Traveling to Japan might be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Whether you’re going for the world-class food, the destinations, or simply to experience a new culture, you’re in for a good time.
But getting there can be tricky, especially in COVID times. In this guide, I’m going to be giving you the most up-to-date tips on airlines to Japan. We’ll break down all different types of flight experiences, so you can choose one that fits your needs best.
Let’s get started!
All Nippon Airways (APA) is my top pick for flying to Japan. It has great seat and entertainment options and that’s really important to me.
How Much Do Flights to Japan Cost?
The interesting thing about Japan is that it is a year-round destination, so there isn’t a particular time of year that is more or less expensive. The only exception is cherry blossom season, which occurs during late March and April, and is the most crowded time of the year.
On average I’d say a flight from the US to Japan costs around $1,200 – $1,500 round trip, assuming you get an economy seat. The best fares are usually going into Haneda (HND) or Tokyo (NRT,) but it couldn’t hurt to check out other airports like Nagoya (NGO) or Osaka (KIX) in case something special arises.
Like any airline ticket, the further in advance you buy the ticket, the better the deal you’ll. It also pays to shop around for a while before committing, because deals can come and go as quickly. Some of my favorite sites to look for flights to Japan include Scott’s Cheap Flights, Momondo, and Google’s Flight Comparison chart.
How Long Is a Flight to Japan?
Depending on where you’re flying in from, a flight to Japan can vary in length. On average, a flight from the United States will take anywhere from 10-14 hours depending on what part of the country you are in. However, this does not include connections and layovers if you have any.
These travel times are important to keep in mind if you want to arrive fresh and ready to begin your Japan journey the next day. Even 10-14 hours is a lot of travel time, if you add a couple of layovers in you can easily be getting into a 24 hour travel day.
I’d recommend timing your flight early if possible because most hotels won’t allow you to check-in until after 3:00 pm in Japan. This will make it easier to arrive, eat dinner, and be ready to explore the next day.
What Should You Look for When Book a Flight to Japan?
Let’s take a second to look at the key factors when booking a flight. These are all the things you should keep in mind before you start looking, so you can ensure you get the most comfortable flight experience possible. No one wants to start their vacation on a bad note!
The first thing I like to do when looking for a flight is to check out the reviews. In today’s world, websites can be deceiving with their shiny photos and witty wording. By utilizing websites like TripAdvisor, Google, or even Reddit, you can figure out what type of experience you are actually getting.
One of my favorite things about reviews is that they’ll often give you inside information about hidden service fees, costs, and add-ons that may pop up later on in the order process. This will help save you both time and money in the long run.
For me, the most important thing about the flight is the entertainment. Since flights to Japan are quite the journey, making sure my mind is occupied the whole time is my primary concern.
Some planes feature TV screens in your seat, while others have options available on their website via in-flight wifi. Some planes don’t have either! I also like to know if the plane’s entertainment choices are included with your ticket, or if they’re available at an extra cost. Make sure to bring your headphones!
One pro-tip is to look at what movies are available on the flight before you board the plane. That way, if there’s a limited selection and not something you’re interested in, you can always download your own movies or tv shows on your personal device before hopping aboard! This information is usually available on the airline’s website.
Depending on your needs, you may want a lower or higher degree of service on your flight. Since the flight to Japan is long, you’ll most likely get snacks and a drink even with the most budget options. But if you’re looking for alcoholic beverages or higher quality meals, an airline’s service options are something to look into.
Let’s take a second to talk about premium seats on airlines to Japan. Depending on which airline you fly in on, there could be a wide range of options available in the front or back of the airline. If we’re talking first-class, you’ll have privacy, legroom, and possibly even a chair that reclines into a bed if you want to nap on your flight over.
When looking for premium seats, checking out airlines that specialize in international travel will be your best for a luxurious experience.
In today’s changing world, it’s important to know a plane’s COVID protocol before buying your ticket. Do they require masks, a COVID test, or even a vaccine to the board? Knowing a plane’s pandemic protocol could be important to your health and the health of others around you!
Once I buy a ticket, I’ll usually check the protocol a couple of days before the flight as well, in the event that a new policy came out. You never know what’s going to happen!
I’d always recommend checking out the baggage situation on a particular airline before boarding. The prices can vary wildly, to the point where this alone might change your decision!
Almost every flight allows for a free personal item, but the size of the personal item can vary from a small purse to a small backpack. It’s usually meant to be placed under the seat in front of you. From there, you’ll have to decide if you want to carry on luggage or check luggage- depending on how much stuff you are planning on bringing to Japan.
I usually like to opt for a personal item plus a checked bag. In the personal item, I usually keep my expensive electronics and important documents. In the checked bag, I like to be a bit more liberal in what I like to bring- because you never know what you’ll need! Getting a checked bag also eliminates possible headaches at the airport in case your carry-on is too small.
Don’t forget to save room in your bag for souvenirs!
Although the airplane isn’t particularly important to all of us, for some people it is! Certain aircraft models can be way smaller than you expect, or even larger. The size of the airplane can affect the amount of turbulence you may feel, or might even include extra safety features in case something goes wrong. I like to know what I’m walking into instead of being surprised. Who knows, you might even learn something about planes in the process.
It’s 2022 now, and the world is becoming more and more focused on sustainability. If this is something that’s important to you, check out the specific airline’s environmental goals. Usually, on their website, there will be a specific section dedicated to this.
I like to look into the types of fuel they’re using, and how environmentally friendly specific jets are.
One thing you might not think to look into is the cancellation policy for certain airlines. This is in the instance that something comes up at the last second that makes it so you can’t go. For domestic flights, I usually don’t bother with this, but for international flights, I find it more necessary because the flights are more costly.
Every airline company has different protocols for this. Some simply give credit for their airline instead, while some allow for a complete refund provided you buy traveler’s insurance. Usually, it’s fairly cheap but look into the company’s policy before buying.
Best Airlines to Fly to Japan
All Nippon Airways (ANA) – Best Seats and Entertainment
If you’re looking to fly to Japan in style, one of the best options is All Nippon Airways, which is Japan’s largest airline company. In addition to winning countless cleanliness awards in the past, they most recently became the first airline to achieve a 5 Star COVID-19 Safety Rating. They even have their own original aroma, which is reminiscent of a tropical rainforest to provide a deeper sense of relaxation on your flight.
Seats are broken down into four categories, including First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy, and Economy Class. First Class seats have the option to be fully flat, have doors for privacy, large LCD monitors, and even closets for storage. Business Class has most of the amenities of First Class but is just slightly smaller. From there, they have Premium Economy and Economy Class seats, where the former boasts more legroom. Keep in mind the economy options do not recline into beds.
As far as entertainment options go, they are one of the best. Each seat features a built-in, personal monitor which has a wide variety of films, tv shows, music channels, and games to play. ANA also takes it one step further than most airlines and has an eLibrary of books and magazines that you can browse if you prefer to read. My favorite part is that in addition to all of this, there’s an app you can download if you’d prefer to watch entertainment on your personal device.
Japan Airlines – Best Lounges
Next in line is All Nippon Airways’ biggest competitor, and the only other Japan-based airline on my list. Both airline companies have won dozens of awards and serve almost the entire world. The biggest difference between the two is that Japan Airlines seems to have better lounges, while ANA has better premium seats. Depending on where you like to have your luxury, it can be a difficult choice.
The lounges for Japan Airlines are beautifully built, with some of them even rivaling the design and architecture of five-star hotels. For me, the lounge is an under-rated part of the travel experience, that can be easily overlooked. The entire idea of a lounge encourages early, arrival, and a stress-free travel experience. Being able to relax, get some food, and charge your devices before boarding can put you in the right headspace for a long flight.
I should note however, there is a small but notable difference that stands out as well against ANA. JAL has a “Sky Wider” seat that is available for economy flyers, which offers more room than ANA’s economy seats. If you’re an economy flyer, a couple of inches makes all the difference in a 10-14 hour flight.
Singapore Airlines – Best Food and Drink
Voted the world’s number one airline, you can’t go wrong with Singapore Airlines. From world-class meals to specially designed cabins to world-class service, you’re getting the best of everything.
In addition to the wide entertainment options and specialized service (flight attendants are trained for 4 months before working,) my favorite part about Singapore Airlines is the food. They have an International Culinary Panel which is made up of 7 different world-renowned chefs, so you can eat amazing food while traveling the world.
What other airline even has one chef working on their menu constantly? And then to put a cherry on top, they also feature a giant wine menu and can help recommend the perfect pairing with your email. No more peanuts and pretzels for you.
Singapore Airlines boasts five different seat classes- Suites, First Class, Business Class, and Premium Economy Class, and Economy Class. If you’re First Class or Business Class, you’ll get lay-down seats, which can make all the difference on a long flight.
United Airlines – Best Economy Choice
The tricky thing about picking an economy airline is finding one that isn’t absolutely horrible in every other condition. And although United Airlines has had a fair share of bad press in the airlines’ community, I find it to be a reliable option for international travel to Japan.
Beer and wine are included, you get a personal monitor for entertainment (with several new releases,) the meals are decent, and the seats aren’t horribly uncomfortable. Sure, it’s not a world-class experience, but it’s also not Spirit or Frontier Airlines, so it gets the job done.
The biggest disadvantage to United is that I’ve found is that some of the cabins feel dated, so plugs might not work for charging your gear, and personal monitors might require an extra tap to browse the entertainment options. In any case, bringing a backup entertainment option and possibly some extra food if the menu doesn’t fit your choice might not be a bad idea. But hey, with all the money you saved on the flight, you can put that towards some extra fun in Japan!
Delta Airlines – Best Loyalty Program
If you’re looking for an airline that you can become best buddies with, Delta Airlines is the way to go. Their in-house program called Delta SkyMiles is the quickest way to rack up points and save money in the future. They also happen to be a great airline to take to Japan.
The loyalty program is free to join and well worth it for those who travel frequently for business, or even occasionally with international travel. You’ll end up getting about 1.3 cents per mile traveled, which racks up quickly when going to somewhere like Japan. Once you have enough points, you’ll get elite status perks like priority boarding, free checked bags, lounge access, and free cabin upgrades. If you’re seriously into international travel, it’s the way to go.
I should also mention that Delta has all the amenities for international travel that most solid flights have. You’ll get a wide variety of entertainment options on a personal screen, decent meals, and seats that are comfortable enough to sustain a 10-14 hour flight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Both All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are based out of Japan. They also happen to be the top-rated companies to fly to Japan, so if you’re looking for a care-free experience, they are the way to go.
Answer: Yes. Almost all international flights to Japan feature some type of reclining chair, but they are generally reserved for First Class and Business Class patrons. Some of my favorite airlines for comfortable, reclining chairs include Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
Answer: Although Japan is a year-long destination, the cheaper flights are usually in January during the off-season and after the holidays. The further in advance you book your flight, the better chance you have of finding a good deal.
Answer: As of 2021, All Nippon Airways won a 5 Star COVID Safety rating, one of the first airlines to do it. They’ve also achieved countless awards in the past related to cleanliness, so you’re sure to have a safe flight to Japan.
My Top Airline Pick to Fly to Japan
If I were to pick one airline to fly to Japan with, it’d be All Nippon Airways (APA.) Although world-class food, premium lounges, and cheap flights are tempting offers, I like to air on the side of the best seats and entertainment options. For me, the most stressful part of travel is being in the sky, so that’s where I like to have the most luxury.
But it doesn’t stop there. APA has won countless awards, and for me has the most well-rounded travel experience. You get comfy seats, solid service, a good meal, and no headache. It also doesn’t hurt that All Nippon Airways is a Japan-based airline, which means they have the home-field advantage.
At the end of the day, no matter what flight you choose to fly to Japan, you’ll be there in no time and have the time of your life in one of my favorite countries. Happy travels!
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