Japan - April, 2017
Air Travel


Thoughts on air travel between Denver and Japan

There are lots of alternatives and trade-offs: here are some lessons I've learned

  • The most convenient flight is the United Dreamliner (UA 139 out / UA 138 back)

    • But you miss out on the Japanese / Asian experience
    • And it is expensive
    • However: you can travel on United award points.
    • One couple booked the Dreamliner one way (Narita -> Denver) for 70,000 points (milage plus economy saver award) plus $77.20 total for the two of them. Very reasonable.
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  • A popular alternative is to take United, Frontier, Southwest, or some other domestic airline to LAX (Los Angeles) and then fly Singapore Airlines to Narita

    • Singapore airlines is consistently rated one of the top airlines in the world
    • The flights are SQ 11 out and SQ 12 back; however, recently the schedule has changed so that the outbound flight is not very convenient to catch (leaves LAX at 10:00 a.m.)
    • Even though Singapore is a partner with United, you cannot use Mileage Plus points to fly on Singapore
    • A recent check (Dec 20, 2016) found round trip to be $738.30 per person between LAX and NRT; of course, prices change frequently
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  • Another alternative is American Airlines, which partners with Japan Air Lines

    • You have to watch carefully: some flights are operated by AA, some by JAL; to get the Japanese experience you want the flights operated by JAL
    • For American you fly out of San Diego or Chicago (if you try other gateway cities you may end up going through these cities anyway).
    • (You can fly out of New York (JFK) or Newark, also, but this is really going out of your way - if you're Denver based.)

      • For this trip, one couple thought they'd try this one way: Denver to Narita, since they had American points to use up.
      • Imagine the surprise when they found they could do DEN -> PHX -> SAN -> NRT for just 50,000 award points (plus $11.20). It would cost the same for just the domestic part!
      • They booked this leg by talking to the AAdvantage desk (1-800-882-8880) since this routing did not show up online(!) A little scary.
      • So the airfare, roundtrip, to Japan on JAL, back on the Dreamliner, cost this couple $89 plus some points they had to spend anyway.

Other options:

If you do it yourself:

  • Watch out that the quoted travel time is in the 10-17 hours range; I've seen routings that take 29, even 39 hours with multiple stops and layovers!