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After being closed for more than two years because of the pandemic, Japan has reopened to tourists. That has many travelers excited about visiting the Land of the Rising Sun. But what's the best way of flying across the Pacific Ocean to visit?
Here are our choices for the best airlines to fly to Japan and the best ways to book flights to Japan with points and miles.
The best airlines to fly to Japan
All airlines aren't created equal. Some airlines offer a much better in-flight experience than others, particularly when flying to Japan. Assuming the price is the same, here are our choices for your trans-Pacific flight.
1. Japan Airlines
Both major Japanese airlines rank in lists of top 10 airlines in the world. However, we give Japan Airlines the edge in our rankings of the best airlines to fly to Japan.
Japan Airlines is one of only a few airlines that installed just eight seats per row in economy on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft — instead of the typical nine seats per row. Add in at least 33 inches of seat pitch per row, and Japan Airlines offers some of the best seat spacing in economy. Japan Airlines fittingly calls its economy seats "Sky Wider."
And the experience gets better as you move forward. Japan Airlines offers one of the top premium economy products in the world. If you can afford to book it, its business and first class seats are highly regarded as some of the best ways to fly.
2. All Nippon Airways
Like Japan Airlines, fellow Japan-based All Nippon Airways — better known as ANA — offers some of the highest-acclaimed business and first class experiences in the world. If you're looking for a great way to cross the Pacific no matter what cabin, ANA is an excellent option.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
3. Singapore Airlines
When you consider flights to Japan, Singapore Airlines isn't likely the first airline you think of. However, this Skytrax 5-star airline operates a fifth freedom flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo's Narita International Airport. You can try out Singapore's well-regarded economy, premium economy, business or its top-notch first class cabin on this route.
4. Delta Air Lines
Of the U.S.-based airlines flying to Japan, Delta Air Lines provides particularly noteworthy service. In economy, Delta enhanced its service to include perks like hot towel service and free Bellinis.
Delta also offers its relatively new Premium Select premium economy product on many routes. Up front, you can enjoy Delta One Suites on many flights to Japan.
» Learn more: How to save on Delta flights
The best airlines to fly to Japan with points
While the airlines mentioned above will get you to Japan in comfort, they may not always be the best when it comes to award flights. If you’re looking to redeem points or miles to get to Japan, the airlines below offer the best value.
1. All Nippon Airways
By far, points and miles collectors will get the most value by flying to Japan on ANA. Several loyalty programs offer excellent award pricing on ANA, and those miles can be easily generated through major transferable point programs.
In the points and miles ecosystem, you can often book award flights cheaper through partner award programs. But that's not the case with ANA. If you're booking a round-trip award ticket, check award pricing through ANA's Mileage Club first.
During off-peak dates, you can book round-trip award flights between the U.S. and Japan for just:
40,000 miles round trip in economy.
62,000 miles round trip in premium economy.
75,000 miles round trip in business class.
Even during peak times, you'll pay less for round-trip awards through ANA than some of the other deals highlighted in this piece. The downside is the significant carrier-imposed surcharges that ANA charges for award bookings on its own flights.
Build your balance of ANA Mileage Club miles by transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 transfer ratio. Or transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to ANA at a transfer ratio of 3:1 — plus a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Bonvoy points.
If you're booking a one-way award, consider booking through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club instead. Nonstop award flights from the U.S. mainland to Japan on ANA cost as few as 30,000 miles each way in economy. Upgrade to business class from 45,000 miles, or splurge for ANA first class from 55,000 points.
One-way award pricing on ANA
Hawaii to Japan
22,500 Virgin points.
35,000 Virgin points.
45,000 Virgin points.
Western U.S. to Japan
30,000 Virgin points.
45,000 Virgin points.
55,000 Virgin points.
Eastern and Central U.S. to Japan
32,500 Virgin points.
47,500 Virgin points.
60,000 Virgin points.
You can transfer points to Virgin Atlantic from every major transferable points program. However, you'll need to transfer Capital One miles through Virgin Red first.
2. American Airlines
American Airlines didn't rank on our list of the best airlines to fly to Japan. However, it's a great option for those using points and miles thanks to several appealing award redemption options.
Using the American Airlines AAdvantage program, you can book MileSAAver award flights from the U.S. mainland to Japan for:
32,500 miles each way in economy on off-peak dates.
35,000 miles each way in economy on standard dates.
50,000 miles each way in premium economy.
60,000 miles each way in Flagship Business class.
However, you can book these award flights for fewer miles by taking advantage of American’s partnership with Etihad Guest. Off-peak economy awards cost 25,000 Etihad Guest miles each way, and business class awards cost 50,000 miles one way.
The catch is that you can't book award flights online. So, you'll need to find award availability online and then call Etihad Guest to book. Generate Etihad Guest miles by transferring points at a 1:1 transfer ratio from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles or Citi ThankYou points.
3. Japan Airlines
In addition to Japan Airlines being one of the best airlines to fly to Japan, you can also get a great deal using miles. Alaska Mileage Plan mileage collectors can fly Japan Airlines to Japan — or onward into other parts of Asia — for as few as:
35,000 miles each way in economy.
60,000 miles each way in business class.
70,000 miles each way in first class.
Take advantage of Alaska Mileage Plan's stopover rules to book a free stopover in Tokyo on your way to another destination in Asia for no additional miles.
American Airlines AAdvantage members can get nearly the same rates but without the free stopover. Japan Airlines first class costs 80,000 AAdvantage miles vs. 70,000 Mileage Plan miles. The upside: AAdvantage members can book Japan Airlines premium economy for 50,000 AAdvantage miles each way.
The best way to book Japan Airlines awards to Japan is using JAL Mileage Bank miles. For flights between North America and Japan, you'll pay as few as:
25,000 miles each way in economy.
32,500 miles in premium economy.
50,000 miles in business class.
70,000 miles in first class.
The downside with these sweet spots is that JAL Mileage Bank isn't a transfer partner of any major U.S. bank points program. Your best transfer option is Marriott Bonvoy at 3:1.
4. United Airlines
Another U.S.-based carrier that's worth considering when booking award flights to Japan is United Airlines. The cheapest mileage option is booking through ANA Mileage Club for just 50,000 miles round trip.
However, ANA charges high carrier-imposed fees on United award flights. So, consider booking United economy award flights through United for as few as 35,000 United MileagePlus miles each way. Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United if you need to top off your account.
Theoretically, you can book United Polaris business class to Japan for 70,000 United MileagePlus miles or 75,000 Aeroplan points each way with minimal taxes and fees or 85,000 ANA Mileage Club miles round trip with high fees. However, United is incredibly stingy with releasing international award availability to general members.
» Learn more: How to get cheaper award prices on United flights
Flying to Japan, recapped
There's really no wrong way to fly to Japan. From ancient temples to incredible food and unique experiences, visiting Japan is worth it any way you fly there. With that said, some airlines provide a much more comfortable way to cross the Pacific.
Whether you're booking with cash or miles, Japan Airlines and ANA top our list of the best airlines to fly to Japan. After that, our list diverges. When booking with points and miles, American and United have appealing redemption options. If you're booking a paid flight, consider Singapore Airlines or Delta for a more comfortable ride.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card