t get you on the fastest (non-stopping) shinkansens, but pretty much on every other train in the country, as often as you want!

    • Alan says:

      Yep, it’s a superb product – I made very good use of it on a trip in 2019 👍👍

  • Alex Sm says:

    My partner and I always use this option for domestic flights in Japan (this is the reason I never flew ANA in my life!). It used to be even more attractive with 4500 and 7500 Avios before. But availability was not great on all days. Another good thing to mention that for ¥1000 you can get an upgrade at the airport to a J class with a better seat and service and occasionally for ¥10000 you can get an upgrade to First class with food and everything

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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