A Vist to Japan - 2018
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

Note: do not purchase airline tickets, using money or points, until the trip is confirmed a 'go' - that is, we have our minimum number of travelers. We wil send an email to confirm the trip is on when we have eight or more committed travelers.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

Special notes for this trip:

For those traveling on the core trip, you might find cheaper seats by flying in a day or two early. If your schedule can accomidate that, you should definitely examine that option.

People in the Kanazawa group will be flying in and out of Tokyo's Haneda airport (HND) instead of the more commonly used Narita airport

People in the core group will fly DEN -> some_gateway -> HND -> HIJ in to Japan, so they start in Hiroshima. ("some_gateway" means some US west coast city, typically LAX, SFO, SEA, etc.).

Other options:

  • I got this lead from one of our homestay mothers: Scott's Cheap Flights
    (be sure to read their FAQ page carefully - lots of good information there)

  • Use the travel agent for our trip, H.I.S. International Tours; call Aki at 1-702-798-4210 or email her at aki.stewart@his-world.com.

  • Use your own travel agent if you have one you have worked with in the past and like.

  • You don't have to do it yourself, online or otherwise - go with a professional.

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 52 hours with multiple stops and layovers!