6 of the Best Ways to Book Flights to Japan with Points and Miles

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6 of the Best Ways to Book Flights to Japan with Points and Miles

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It's finally happening: Long after most countries reopened for travel, Japan is preparing to welcome back tourists from the U.S. and elsewhere for the first time in two years. Maybe. Hopefully.

OK, so it's not a sure thing. We're still awaiting details on the Japanese government's plans for its biggest step back towards tourism yet, which could begin next month. Still, that's the most encouraging sign yet that one of the world's most popular destination will soon be back on the map … and that means it's time to start plotting your journey to Japan using points and miles – before other travelers realize it and snag all the seats.

You're in luck: There are tons of options to book flights to Japan using points and miles. Whether you're looking for the best budget option to fly economy, fly in style in business class, or splurge for first class, we've got you covered. These are some of the best ways to get to Japan on points and miles.


Fly Japan Airlines Economy Using AA Miles

When you're flying across the Pacific Ocean at the back of the plane, you want to be comfortable. And while economy seats across airlines may seem identical, every extra inch of space counts.

Few airlines do economy better than Japan Airlines (JAL). We're convinced this Japanese flag carrier offers the best economy seat to fly to Asia – or anywhere, really. JAL calls these seats “Sky Wider” economy, and they live up to that name.

At up to 19 inches across, these seats are substantially wider than what airlines like American flies on many of the same long-haul routes. An inch or two of extra width is the difference between relaxing and worrying about rubbing shoulders with your neighbor. Look for JAL's Boeing 787 Dreamliners on these routes, as they configure the economy cabin with just eight seats across – most airlines squeeze nine seats into the same space.

japan airlines economy seats 

Read our full Japan Airlines economy review!

Want legroom? You're in luck there, too. JAL gives you up to 34 inches of pitch on these planes, which is at least 2 inches more than you'd get on most airlines. Factor in JAL's tasty food and sterling service, and you've got one of the best ways to fly economy to Japan – or anywhere in Asia, really.

How to Book: There are a handful of ways to book flights to Japan on JAL. You've got several partner airlines to choose from.

But we think the best way to get there is using American AAdvantage miles. A one-way flight between Tokyo and the U.S. will run you just 35,000 AAdvantage miles. And thanks to how American prices out awards, it works out at that price whether you're flying nonstop from one of JAL's many U.S. outposts or if you need to add in a connecting flight from your home airport flying American before the long transpacific jaunt.

flights to japan 

When it comes time to book, it couldn't be easier. You can book these flights with your AAdvantage miles directly on AA's website. Finding economy flights on JAL at 35,000 miles is usually a cinch as award space tends to be wide open: Just search on AA.com and make sure you select “redeem miles.”

If you're on an economy budget with your points, it's tough to beat 70,000 AAdvantage miles and minimal fees for round-trip flights to Japan. But there's a way you can cut that mileage rate in half.


Hop on a Delta SkyMiles Deal

Unlike American's concrete award chart which means you'll pay 70,000 miles for round-trip flights to Japan, Delta's award pricing system is unpredictable. Sometimes the pricing to fly Delta can be good. Other times it's exorbitantly expensive.

But when the Delta deals are good, they're unbeatable. And deals to get to Japan just don't get any better than Delta SkyMiles flash sales. Case in point: We've previously found round-trip fares to Japan on Delta for as low as 30,000 SkyMiles. That's less than most airlines charge for a one-way fare!

flights to japan 

While SkyMiles flash sales have made a resurgence with some incredible deals like 32,000 SkyMiles to Europe or 11,000 SkyMiles to Mexico, it's been a long while since we've seen a deal to Tokyo. But as Japan opens up and Delta restarts more flights across the Pacific, we're betting that will change.

Delta has shifted all its flights to Japan into Tokyo-Haneda (HND), rather than Tokyo-Narita. Given how much closer Haneda airport is to town, that's a good thing. And the flight itself should be fairly comfortable, as many of Delta's long-haul planes are far more passenger-friendly in economy than its competitors.

Delta air lines economy seats
Photo courtesy of Delta via Flickr

How to Book: Patience. And flexibility.

The trick with using Delta SkyMiles is waiting for the right deal, and being flexible enough to wait for it to come to you. That means this option likely won't work if you've got a specific time period. And as we mentioned, we haven't seen a great SkyMiles deal to Japan in some time.

There's just no telling when the next great deal will pop up. But Thrifty Traveler Premium will get the first heads up about the next Delta SkyMiles deal to Japan. Premium members get award alerts including deeply discounted Delta SkyMiles routes as well as cheap international and domestic cash fares.

Just how many SkyMiles you'll need to fly to Japan and back will depend on the sale – and where you live. If you're in a Delta hub like Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), or Detroit (DTW), expect to pay more thanks to Delta's hub penalty. But these deals can bring the price down between 30,000 SkyMiles to 50,000 SkyMiles round-trip, no matter where you live.

And that makes this option is tough to beat. Read up on how to earn the Delta SkyMiles you need to book one of these insane deals. Delta's suite of co-branded credit cards with Amex is a natural place to start, so watch for bigger offers on those to roll out.

Otherwise, you can pile up Amex Membership Rewards from cards like the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express. Delta is an Amex transfer partner, which means you can wait for a great deal to Tokyo and when you get one, transfer some points to your SkyMiles account and book!


Take a Flight Deal and Make it Free

What's better than a cheap flight to Tokyo? A free flight to Tokyo.

If you're not up for studying airline award charts to find the best way to book with airline miles, one of the easiest ways to do it is redeeming credit card points through travel portals like the Chase travel portal. The cheaper the flight, the fewer points you need to book. It's that simple.

Whether you find a cheap flight on your own or get an alert through Thrifty Traveler Premium, it's easy to book through Chase's Ultimate Rewards travel portal. And it's the only way to book a flight to Tokyo for completely free – normal award flights will always tack on additional cash fees of $50 or more.

Take a previous deal from the East Coast to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) for under $400 round-trip, for example.

flights to japan 

Get flight deals like this sent to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium!

If you've got the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card you can book one of these flights with points to make it free. Because every point from the Preferred Card is worth 1.25 cents, that same deal would work out to roughly 32,000 Chase points for your trip to Tokyo.

csp flights to japan 

Got the Chase Sapphire Reserve® It's even cheaper because ever you can book the exact same flight for just 26,600 Chase points! 

Want an even easier route, booking directly with the airline and making it free using your points? If you've got Capital One Venture Miles, you can just use Capital One Purchase Eraser. Find a flight to Japan, book it with your Capital One Card, then use your miles to erase the cost from your card. Every mile is worth 1 cent, so that same $399 flight would take 39,900 Venture Miles.
How to Book: You'll probably want some need some Chase points to make this happen.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is easily one of the best cards for points and miles beginners, thanks to the different ways you can redeem these points. If you're a frequent traveler, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®  is tough to beat – especially as your points will be worth even more toward your cash fare.

Then, it's time to find your cheap flight to Tokyo. Forget online travel agencies like Expedia or Kayak: Use Google Flights to find the cheapest flight possible. Or just wait for a Thrifty Traveler Premium flight deal to hit your inbox!

From there, follow our guide to book flight deals using Chase points. It's pretty simple, and the price via Chase's portal should match what you've already seen – with some exceptions. And remember: You'll still earn frequent flyer miles on flights booked with credit card points.

It's even easier with the Capital One Purchase Eraser. So long as you've got some Venture Miles and a card that earns them like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, you're set. Just find a flight, pay for it with your card, and go back to cover the cost with miles within 90 days of your purchase. That's it.


Fly ANA Business Class from 75K Miles Round-Trip!

Here's your chance to fly business class to Japan for the price of economy. And on one of the world's best airlines, to boot.

Most airlines charge at least 160,000 miles for a round-trip in business class to Japan. Booking flights on All Nippon Airways with ANA Mileage Club, it starts at just 75,000 miles. For the round-trip. In business class. That's not an error.

This is one of the cheapest ways to get to Japan using miles. The trick is timing it right, as ANA carves out different pricing during low (L), regular (R), and high (H) travel seasons.

ana season chart for japan 

You'll want to focus on the low season, as that's when a business class round-trip from the U.S. to Tokyo will cost you just 75,000 miles. A trip during the regular season will jump to 85,000 miles – and 90,000 miles during the high season.

No matter how you time it, this is a great deal. United Airlines, a partner carrier through the Star Alliance, would charge at least 176,000 miles for the exact same flights.

And while all of ANA's business class seats are excellent, the new ANA The Room business class suites are out of this world. They may just dethrone Qatar Airways' Qsuites for the mantle of the best business class in the world.

ana business class seat 

How to Book: First things first, you need some ANA miles. And you don't need to fly ANA a bunch to earn them.

Instead, just transfer those points from American Express Membership Rewards straight to ANA. If you're eligible for a whopping 150,000-point bonus on the Amex Platinum Card via CardMatch, you can book these flights in one fell swoop. Just beware that these transfers tend to take about 48 hours or so.

But before you do, be sure to head to ANA's website and scope out award availability to make sure the flights you want are available. Or better yet, start by searching via United's website for nonstop flights from some of the U.S. hubs ANA flies to and from like Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), Houston-Intercontinental (IAH), New York City (JFK), and many more. Just keep in mind that ANA's route schedules may not be what they once were until travel picks back up.

ana route map 

Look for flights available at the Saver Award level – typically bookable for 88,000 United miles each way, or slightly more if you're booking less than three weeks before departure – as that's the key to finding flights bookable with ANA. Your best bet with ANA is almost always by searching within a month of departure … or 10-plus months in advance.

Most importantly, you need to find round-trip fares – ANA does not allow one-way bookings when using its own miles.

Once you've found the flights, head back to ANA's website and search for an award booking. You'll need an ANA frequent flyer account to search, so log in, plug in your dates and get to booking.

The one downside of booking with ANA is that the airline ANA can pass on some hefty taxes and fees in addition to that mileage charge. Thanks to additional fuel surcharges, that extra charge currently clocks in at more than $800. But those surcharges are always changing, so (hopefully) it won't always be so steep.

ana redemption to tokyo 

Read our complete guide to booking flights with ANA Mileage Club!


Back on Japan Airlines … in Business for 60K

So maybe we have a soft spot for Japan Airlines. Can you blame us when their business class seats looks like this?

finding award space 

Read our full review of flying Japan Airlines business class!

Welcome to SkySuites. These seats are the best of both worlds, offering tremendous privacy while giving you near-limitless room to stretch your legs and store your bags. But it gets better, with some outstanding service and some of the tastiest food you'll have – in the sky or on the ground.

After a flight from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) a few years back, we're convinced JAL business class is one of the best ways to get to Asia in style. Just as with JAL economy, you can book these flights with American AAdvantage miles. And you only need 60,000 AAdvantage miles to do it. 

How to Book: American charges just 60,000 for a one-way business class flight from the U.S. to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND). There are other options to book, but this is the most cost-effective way to get to Japan in style on JAL. Plus, American makes it easy to cancel and get your miles straight back for free if plans change!

Award availability comes in waves: Sometimes you can find plenty of seats months in advance, while other times you'll only see award space to book Japan Airlines business class to Tokyo just a few weeks in advance. Just this week, we tipped off Thrifty Traveler Premium members to some wide-open award availability for two (or more!) travelers to fly nationwide to Tokyo next summer!

japan airlines business class alert 

Whether you live near one of JAL's U.S. outposts or have to make a connection on American (or Alaska Airlines) to get there, flying business class from cities nationwide to Tokyo for just 60,000 miles and a few bucks is tough to beat.

jal msp to tokyo 

Read up on the best ways to earn American AAdvantage miles!


Flying First Class on ANA for 110K Miles

We saved the best for last. And it combines two airlines you're already familiar with – Virgin Atlantic and ANA – for one of the best points and miles redemptions, period. Not just to get to Japan – in the world.

Flying first class on All Nippon Airways is a treat in and of itself. These suites are almost too private – if that's a thing. You'll have one of the most comfortable beds available in the skies. Amazing dining, comfortable pajamas, top-notch amenities, and seemingly bottomless glasses of Krug champagne will help put you to sleep.

ANA first class seat 

Read our full review of ANA First Class on the flight from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND)

You could book this seat through ANA itself or use United MileagePlus miles … but they would charge you 121,000 miles for flights from the U.S. to Tokyo – each way, not round-trip. But you can cut that rate in half.

How to Book: Using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, you can book round-trip flights from the West Coast to Tokyo for 110,000 miles.

Live in the Midwest or on the East Coast? That'll be 120,000 miles, round-trip. After a recent change, you can now book one-way flights for half the cost.

ana award chart virgin 

Read our full guide to booking ANA flights using Virgin Atlantic miles. And keep in mind that you can transfer points to Virgin from Chase, Citi, and American Express, and even Capital One.

Thrifty Tip: We regularly transfer bonuses of 20% to 30% to Virgin Atlantic, like the 30% bonus from Chase ending June 15. With a 30% transfer bonus, you could book these flights for as low as 85,000 points!

Just to underscore how good of a deal this is … these flights typically sell for more than $20,000!

jal tokyo flights

Bottom Line

This is just a small sliver of the possible ways to get to Japan using points and miles, but in our opinion, they're the best ways to make that bucket list trip happen. And while getting into Tokyo isn't possible just yet, that time may be coming soon. It pays to plan ahead.

Whether you're fine flying economy or pine for the comfort of first-class, booking flights to Japan doesn't have to be expensive. You can do it for nearly free.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

5 Responses

  • We have a family of 4 trying to book a flight from LAX to NRT but I have heard from the virgin Atlantic rep (using Virgin points to book ANA) and on ANA’s direct website both show that the taxes and fees is $900+ per person right now. That’s $3600+ along with 360K points to fly business class round trip. There must be a better option if we dont want to use that much $$$. The best I have found is Singapore airlines at about 830K points with about $193 taxes/fees.

    • I’m curious if you were able to book. I am in a similar situation, but I want to fly out of SFO. Please share any tips.

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