Other than Shinkansen and Japan’s last sleeper train, flying is probably my transport method of choice. Unfortunately, there was a chunk of time when the cost of getting over here become almost impossible and left many of us (including me) asking the question, why are flights to Japan so expensive?
The main reasons that flights to Japan are expensive will fall under supply and demand, seasonality, and airport taxes. If you manage to navigate your way around these factors (and a few more) you should be able to get cheaper tickets to Japan, but there are a number of things you’ll need to take into consideration.
So! Let’s take an in-depth look at why flights to Japan are so expensive, why they were so expensive, and most importantly, what you can do to get them cheaper!
Top Tip: Unsure if you’ve budgeted correctly for your trip to Japan? I’ve made a Japan travel calculator just for you!
Supply and Demand
Supply and demand is a huge reason why flights from the US to Japan and UK to Japan are expensive. It’s also probably the reason that flights to Japan were really expensive for about 2 years between 2020-2022. That’s the word that, as a travel blogger, and for ad rates, I feel like I can’t say. It’s like ‘Voldemort’ to bloggers!
Anyway, while there were a few flights to Japan during that time, the majority cost an absolute fortune. So why was that?
Well, the massive amount of entry requirements given by Japan’s government meant that for all intents and purposes, Japan was closed to the outside world. Airlines realized this and knew that to keep themselves above the red line (or at least make it not such brutal losses) they would have to make up for the loss of passengers by charging more.
Unfortunately, it’s not an option for these companies to just keep their planes grounded. Because of airport fees and maintenance, it’ll end up costing them millions or bankrupting them altogether. In fact, I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard about one or two that have gone out of business.
The rush to Japan
The graph above shows the travel search interest for the term ‘Japan’ in the united states. As you can see, it’s fairly stable until the end of 2019 when the country closed its doors. It was not until October 11th when Japan opened up again that the search interest rose.
However, if you look carefully you can see that it actually started rising significantly before that date. Perhaps people were just so excited to get out here that they kept checking on the entry requirements. In any case, travel to Japan, or at least interest in it has risen exponentially since that time.
Another big reason that flights to Japan are expensive is because of seasonality. The time you want to visit Japan, which is likely to be similar to all the other tourists, may be more expensive than other times of the year.
Of course, if you’re traveling from further away then your tickets will be more expensive than other people’s, but there are definitely months that are more expensive than others when comparing flights from the same airport.
I took the above screenshot from Skyscanner which shows that most flights to Japan are expensive, costing about $1000. To be honest, this surprises me a little because Japan in Summer is, for the most part, disgustingly humid. And these prices are relatively similar across the world, in terms of it being one of the most expensive times to fly to Japan.
Just one month later, prices are practically less than half the amount. This may have something to do with how close we are to these dates already, but it just shows that it literally pays to be flexible.
It’s a similar situation with December (Snow), March (Sakura), and April (Spring). While flights to Osaka and Tokyo in December may not be ridiculously priced, if you need to fly to Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, you’ll definitely be booking in high season.
Oh, and don’t even bother booking over Shōgatsu (New Year). Those few days in Japan are some of the busiest in the country at any time of year. Flying, getting the train, or booking accommodation is absolutely going to include some of the highest prices possible.
Fuel prices are one reason why flights to Japan were (in 2022) and can be expensive. In 2022 the prices for flights to Japan were expensive partly because of global issues, but also because of the huge rise in oil.
Of course, higher fuel prices mean the airlines need to get that money back somehow, and that often means charging more for flights. Couple this with all the other reasons on this list, and you start to understand just why flights to Japan can be expensive.
As you can see from the graph that I made above, it illustrates just how much airlines would have had to pay out during 2022 relative to the amount of fuel that was used. Hopefully, there won’t be another year where you and I, the travelers, will have to pay for it with higher ticket prices to Japan.
Taxes and Fees
Flying to Japan, or almost any country for that matter means you’ll incur fees and taxes on your ticket on top of your airfare price. Usually, it’s all included together so there are no hidden fees (what you see is what you pay), but the final number you see is influenced by those fees.
Luxatic places all 3 main Japanese airports at the top of the list for having the most expensive landing fees in the world. While I’m not entirely sure how accurate that list truly is, and I can’t afford to pay for Jacobs Airport Chargess 2022 book, they certainly aren’t cheap by any means.
At the end of the day, that means more money out of the airlines’ pockets, and more money to spend on your Japan tickets.
9 ways to get flights to Japan cheaper
I often get messages from people asking “Why is Japan so expensive?” and a big part of that question is regarding plane tickets to Japan. It’s easily one of the most expensive parts of booking a holiday over here, so it’s important you get it as cheaply as you can!
The more money you have now, the more money you can spend on the fun things that truly matter! …like never-ending bowls of ramen 😉
1. Use Going
This is by far my favorite method of finding the cheapest flights to Japan, and I don’t think many people know about it either. If you’re looking to save as much money as possible while basically not having to lift a finger, this is exactly how you do it.
Sign up for a free account, choose a US departure aiport, pick your desintation (Japan), and when the price drops or they think you’ll get the best deal, you’ll be the first to know! There are a couple of premium options if you want to take advantage of airline mistake fares, but there’s also a free option as well.
Mistake fares are just mind boggling. I never knew companies could mess up SO bad, but their loss is our gain!
Typically you can expect to save 40-90% from regular fares (an average $550 saving) which is just ridiculous, and makes me a little annoyed I didnt know about these guys sooner…
Grabbing these free flight alerts is such a genuis idea, and easily the best way to save the most amount of money while booking you flights to Japan.
2. Book in advance
Failing to book your tickets in advance is one of the number one reasons why flights to Japan are so expensive. Whilst it’s probably something you’re already aware of if you’ve been on holiday in the past, remember to book early because it’s the same here in Japan!
So, how early should you book your flights?
While I do have a personal opinion, it’s probably best to defer to the people who have all the information on this one. Of course, I’m talking about comparison sites and travel websites that people use frequently.
Somewhat annoyingly, they all think a little differently!
Kayak suggests booking at least 1 week before departure in order to get a ‘below-average’ price. As far as I’m concerned, this is just common sense and really doesn’t help us figure out how far in advance to book tickets.
They go on to suggest the highest seasons are January, November, and December for flying. Not wrong, though, not specific enough.
The Points Guy
One to four months in advance is the suggestion for booking internal flights, and “at least six months” is the advice given for booking international flights. This seems far more reasonable, and I would tend to agree.
The points guy, a handy place to go if you’re into saving money on pretty much everything in life and earning points while you do it (more on this later), is a fairly reliable source of information. In any case, they know what they’re talking about when it comes to price.
I think the general advice here would be to book early but also have a figure in mind that you’d be comfortable spending. There’s no point gambling it and wondering ‘Will flights to Japan get cheaper?’ No one really knows.
Top tip: Use a flight price tracker
If you have a while before your flights, set up a price tracker with Google or Kayak and get it to notify you of any big price drops. When you feel like it gets to a comfortable threshold, buy the tickets.
Just type in ‘Kayak’ or ‘Google’ followed by ‘flight price tracker’ and you’ll be good to go. No more waiting up until 3 in the morning hoping to get those awesome deals!
3. Fly during the off-season (at the very least, be flexible with your dates)
Unfortunately, even booking your flights to Japan in advance isn’t going to save you as much money as you’d like if you’re traveling during peak season.
June is quite expensive to fly to Japan, as are December and January. Of course, cherry blossom season is as well.
If you can be adaptable with your holidays and you don’t mind missing the cherry blossom, with a bit of research you should be able to find quite a few inexpensive flights.
If you do want to fly during any time of Japan’s peak season, you’ll have to be extra adaptable. Choosing specific flight times, layovers and airlines are just some of the ways you can make sure your flights to Japan aren’t expensive.
4. Travel in Economy class
Another huge way to save money and get a cheap flight to Japan is to travel in economy class. For a lot of people, this won’t be an issue because you may not be able to afford anything else, but if you can afford it, you should reconsider whether you should pay for it.
Japan Airlines (JAL) have consistently been ranked as having one of the best (if not, the best) economy classes in the world. If you’d prefer other options, here is the list of the best economy-class airlines in 2022 by the World Airline Awards.
Yes, some of these may not be ‘budget’ carriers, and you might need to read my article about surviving your flight, but you’ll save yourself a lot of money by booking with one of these as opposed to traveling business class.
Top tip: Book flights with stopovers. While nice (and something I would recommend if possible), direct flights are almost always more expensive. If you’re looking to get cheaper flights to Narita or Haneda airports, direct flights might help you avoid Japan jet lag, but they aren’t going to save you money!
However, I must admit there was one occasion where we found premium economy tickets to Japan (with one stopover) for a cheaper price than the economy seats. That’s pretty unheard of, and usually, they will be far more expensive, but it just shows you should definitely look around!
5. Use Skyscanner
Technically you can use any flight comparison website to get cheaper flights, but my main choice (if I’m comparing flights to get a general idea) is Skyscanner. They pretty much always give me an accurate representation of how much I may have to pay, and there’s even an option to add in (or search for) hotels and car hire. It’s a good first point of call if I don’t know where else to start.
Travel sometimes gets a bit overwhelming and a bit complicated, so I’m all in on anything like this that makes things so simple. Of course, they might not have the best price so research in other places as well (like number one on this list!), but from the huge amount of flights I’ve booked through them, they’ve been ace!
Use this widget below as a starting point, and you’ll get a general gist of how expensive a flight to Japan will be during the time you want to travel to Japan. Remember, book early, and be flexible if you want the best deals!
6. Use a rewards program (to pay with points)
I’ve only recently learned of the immense power of points. If you’ve been collecting for a few years, you’ve probably got a decent chunk in your wallet. Of course, there are a number of ways to actually redeem your points, but transferring them to an airline partner (ANA is awesome for this) is perhaps the best.
I use American Express, which transfers to ANA at a 1:1 ratio for miles. Learning how, and when to redeem them is something you’re better off figuring out through a website dedicated to that kind of thing.
These are perhaps the three most well-known sources for paying and redeeming with points. If you’re clever about it, you’re probably not too far away from ANA’s ‘The Room’! Damn, I’m jealous!!
7. Book with a credit card (to get points when you pay)
Failing the option above, it makes a huge amount of financial sense to at least buy your tickets with a credit card that offers reward points. I use AMEX (Sign up here to get 22,000 free points!) where I get about 1 point for every £1 I spend.
If you live in the US (as most of this audience does) depending on the Amex card you chose, you’ll be able to get up to 5x points for every dollar. That’s literally insane, but it’s also the perfect way to make your flight to Japan as cheap as possible!
8. Chose the right airport to fly into
This isn’t the most important consideration when trying to make your flight to Japan less expensive, but it’s still worth looking into. If you’re flying into Tokyo (for this example, you will be), you can either fly to Narita airport or Haneda airport. This is of course only important if you actually have a choice, as most of the time you’ll just pick which is cheapest in Skyscanner!
You may not be likely to save enough money to stop you asking “Why are flights to Tokyo so expensive?”, but you could definitely save a few hundred dollars if you’re careful.
I’ll write an article about the choice between Narita vs Haneda airports in the future, but for now, let’s take a look at the basics.
Costs about ¥3000 on the Narita Express (NEX) and takes about an hour to get into Tokyo. Or, you can grab a bus that costs less than half of that. Convenience vs cost, the choice is yours!
Much closer, and costs about ¥500 or so on the train to central Tokyo. Flights to Haneda can sometimes be a little more expensive, and you won’t always have the choice.
9. Chose the right airport to fly from
This is a bit of a tricky one because most people will have just one airport to fly from. However, if you can somehow be a little flexible in your departure airport, you might just find they offer better prices.
Things like taxes and fees are different for each airport, and the one you usually travel from might charge a lot more than one that’s a 2 or 3-hour drive.
Of course, you’ll have to work out the cost of petrol, parking, toll roads, etc. It all adds up, but some of the fees you can save by going from one airport instead of another are really quite impressive.
Oh, and if you live in California, it’s going to be a bit cheaper than if you live on the other side of the country!
So, are flights to Japan expensive?
Honestly, I think tickets to Japan are expensive, but compared to other flights it all seems relative. I think we’re also in a little bit of a bubble at the moment where flying isn’t exactly the cheapest of all past times.
If you’re reading this 2+ years after I’ve written it, whilst all the information I’ve written will still be correct, the prices of tickets may have settled down a bit. Though, all those tips will still work for you!
The key is to do as much research as possible, be flexible, and only travel during peak season in Japan if you absolutely have to. Flights during the low season are actually surprisingly cheap!
Other than that, just go for it. Flights might be expensive, but I love Japan and wouldn’t change any holiday I’ve had in Japan, and I urge you to go and make these memories for yourself!
Hold up! Now that you’ve booked your flight, let me share with you one more thing to help the journey run smoothly: How to survive it! Believe me, I’ve been on some long flights to Japan, and I know how daunting they can seem. But with a little bit of preparation and some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way, you can make your flight a lot more comfortable and enjoyable!
My Top Japan Travel Resources:
What’s the best way to get cheap flights to Japan?
Going is BY FAR the best way to secure dirt-cheap flights to Japan. We’re talking as much as 90% off!
Should I live in Japan?
Maybe – I’ve made this quiz specifically for you! Who knows, perhaps you’re closer to those bowls of ramen than you think 😉
Where should I visit next in Japan?
It depends – To help you figure it out, I’ve made this quiz just for you!
Can I get online in Japan?
You can! – The eSIM is the one I’d recommend using, plus it’s perfect if you’re planning to travel somewhere else afterward.
Can you help me plan my trip to Japan?
Yes – I’ve got a Japan bucket list just for you! Simply download the PDF, print it out, and tick off some of the things you’d like to see, do, and eat.
Can I get money out in Japan without getting charged?
Yep – The Zero-fee card I use to get money in Japan hasn’t steered me wrong yet. Highly recommended to any traveler!