The Best Ways to Fly to Japan With Points and Miles [Step-by-Step]

Cathay Pacific First Class Cabin

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If you research travel destinations often, you’ll likely notice Japan is near the top of many travelers wish lists. From the ski resorts in the northern part of the country to the capital city of Tokyo to the beaches in Okinawa, Japan has it all.

Similar to popular destinations like Hawaii, the cash price of tickets to Japan can make traveling challenging. Thankfully, you can use points and miles to make getting to this hard-to-reach destination a reality, without spending an arm and a leg.

In this post, here are the best programs to use for all cabin classes, including flying economy and business class across a multitude of airline carriers. You’ll also find out how to fly first class from the U.S. to Japan.

Best Programs to Use to Book Flights

It’s important to note that booking premium cabin award space will require you to book in advance. Since Japan is a popular destination, it can be challenging to find award tickets, particularly the closer you are to the date you want to travel.

When you read through each option, remember that the key to award travel is flexible points and flexible dates.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

ANA Business Class Seat 2
Enjoy the comfort of ANA business class. Image credit: Stephen Au / Upgraded Points

ANA’s Mileage Club offers one of the lowest redemption rates for both economy and business class flights to Japan from multiple U.S. cities.

The program’s award chart uses 10 zones, with North America in Zone 6 and Japan in Zone 1. U.S. cities in Zone 6 include:

  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • San Jose (SJC)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD)

Book Awards With ANA

Award space for ANA flights from the U.S. to Japan can be found on ANA’s website. When flying a Star Alliance partner like United Airlines to Japan, search for award space on United’s website and then confirm availability on ANA’s website. For help on finding Star Alliance availability, check this guide on searching for award availability on Star Alliance partners.

ANA uses different award charts when flying their own metal versus flying with an ANA partner like United Airlines. It’s important to note that the ANA award chart when flying ANA has a high, regular, and low season, meaning you can save a significant amount of miles depending on when you fly.

Unlike many airline award programs, ANA’s Mileage Club requires you to book round-trip award tickets. A one-way award ticket isn’t allowed. Here are the round-trip redemption rates and an estimate of the taxes and fees for ANA and United Airlines flights from the U.S. to Japan.

CarrierCabin ClassMilesTaxes and Fees
ANAEconomy40,000-55,000~$261
Business75,000-90,000~$261
First150,000-165,000~$261
Star AllianceEconomy50,000~$259
Business85,000~$259
First150,000~$259

Need help booking this award? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking business class award tickets on ANA.

Hot Tip:The key to using your ANA miles is fly to during the low season. For 2019, low season is from January 7 to February 28 and April 1 to 25. If you can’t make the low season, regular season runs from March 1 to 31, May 8 to July 24, and August 20 to December 17. 

Examples of nonstop flights that can be booked on the ANA website include:

  • ANA: Chicago (ORD) to Tokyo (NRT)
  • ANA: Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (NRT)
  • United Airlines: San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo (HND)
  • United Airlines: New York (JFK) to Tokyo (HND)

Earning ANA Miles

Utilizing the ANA award program is made easier by the fact that ANA partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex points transfer to ANA at a 1:1 ratio and takes 3 days. If you’re looking to transfer Marriott points, the transfer ratio is 3:1 and will take 7 days. With that said, transferAmex points first to ANA given the 1:1 ratio.

Amex has a number of personal and business cards that earn Membership Rewards points to choose from, making it easy to accumulate the necessary points.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months. This is our favorite card for getting into 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide (including Priority Pass) and we get about $1,500+ in value from the card every year.

Plus, get up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month and a $20 bonus in December) — and up to $200 in annual credit for airline incidental charges (e.g. baggage fees). For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - We love using this card as it earns 4x points at restaurants worldwide and 4x points at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x).

With a welcome bonus of 35,000 points after you spend $2,000 in your first 3 months and a $100 airfare credit per year, for many this is an easy addition to your wallet. For rates and fees of the Gold Card, click here.

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express - Even though this card carries a hefty annual fee, we get ~$1,250+ in value per year by leveraging as many of the benefits/perks card.

Get access to 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide, $200 in airline fee credits for incidentals (e.g. baggage fees) and a lot more. Also, earn a welcome bonus of up to 75,000 points (terms apply). For rates and fees of the Business Platinum, click here.
American Express® Business Gold Card - probably our favorite Amex business card because we earn 4x points across the top 2 select categories that we spend the most money in each month. The 4x points applies to the first $150,000 in combined purchases from these 2 categories each calendar year. This means you'll max out at a (whopping) 600,000 points per year. After that, you earn 1x. For rates and fees of the Business Gold Card, click here.
The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express - This is a real simple card that earns you 2x points on business purchases up to $50,000 annually (then 1x). There's no annual fee. For rates and fees of The Blue Business Plus, click here.

Hot Tip: Curious about business class? Here’s a review of an ANA 777 business class flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

Japan Airlines First Class
Use Japan Airlines miles to fly Japan Airlines first class to Japan. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

The Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program offers competitive rates from the U.S. to Japan on Oneworld partners from Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), and Los Angeles (LAX).

Japan Airlines uses a zone-based award chart when flying its own metal, which is different from its partner airline chart. When flying partner American Airlines, the award chart is distance-based.

Book Awards With Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines award space can be found on Japan Airlines’ website. When flying a Oneworld partner like American Airlines, search for award space on either the British Airways or Qantas websites. For help on finding Oneworld availability, check this guide on searching for award availability on Oneworld partners.

When you locate Japan Airlines award flight availability, it’s important to note that flights can be booked one-way with the same number of miles required from Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

If you’re flying American Airlines, use Great Circle Mapper to calculate your total trip distance. The round-trip distance will correspond to the number of miles required on the partner award chart. American Airlines flights can be booked one-way.

Here are the redemption rates and an estimate of the taxes and fees for both Japan Airlines and American Airlines flights to Japan:

CarrierCabin ClassMilesTaxes and Fees
Japan AirlinesEconomy50,000~$265
Business100,000~$265
First140,000~$265
AmericanEconomy60,000-70,000~$259
Business110,000-115,000~$259
First160,000-165,000~$259

 

Need help booking this award? Here’s a step-by-step guide to booking Japan Airlines business class.

Hot Tip: The sweet spots for this redemption are to fly in economy and business class. If first class is on your bucket list, consider flying Japan Airlines, which requires 140,000 miles round-trip. 

Examples of American Airlines and Japan Airlines flights to Japan include:

  • American Airlines: Los Angeles (LAX) to Haneda (HND)
  • American Airlines: Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX) to Narita (NRT)
  • Japan Airlines: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA) to Haneda
  • Japan Airlines: Boston (BOS), Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego (SAN), Seattle, Vancouver (YVR) to Narita
  • Japan Airlines: Los Angeles to Kansai (KIX)

Earning Japan Airlines Miles

What makes earning Japan Airlines miles tough is that the airline only partners with 1 of the 5 transferable point programs in Marriott Bonvoy. Also, Japan Airlines doesn’t currently offer any credit card with a meaningful welcome bonus or earn rates.

You can earn Marriott points and transfer those to Japan Airlines at a transfer rate of 3:1. Plus, for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer, you’ll receive an extra 5,000 Japan Airlines miles bonus. So 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points become 25,000 Japan Airlines miles.

It’s important to note that it takes 7 days to transfer Marriott points to Japan Airlines.

Recommended Marriott Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Card - earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points (terms apply). A solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Hot Tip:
If you’re looking to fly Japan Airlines first class, check out thr JAL 777 FC from Tokyo to LA review!

Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air Business Class Bed
With direct aisle access and a lie-flat bed, you can rest peacefully when flying business class on Korean Air. Image Credit: Korean Air

The Korean Air SKYPASS program doesn’t have the lowest redemption rates, but when you factor in low taxes and fees in premium cabins, it’s a program to consider. Another upside with Korean Air is that you can book a stopover until July 1, 2020.

Korean Air uses a zone and season-based award chart when flying Korean Air metal. When flying a Korean Air partner like Delta, the award chart is zoned-based.

North America is considered a single zone in the award chart, and includes Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Honolulu (HNL), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Toronto (YYZ), Vancouver (YVR), and Washington, D.C. (IAD).

Book Awards With Korean Air

Korean Air award space can be found on the Korean Air website. When you locate availability, book the flight directly online. As mentioned above, the program uses different award charts when flying Korean Air metal versus a SkyTeam partner like Delta. For this redemption, the Korean Air award chart is the one to use.

Similar to ANA, Korean Air uses a peak and off-peak award calendar. Flying Korean Air metal during peak dates requires a premium of 35,000, 60,000, and 80,000 miles for economy, business class, and first class respectively.

Here are the off-peak redemption rates and an estimate of the taxes and fees for Korean Air flights to Japan (NRT) with a stopover in Seoul (ICN).

Cabin ClassKorean Air FlightsTaxes and Fees
Economy70,000~$195
Business125,000~$195
First160,000~$329

Need help booking this award? Here’s our step-by-step guide to booking Korean Air business class.

Hot Tip:The key to this redemption is to fly during off-peak dates and take advantage of the stopover. Peak dates in 2019 are January 1, February 1 to 7, July 12 to August 18, September 11 to 16, October 3 to 7, and December 20 to 31. 

Examples of flights that can be booked online with a stopover in Seoul (ICN) include:

  • Atlanta (ATL) to Tokyo (NRT)
  • Dallas (DFW) to Tokyo (NRT)
  • Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo (NRT)

Earning Korean Air Miles

Like Japan Airlines, the most accessible transfer partner for many to earn Korean Air miles is Marriott Bonvoy. Marriott points transfer to Korean Air at a 3:1 ratio and takes 7 days to transfer. Keep this in mind before transferring your points.

Unlike Japan Airlines, Korean Air has credit cards with decent welcome offers. This will allow you to earn Korean Air miles directly with your credit card spend.

Bottom Line: The Korean Air SKYPASS program took a huge hit when its partnership with Chase Ultimate Rewards ended. 

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific First Class
Fly Cathay Pacific first class to Asia! Image Credit: Upgraded Points

Asia Miles provides another option for Oneworld flights with the most value being found in economy award flights from Oneworld hub cities like Los Angeles and New York.

The Cathay Pacific program uses several distance-based award charts that start to make more sense once you spend time reviewing how the mileage is calculated.

Book Awards With Cathay Pacific 

Award space when flying Cathay Pacific metal can be found on Cathay Pacific’s website. For flights on Oneworld partners like American Airlines, you can redeem miles for award flights by completing the Flight Award Request Form or call the airline at 866-892-2598 to book the flight.

For help on finding Oneworld availability, check this guide on searching for award availability on Oneworld partners.

The Asia Miles program underwent major changes to their awards on June 22, 2018. As a result, there are multiple award charts with the number of miles required based on the distance that you travel.

Asia Miles Standard Award
Cabin ClassAsia Miles Required by Distance Zone (One-way)
ShortMediumLong – Type 1Long – Type 2Ultra-Long
751-2,750 miles2,751-5,000 miles5,001-7,500 miles5,001-7,500 miles7,501+ miles
Economy7,50010,00022,00030,00030,00042,000
Premium Economy11,00018,00030,00040,00045,00060,000
Business16,00025,00045,00065,00070,00085,000
First25,00040,00070,000100,000110,000125,000

Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart

Flying Asia Miles partners gets complex fast. If you fly multiple Oneworld partners there’s a unified distance-based chart. However, if you only include 1 Oneworld airline, simply add 5,000 miles to the Asia Miles Standard Award Chart rate.

Award zoneDistance in actual milesRequired Miles
Economy ClassBusiness ClassFirst Class
010 – 1,00030,00055,00070,000
021,001 – 1,50030,00060,00080,000
031,501 – 2,00035,00065,00090,000
042,001 – 4,00035,00070,00095,000
054,001 – 7,50060,00090,000140,000
067,501 – 9,00065,000100,000150,000
079,001 – 10,00070,000110,000160,000
0810,001 – 14,00090,000135,000220,000
0914,001 – 18,000100,000155,000250,000
1018,001 – 20,000105,000165,000260,000
1120,001 – 25,000115,000185,000280,000
1225,001 – 35,000130,000210,000300,000
1335,001 – 50,000150,000240,000345,000

Earning Cathay Pacific Miles

What’s great about Cathay Pacific is that the airline partners with 4 out of the 5 transferable point programs. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points, Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy points to your Asia Miles account.

Amex and Citi points transfer to Cathay Pacific at a 1:1 ratio. Capital One points transfer to Cathay Pacific at a 2:1.5 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio. However, keep in mind that you’ll receive a 5,000-point bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points that you transfer to Cathay Pacific.

Transfer Citi ThankYou Rewards to Cathay Pacific first as the transfer time is within 24 hours and you get a transfer ratio of 1:1. American Express Membership Rewards transfers take 7 days, Capital One Miles transfers are within 36 hours, and Marriott Bonvoy transfers take 10 days.

Bottom Line: Earning Capital One Miles and Citi ThankYou points will ensure that you have enough miles to access Cathay Pacific redemptions to Japan. 

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

ANA Business Class
ANA 777 business class is very private and a great way to experience Japanese hospitality. Image Credit: Stephen Au / Upgraded Points

The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program can provide tremendous value for flights from the U.S. to Japan. Flying Club has partnerships with Air China, Air France, Air New Zealand, ANA, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, KLM, SAS, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, and Virgin Australia allowing you to redeem miles for flights around the world.

Book Awards With Virgin Atlantic

Award space for ANA flights to Japan can be found on the ANA website. Unfortunately, when you find an award flight, you’ll need to call Virgin Atlantic at 800-365-9500 to book the flight. The Virgin Atlantic website won’t allow you to book ANA flights.

The ANA award charts divide the U.S. into Western USA and Eastern USA zones. The difference between the two is that the Eastern zone requires a 5,000-mile premium for both economy and business class flights, and a 10,000-mile premium for first class flights.

Similar to ANA, the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program requires you to book round-trip tickets. One-way award tickets aren’t allowed when flying ANA.

With that said, below are the redemption rates and an estimate of taxes and fees for ANA flights to Japan:

Cabin ClassANA Western U.S.Taxes and Fees
Economy60,000~$261
Business90,000~$261
First110,000~$261
Cabin ClassANA Eastern U.S.Taxes and Fees
Economy65,000~$261
Business95,000~$261
First120,000~$261

Hot Tip: Need help booking this award? Here’s a step-by-step guide to booking business class award tickets on ANA.

Examples of nonstop ANA flights that can be booked by calling Virgin Atlantic include:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (HND)
  • New York (JFK) to Tokyo (NRT)
  • Houston (IAH) to Tokyo (NRT)

Earning Virgin Atlantic Miles

One of the best aspects of this redemption is the fact that Virgin Atlantic partners with 4 of the 5 transferable point programs: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Points from Amex, Chase, and Citi transfer to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio. If you’re transferring points from Marriott to Virgin Atlantic, the transfer ratio is 3:1 with a 5,000-point bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred to Virgin Atlantic.

If you decide to transfer points from 1 of these programs, it’s helpful to know that Amex transfers take 1-2 days, Chase transfers are instant, Citi transfers take 2 days, and Marriott transfers take 24 hours. In short, transfer points from Chase to Virgin Atlantic first.

Bottom Line: Pooling your points together can make this redemption even better, in case you don’t have enough points to transfer from one program directly to Virgin Atlantic. 

Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada 777 Business Class
Fly Air Canada business class to Japan. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Aeroplan is generally thought of as the program to use when looking to fly Star Alliance business class across the Atlantic. While redemptions from the U.S. to Europe are valuable, Aeroplan has competitive rates for Star Alliance economy flights to Japan.

Book Awards With Aeroplan

Search for Star Alliance award space on both the Aeroplan and United Airlines websites. When you find award flights that make sense for you, book the flight directly on the Aeroplan website. For help on finding Star Alliance availability, check this guide on searching for award availability on Star Alliance partners.

Aeroplan uses a zone-based award chart. This means that you’ll need to pay the same amount of miles for flights between any cities in the 2 zones. In other words, a flight from San Francisco to Japan will require the same amount of miles as a flight from Houston to Japan.

Unlike some of the award programs we’ve discussed, Aeroplan allows you to book one-way award flights. One-way flights are ideal for those who want maximum flexibility.

For Star Alliance flights from the U.S. to Japan, below are the number of miles, taxes, and fees you’ll need to pay.

Cabin ClassStar Alliance FlightsTaxes and Fees
Economy75,000~$183-271
Business150,000~$183-271
First210,000~$270

Examples of Star Alliance flights to Japan include:

  • Air Canada: Montréal (YUL), Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo (NRT)
  • Air Canada: Toronto (YYZ) to Haneda (HND)
  • ANA: Chicago (ORD), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC), Seattle (SEA), Washington (IAD) to Tokyo (NRT)
  • ANA: Chicago, Honolulu (HNL), Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver
  • United: Chicago, Denver (DEN), Guam (GUM), Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark (EWR), San Francisco, Washington
  • United: San Francisco to Haneda
  • United: Guam, San Francisco to Kansai (KIX)

Earning Aeroplan Miles

The Aeroplan program partners with 3 of the 5 transferable point programs in American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy. In other words, you have 3 opportunities to earn points that can transfer directly to Aeroplan for a redemption.

If you decide to transfer points from any of these programs, keep in mind that Amex and Capital One transfers are instant and Marriott transfers take 5 days. With this in mind, transfer your Amex and/or Capital One miles to Aeroplan first.

Hot Tip: Amex and Capital One are the 2 transferable point programs that provide an easy avenue to book an award flight. Marriott has a transfer bonus, however, the time it takes to transfer Marriott points to Aeroplan is too long in our opinion. 

American Airlines

American Airlines Dreamliner Business Class
AA’s 787 Dreamliner business class is great! Image Credit: Luxurytraveldiary.com

The American Airlines AAdvantage is the go-to program for those looking to fly business class from the U.S. to the Middle East or India. What you may not have thought of is that the AAdvantage program can provide value for flights to Asia as well.

Book Awards With American Airlines

Search for American Airlines award flights on the American Airlines website. Oneworld partner award flights (Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines) can be found on the British Airways/Qantas websites.

When you find American Airlines award flights, book the flight directly on the American Airlines website. Call American Airlines at 800-433-7300 to book Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines flights.

The AAdvantage program uses zone-based award charts. This means that American Airlines flights from Chicago or Dallas to Tokyo require the same number of miles. The same is true of partner airline flights. It’s important to note that you can only travel transpacific when redeeming American miles for travel on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, or Japan Airlines.

Similar to Aeroplan, American Airlines allows you to book one-way flights. For American Airlines flights from the U.S. to Japan, below are the number of miles, taxes, and fees you’ll need to pay.

Cabin ClassAmerican Airlines FlightsTaxes and Fees
Economy65,000*~$268
Business120,000~$268
First160,000~$268

*American Airlines charges 65,000 miles off-peak round-trip in economy. Off-peak dates to Japan are from January 1 to April 30, and July 1 to November 30. Off-peak dates from Japan are from January 16 to April 19, May 2 to 31, September 1 to December 31.

Cabin ClassOneworld Flights*Taxes and Fees
Economy70,000~$272-$322
Business120,000~$272-$336
First160,000~$272-$336

*Oneworld flights in this example are flown by Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines

Examples of Oneworld flights to Japan include:

  • American Airlines: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles to Narita; Los Angeles to Haneda
  • Japan Airlines: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle to Haneda
  • Japan Airlines: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver to Narita
  • Japan Airlines: Los Angeles to Kansai
  • Cathay Pacific: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington to Hong Kong

Earning American Airlines Miles

American Airlines partners with 1 of the 5 transferable point programs in Marriott Bonvoy. This means that the Marriott points you earn can be transferred directly to American Airlines.

In addition, American Airlines offers a number of personal and business credit cards where you earn American Airlines miles with your credit card spend.

Before transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to American Airlines, keep in mind that it takes 2 days to transfer your Marriott points.

Bottom Line: A combination of American Airlines and Marriott Bonvoy personal and business credit cards will ensure that you have enough American Airlines miles for any redemption to Asia. 

Asiana Airlines

Asiana Airlines First Class A380
Fly Asiana Airlines first class to Asia. Image Credit: YouTube / The Filipino Traveler

Asiana Airlines is an interesting program because it’s award charts require fewer miles when flying a Star Alliance business class flight versus an Asiana Airlines business flight to Asia. In addition, it will cost the same number of miles to fly first class on Asiana as it does on a Star Alliance partner.

Book Awards With Asiana Airlines

Asiana Airlines award space can be found on the Asiana Airlines and United Airlines websites. If you’re looking to book a Star Alliance partner airline flight, search for award space on the Aeroplan or United Airlines websites, and then call Asiana at 800-227-4262 to book the award flight.

The Asiana Club program uses zone-based award charts whether you fly Asiana Airlines or a partner airline. Similar to Aeroplan, American Airlines allows you to book one-way flights.

For Asiana and partner airline flights from the U.S. to Japan, below are the number of miles, taxes, and fees you’ll need to pay.

Cabin ClassAsiana Airlines FlightsTaxes and Fees
Economy70,000~$345
Business125,000~$345
First160,000~$345

 

Cabin ClassStar Alliance FlightsTaxes and Fees
Economy80,000~$348
Business120,000~$348
First160,000*~$348

United Airlines doesn’t fly first class on this route, so this price is merely shown for Star Alliance first class routes from the U.S. to Japan.

Asiana only allows you to book its own flights on the Asiana website. For Star Alliance flights, use the Aeroplan and United websites to find award flights.

If you connect in Seoul to Tokyo, the number of miles shown above will increase. With that said, below are the routes that you can fly to Japan with a connection in Seoul.

  • Asiana: Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle to Seoul (ICN)
  • United: San Francisco to Seoul

Earning Asiana Airlines Miles

Asiana Airlines has 1 partnership with a transferable point program and that’s Marriott Bonvoy.

In addition, Asiana Airlines has credit cards that earn Asiana Airlines miles. So with a combination of Marriott Bonvoy and Asiana Airlines credit card spend, you’ll earn the miles that you need for any of these redemptions.

The major downside to point out with Marriott Bonoy is that it takes 10 days to transfer your points from Marriott to Asiana. With that said, you’ll need to be extremely flexible when booking Asiana Airlines redemptions with Marriott Bonvoy points.

Bottom Line: Marriott Bonvoy makes it tough on its members with Marriott points taking 10 days to transfer to Asiana Airlines. 

British Airways

American’s 777-300ER Business Class is considered one of the best hard products of any airline. Each seat is private featuring a lay-flat bed. Image Credit: American Airlines

British Airways is a program many travelers turn to when looking to fly short-haul flights on a Oneworld partner airline. Economy flights on Cathay Pacific in Asia, LATAM in South America, British Airways in Europe, Qantas in Australia, Qatar in the Gulf, and American Airlines in the U.S. all have low redemption rates on short haul flights.

Book Awards With British Airways

Search for British Airways and Oneworld partner award flights on the British Airways website. When you find a flight that works for you, book the flight directly on the website.

British Airways Executive Club program uses a distance-based award chart. The number of Avios (miles) that you’ll pay will be driven by the distance of your flight. So you’ll want to focus on Oneworld partner airline non-stop flights. The more miles you fly, the more Avios you’ll pay, so any additional flight segment makes a flight more expensive.

It’s also important to note that British Airways has off-peak pricing only when flying Aer Lingus, British Airways, or Iberia. With that said, below are the number of Avios, taxes, and fees for Oneworld flights to Japan.

Cabin ClassOneworld FlightsTaxes and Fees
Economy50,000-70,000~$268-$275
Business150,000-210,000~$268-$275
First200,000-280,000~$268-$275

Earning British Airways Avios (Miles)

British Airways has partnerships with 3 of the 5 transferable point programs. The airline partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy, British Airways also has a co-branded credit card that allows you to directly earn Avios with your credit card spend.

We recommend transferring your Amex and Chase points to British Airways first. The reason is because the transfer time from Amex and Chase to British Airways is instant. If you need to transfer from Marriott to British Airways, it will take 1 day to transfer your points.

Bottom Line: British Airways offers 4 ways to earn its Avios for a redemption. By focusing your credit card spend on Amex, Chase, Marriott, and British Airways credit cards, you’ll have more than enough Avios for your next award flight.

Etihad

American Airlines Business Class
Use Etihad miles to fly American Airlines business class to Japan! Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Etihad is similar to Virgin Atlantic in that the airline has partnerships with individual airlines. Etihad is most known for its award flight redemptions on Royal Air Maroc and Brussels Airlines. What you may not know is that Etihad partners with American Airlines and offers competitive rates to many destinations.

Book Awards With Etihad

The main downside with Etihad is that you can’t search for and book partner award flights on the Etihad website. For American Airlines flights, you’ll need to search for award space on the British Airways website, and then call Etihad Guest at +1-0-877-690-0767 to book the award flight.

The Etihad Guest program uses distance-based award charts for its airline partners. For American Airlines flights, the longer the distance that you travel, the more miles you’ll be required to pay.

With that said, below are the number of miles, taxes, and fees that you’ll pay when using Etihad miles to fly American Airlines:

Cabin ClassAmerican Airlines FlightsTaxes and Fees
Economy50,000~$268
Business100,000~$268
First125,000~$268

Keep in mind that American Airlines doesn’t fly first class to Japan. You’ll have to fly from Los Angeles or Dallas to Hong Kong and then book a separate flight from Hong Kong to Japan.

Earning Etihad Miles

The Etihad Guest program partners with 4 of the 5 transferable point programs. American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy are the programs that partner with Etihad.

We recommend transferring your Amex points to Etihad first. The transfer time is instant making it easier for you to book on award flight.

Hot Tip: American Express, Capital One, and Marriott have personal and business credit cards that allow you to earn points that can be transferred directly to Etihad. 

Final Thoughts

Japan is a bucket-list destination that has a variety of redemptions to choose from across all cabin classes. The key to each of these redemptions is to accumulate transferable points across all of the programs to give yourself some flexibility.

Keep in mind that each program uses its own set of award charts and rules, which makes the miles vary depending on what partner you use, the cabin class you select, and your departure city. For the most part, the taxes and fees for each redemption are reasonable.

The competitive mileage requirements paired with reasonable and affordable taxes and fees make a trip to Japan more possible when earning the right points and miles. Now all you have to do is determine when you want to fly!

Have an upcoming trip and looking for insider tips? Check out travel guides to Tokyo, New York, Paris, Hawaii, Melbourne, and London for ideas on what to do while you’re in the city.


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The Best Ways to Travel to Japan Using Points & Miles


FAQ

Which airlines include carrier-imposed surcharges on award flights to Japan?

ANA, Japan Airlines, American Airlines, Korean Air, and Cathay Pacific all impose surcharges on flights to Japan.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to Tokyo?

ANA requires the fewest number of miles to fly economy at 40,000 round-trip, which is during the low season.

What is the fewest number of miles required to fly business class to Tokyo?

ANA also requires the fewest number of miles to fly business class at 75,000 round-trip, which is during the low season.

What is the fewest number of miles required to fly first class to Tokyo?

Japan Airlines requires the fewest number of miles to fly first class at 115,000 round-trip. The route is between Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Michael McHugh

About Michael McHugh

Michael grew up in Mobile, AL and took his first international trip to the Caribbean in 2013. From then on, he was hooked. After that trip, Michael has continued traveling both domestically and internationally —primarily with constant travel companion wife, Ashlee, who runs her own travel/style and contracts blog.

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11 comments

  1. Chris Moore · May 3, 2018 · Reply

    I believe there are two errors in the ANA mileage chart shown: (1) I believe the required number of miles shown is Round Trip, not One-Way and (2) The required number of miles required for Business Class ranges is 75K-90K, not 75K-95K from the US.

    • Michael McHugh · May 3, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Chris!

      We appreciate you catching these errors and you are correct on both. The post has been updated.

  2. Peter Kuehnel · May 4, 2018 · Reply

    I noticed no mention of Singapore Airlines and KrisFlyer, although in my mind they are a great way to get to Asia. Not so for Japan?

    • Michael McHugh · May 4, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Peter

      I could not recommend KrisFlyer as their redemptions rates are not as competitive. For RT on Singapore metal, you’re looking at 70/170/190k E/J/F SQ miles from the West Coast and 116/230/300k E/J/F SQ miles from Houston/East Coast. For RT on Star Alliance metal, you’re looking at 108/210/250k E/J/F. Here’s the SQ metal chart and Star Alliance Chart if you want to check it out.

  3. James · May 5, 2018 · Reply

    Good article Michael especially the FAQ,s at the end! TY!

    • Michael McHugh · May 7, 2018 · Reply

      Appreciate it James. Please let us know if we can help answer any additional Q’s!

  4. Bastian · June 16, 2018 · Reply

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for this article. This is extremely helpful. I am planning to travel to Tokyo end of this year and would like to book an United flight via ANA using my Amex points (my home airport is SFO). I will be traveling with an Infant and I am curious how this will work when booking an award ticket. Could there be any problems?
    Secondly, will I be able to select my seats on the United flight when going through the ANA booking system?
    Thank you!

  5. Hi Mike,

    You have United listed as 85k round trip business class to Japan flying on ANA metal but I just checked their website and its 85k one way. Am I looking at something wrong?

    • Michael McHugh · August 15, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Kyle

      ANA charges 88k RT to fly United from the US to Japan. Here’s the award chart Scroll down to the Japan (Zone 1-A, 1-B) in the “Confirm mileage required” section.

  6. Kathy · July 2, 2019 · Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for all that information. I’ll admit that I’m overwhelmed in figuring out the best way to get to Japan with my family of 4 with both Ultimate Reward points and lots of Capital one miles. Is there a particular airline where I can combine the two for a good redemption?

    • Stephen Au · July 2, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Kathy,

      One of the best ways to fly to Japan using Chase Ultimate Rewards points is to transfer them to Virgin Atlantic and book ANA business or first class round-trip to Japan. The redemption prices are nearly unbeatable.

      Other options include transferring Capital One Miles to Air Canada Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles to book ANA or other Star Alliance partners. Thanks for reading.

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