Home Points & Miles Which Flight To Japan Would You Have Booked?

Which Flight To Japan Would You Have Booked?

by joeheg

It’s happened. With 2020 in the rear view and the hope of pulling out of the darkness rising, it’s once again time for Sharon and me to look at long-term travel plans. For the first part of the year, we’re still taking things as they come. We’ve already canceled one trip and replaced it with a more socially-distanced alternative. If things take longer to improve, we still could take trips to the beach or a cabin to fulfill our desire to travel.

However, bigger trips require longer term planning if you want to get flights or hotels that you want. We’re hopefully only 10 months from our postponed trip to Japan. That is, if travel has gotten back to a sense of normal by the end of 2021. I already missed out on flying in Japan Airlines first class by hesitating when booking the flight.  That was for our flight to Japan, which we’re still flying JAL business, so I’m happy with how we’re getting there.

During our trip, we’re traveling from Tokyo to Osaka. Flying home, I looked for flights from one of the Osaka area airports (ITM or KIX). Fortunately, there were several options available. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at making decisions.

FWIW, I already made my choice and booked a flight before it disappeared. I’m just hoping I chose wisely.

Here were my options. I had enough points to book any of these flights.

  • Japan Airlines Business Class KIX-LAX 787-900 – 60,000 American Aadvantage Miles
  • Asiana Business Class KIX-ICN-LAX A380-900 – 88,000 United MileagePlus Miles
  • ANA Business Class ITM-NRT-LAX 777-300ER – 88,000 United MileagePlus Miles
  • ANA First Class – ITM-NRT-SFO – 777-300ER – 121,000 United MileagePlus Miles
  • Korean Air – KIX-ICN-LAX-MCO – 777-300ER – 102,500 Delta Skymiles

I know there are cheaper ways to book the ANA and Asiana tickets with other points currencies, but I have 80K points stuck in MileagePlus from our canceled trip from 2020 that I need to find a use for besides flying with United.

Here are the pros/cons of each choice.

Japan Airlines

Pros

  • Direct Flight – There are very few direct flights from Osaka to the U.S. This route previously only featured angle-flat seats but has been upgraded to a lie-flat product. The oddity is that JAL installed a totally different seat on this aircraft in business class called the Sky Suite III.
  • Price – American only charges 60,000 miles for business class to Asia one-way, which is the cheapest award available.

Cons

  • While you can add a domestic connecting flight for no extra cost, the non-stop American flight to Orlando wasn’t a choice for our dates. We’d have to pay the costs of the positioning flight ourselves.
  • We’re already flying with JAL to Japan, so we wouldn’t be able to check out a different airline.

Asiana Airlines

Pros

  • We’d be able to use up our United miles.
  • We’d get to try a new airline.
  • I love flying on the A380.

Cons

  • Asiana business class seats don’t have the best configuration.
  • Added travel time because of backtracking to Seoul
  • Transit through an additional country
  • Need to pay for a ticket home from LAX

ANA Business Class

Pros

  • We’d be able to use up our United miles.
  • Better flight times with a connection in Tokyo

Cons

  • We wouldn’t be in ANA’s newest business class.
  • ANA domestic flight to Tokyo in economy class

ANA First Class

Pros

  • Krug and caviar
  • Fully enclosed suite
  • Dine on demand
  • Revisit our only other first-class experience from a decade ago
  • It’s freakin’ first-class, do there have to any more pros???

Cons

  • 33K additional MileagePlus miles per ticket
  • Less favorable connections from SFO than LAX, so we’d have to connect to get to MCO

Korean Air Business Class

Pros

  • I was able to find award space on Korean Air using Skymiles
  • I have more Membership Rewards than other transferrable currencies
  • Award tickets available for the entire itinerary

Cons

Final Thoughts

Maybe you’re having as hard of a time picking from one of these options as I did. On the other hand, maybe one of these options stood out as a no-brainer. I’d love to hear what you would have booked if given the same options. What if you didn’t have miles stuck because of canceled flights? Would that have changed your decision? Spoiler alert (It did influence what flight I booked.)

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

6 comments

Christian January 11, 2021 - 4:26 pm

Given the choices I’d probably have gone with the ANA business class. I’m not sure that the MPM would permit it but have you considered EVA? They don’t even have a first class and their business class is very impressive. You could use up your United miles for one ticket and transfer Membership Rewards to AC for a second.

Reply
joeheg January 11, 2021 - 10:58 pm

My dad flew on EVA to get to Bali and he said the flights were great. It didn’t come up as an option because of the dates. I doubt it was due to MPM because we had options to fly through Istanbul on Turkish. I just didn’t want to spend 36 hours getting home.

Reply
Mike W January 11, 2021 - 8:31 pm

I am doing the same trip in mid November 2021.We start in Tokyo and depart from Osaka. We did AA from FLL to HND and we are coming back on the JAL from KIX to LAX. AA really was the best for us as far as connecting flights so we used an AA 60k one way in J for both legs.We are on the nonstop from KIX connecting in LAX back to MIA, The choice was between ANA (membership rewards) or AA but AA really was the simpler choice. If I were you I would choose AA even if the connecting flights are not ideal. All you will need is a schedule change to get on your desired flight.With your trip 10 months away a schedule change is almost certain. The JAL flight from Osaka is not an easy flight to get on as I think they only release 2 seats in J per flight so if you can get those I would book any AA connection,even if it is a connection on the following day and I am sure the flight you need will open up. The JAL flight from KIX will be the difficult catch. Good Luck

Reply
joeheg January 11, 2021 - 11:02 pm

I didn’t think about the schedule change trick for the connecting flight. I was able to find the two seats on KIX-LAX for our preferred dates. Getting back to MCO they wanted us to connect from LAX to either CLT or PHX with horrible times. I need to be back to work two days after and I didn’t want to spend one of the days on the plane when I’m trying to get back to the right time zone. I agree that 60K AA miles is a no-brainer. If I didn’t have 160K sitting in United, it would have been an easy choice.

Reply
Michael January 11, 2021 - 10:01 pm

Hopefully, you booked the First Class option. It’s always worth it on ANA or JAL.

Reply
joeheg January 11, 2021 - 11:03 pm

Spoiler alert: I did book First Class with ANA. I’ve been collecting UR with Chase during the pandemic so I had them to burn.

Reply

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