Best Uses of British Airways Avios: Japan

This post continues my other posts discussing the best uses of Avios, the frequent flier award program of British Airways. The other posts in this series can be found here:

I want to disclaim that this series is not nearly as lucrative as it used to be now, mainly because The Wandering Araman made an Visual Avios Guide, which I must admit is pretty darn cool. (Introduction post here).This map does not include the long haul options though, so I will add those into this post. As a reminder, this is the Avios redemption chart:

Zone # Flight(s) Distance (in miles) Economy Class Cost (in Avios)
1 1-650 4,500
2 651-1,151 7,500
3 1,152-2,000 10,000
4 2,001-3,000 12,500
5 3,001-4,000 20,000
6 4,001-5,500 25,000
7 5,501-6,500 30,000
8 6,501-7,000 35,000
9 7,001 and higher 50,000

Airfare in Japan is out of this world expensive. When I was looking for tickets from Tokyo to Saporro, I was seeing prices in the $370 range. Yes, there were some Jetstar options (an LCC), but even those were about $150 for the flight that I needed. With that, I turned to Avios.

JAL, the Oneworld Alliance airline that operates in Japan, does not pass on fuel surcharges for flights within Japan. JAL does pass on fuel surcharges once you leave the country, which significantly increases the cost of an Avios redemption. In this post, I will show you the best uses of Avios in Japan, and to some other countries. I will only show you the best points for Tokyo Haneda, but, will have some honorable mentions for destinations from other cities within the country.  It is worthy to note that Narita is the other airport in Tokyo, and has more of the big flights, so if there is a huge difference, I will show the Narita flights as well, although, flying from Haneda is easier and cheaper to get to, in my opinion.

One thing to note: While I am doing valuations for airports, I look at flights about 6 weeks out, and select the lowest price for the comparison. If you always want the direct, your valuation will be higher. My valuation calculations are taken in this manner:

Valuation

Where CPM is “cents per mile.” Also note that using Avios does not have a booking fee for close in awards, meaning I can book a flight for tomorrow, and pay the same taxes/fees as I would if I booked a flight in 2 months. Another thing to note is that I will compare the legacy carriers for the Avios Valuation calculations, because that si more of an “apples to apples” comparison instead of comparing JAL to say, Scoot (an LCC where bags and such are extra).

4,500 Avios from Tokyo

Acios_JP4500

I believe that everything on this chart is a pretty darn good deal. Trains in Japan are pretty expensive.  If you want to see how expensive the routing is between two destinations, check out the site Hyperdia. They provide train times and costs down to the T.

To demonstrate the price of trains in Japan vs Flights, I looked up a simple Tokyo to Osaka combination. Via train, it would cost ¥ 15,030 ($128 at todays exchange rate). Via plane, it would cost $44 is you did Jetstar, or $235 on JAL. I’m gonna go ahead and say Jetstar won this one, which is possible between the big flights.

So what did I just prove? Well, Avios is an option for the really close cities, but not the best. Between big cities, Jetstar is an apparent winner, although when I needed to fly it wasn’t. For the farther out cities from Tokyo, though, Avios is definitely the winner. I also showed you that this is not a fixed gig, meaning if I say something is good, it is for some random date that I looked at and may not be worthwhile when you are looking at a redemption 5 months from now, so keep that in mind.

For the record, Jetstar flies to these cities in Japan:

Jetstar Japan

I still stand by the fact that I think Avios in Japan are a really good deal. At the 4,500 Avios level, there is one flight from Narita to Pusan, South Korea. Taxes and fees on this route are $39.39. Buying a ticket outright is $305. This is a pretty good deal even with the taxes and fees, as the valuation of your Avios is 5.9 CPM.

Note: British Airways allows you to buy points, like any airline. You can buy 5,000 Avios for $163 USD. If you have no Avios, and need to get to South Korea, you will spend $200 to buy the points and then redeem them instead of buying the plane ticket outright…a savings of about ~$100.  Keep that in mind for all bookings if you have no Avios.

7,500 Avios from Tokyo

Avios_JP7500

At this tier we are mingling with international and domestic. The domestic flights are to the islands in the south of the country, like Okinawa. The international destinations are places like Russia, Korea and China.

  • Flights to Russia: Vladivostok and Kabarovsk are in the $240 range. Taxes and fees on awards are $27, so a valuation of 2.8 CPM. Definitely good, not great. Note: If you want to take the train to Europe, it starts in Vladivostok 🙂
  • Flights to China: Shanghai (both airports) and Dalian. Shanghai is about $340, and Dalian $224, with $68 in taxes and fees on the awards. Dalian is not a good deal, but Shanghai is not bad with a valuation of 3.6 CPM.
  • Flights to South Korea: Both Seoul airports run about $270, and award taxes/fees are $37, providing a valuation of 3.1 CPM.
  • Flights in Japan: Jetstar flies to Okinawa (OKA) for about $100. For flights to Amami and Miyakojima however, you are stuck with JAL or ANA, which come in from $470-505. About $3 in taxes on these fares result in a valuation of 6.7 CPM…why go to the busier place anyways?

10,000 Avios from Tokyo

Avios_JP10000

  • Flights to Guam: Flights to Guam are available from all over Japan. From Tokyo, it appears that they run in the $500-550 range, depending if you route through Seoul or Manila. Taxes are $89 on the direct for awards, so a valuation of 4.1 CPM.
  • Flights to China: Beijing and Guangzhou is about $290-$320, taxes and fees of $68, providing a valuation of 2.2-2.5 CPM. Not bad, not great. For reference, taxes/fees from China to Japan are $60.  Sidebar: An option to route through Vladivostok came up for 15,000 Avios at $37 in taxes, meaning you might be able to stopover in Russia if you want for 15k Avios. Food for thought.
  • Flights to Hong Kong: $250 for a flight to Hong Kong through Manila. Taxes on JAL are $65, where Cathay is $47. Flying with Cathay is 2.03 CPM.
  • Flights to Taiwan: Scoot flies to Taipei for $140-180, meaning if you compare this for a valuation, you would get an abysmal 1 CPM> valuation. If we fly something else, it is about $250, $68 in taxes/fees and values at 1.8 CPM. Flying to Khaosiung provides a better valuation of 2.8-4.8 CPM, depending on dates. You might be able to pull off a stopover in Taiwan while going to Hong Kong for the same price. Note: It appears coach availability from Tokyo to Taiwan is pretty limited.
  • Flights to Manila, Philippines: Manila is a cheap destination. No matter where you are coming from in Asia, it seems that the Philippines are almost always the cheapest intra Asia flights. Tokyo is no exception at only $270. Awards have $75 in taxes and fees, which means that you are getting an evaluation of just 1.9 CPM. Probably worthwhile just purchasing this ticket and earning Avios instead.
  • Flights to Ishigaki, Japan: These flights cost $580, so this is an excellent valuation due to assumed low taxes and fees, however, it is not bookable on BA.com, so maybe you would have to call in on this one. According to Wikipedia, this airport might turn to a military airport.

To summarize, this has some good redemptions, mainly Guam and Ishigaki.

12,500 Avios from Tokyo

Avios_JP12500

I thought of putting this junk into a table, might be easier to see, with notes at the bottom. Let me know which one looks better.

Country Airport (Code) Cost of Revenue Ticket Avios Taxes/Fees (USD) Avios Valuation (CPM) Redeem?
Vietnam Hanoi (HAN)** $243 or $460*^ $78 1.3-3.1 Maybe
Ho Chi Minh (SGN $203 or $251* $78 1.0-1.4 No
Malaysia Kota Kinabalu (BKI) $486 $22 3.7 Yes
Thailand Bangkok (BKK)*** $232 or $251* $105 1.2 No

Notes: *The lower price is on a LCC Airline, the higher price is on a legacy carrier, usually Philippine Airlines.

^Cathay provides cheaper taxes than JAL, but possibly more Avios.

**Consider stopping over in Hong Kong before continuing to Vietnam at a marginal cost.

***Many stopover options available, like Nagoya, Hong Kong and more.

The clear winner here is flying to Kota Kinabalu, then maybe catching a LCC flight anywhere else in SE Asia after checking out the orangutans and such.

20,000 Avios from Tokyo

Avios_JP20000

Country Airport (Code) Cost of Revenue Ticket Avios Taxes/Fees (USD) Avios Valuation (CPM) Redeem?
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur (KUL) $186 or $351* $22 (Malaysian)-$105 (JAL) .4-1.6 No
Singapore Singapore (SIN) $220 or $251* $105 .7 No
Indonesia Jakarta (CGK)** $209 or $251* $130 JAL .6 No/Maybe
India Delhi (DEL) $421 + $151 1.5 Maybe
USA Honolulu (HNL) $640 $165 2.4 Maybe

Notes: *The lower price is on a LCC Airline, the higher price is on a legacy carrier, usually Philippine Airlines.

**Stopover in Hong Kong, pay 22,500 Avios and $66 in taxes. See more, save money, marginally more points.

The clear winner in this neck of the woods is the flights to Honolulu. If you want, you can treat Honolulu as a stopover and buy a separate Avios ticket to the west coast, meaning you could get from say, Seattle to Tokyo, via Hawaii for 32,500 Avios + Surcharges. No comparison to AA’s old system of free stopovers at international gateways, but not too bad if the surcharges work out, which I think they would because AA charges only $5 for taxes/fees.

25,000 Avios from Tokyo

Avios_JP25000

Country Airport (Code) Cost of Revenue Ticket Avios Taxes/Fees (USD) Avios Valuation (CPM) Redeem?
Australia Sydney (SYD) $297-$425, $500* $220 JAL*** 1.1 No
Brisbane (BNE) $431 or $474 $163 1.2 No
Canada Vancouver (YVR)** $740 $195 2.2 Yes/Maybe
Finland Helsinki (HEL) $550 $198/145 JAL/Finnair 1.4-1.6 Maybe
Qatar Doha (DOH)* $552 Maybe
Russia Moscow (DME) $520 $206 1.25 Maybe
Sri Lanka Colombo (CMB) $567 $128 1.75 Maybe
USA San Francisco (SFO)** $670 $233 1.7 Maybe
Los Angeles (LAX)** $615 $233/230 JAL/AA 1.5 Maybe

Notes: *Appear to not be bookable at the moment when I was checking. I checked 2 weeks of availability, in both Business and Coach and it would not spit out any taxes…

**I like the idea that I posted about under the 20k redemption. Route through HNL to get a nice little stopover on the way to the west coast. It costs you 7,500 more Avios, yes, but I think it is a nice touch. Otherwise, the AA Off Peak Awards to North America for 25k are a better deal, and have fewer taxes.

***Apparently there is a direct from Tokyo to Sydney on Qantas, but it was not showing up. Qantas has cheaper taxes on this route routing through BNE, but costs more points.

30,000 Avios from Tokyo

Avios_JP30000

Country Airport (Code) Cost of Revenue Ticket Avios Taxes/Fees (USD) Avios Valuation (CPM) Redeem?
France Paris (CDG) $475* $198 .9 No
Germany Frankfurt (FRA) $475* $198 .9 No
United Kingdom London (LHR) $475* $198/208 JAL/BA .9 No
USA San Diego (SAN) $762-924** $233 1.8+ Maybe
Chicago (ORD) $713-905** $233 1.6+ Maybe
Dallas (DFW) $744-900** $233 1.7+ Maybe

35,000 Avios from Tokyo

Avios_JP35000

Country Airport (Code) Cost of Revenue Ticket Avios Taxes/Fees (USD) Avios Valuation (CPM) Redeem?
USA Boston (BOS) $806 $233 1.6 No
New York (NYC) $726 $233 1.4 No

AA, United, and Delta charge 35k miles, and usually don’t pass on surcharges, meaning that you will save about $200 if you use those miles instead of Avios.

Japan has a lot of secondary airports that are pretty darn busy as well. Below is the maps for each respective airport with their connections color coded by Avios redemptions level. Assume taxes are similar to the ones found for Tokyo. For all the below, Red is 4,500 Avios, Blue is 7,500 Avios and Green is 12,500 Avios.

Avios Redemptions from Osaka

Avios_JPOSA

Avios_JPOSA2

Osaka has two airports, Kansai (KIX), which deals with most of the international flights, and Itami (ITM). If there is a noticeable difference between the two airports, I will mention it.

For 20k Avios, you can fly to Kuala Lumpur (KUL), 25k Avios will get you to Honolulu (HNL), Doha (DOH) or Helsinki (HEL), while 30k Avios will get you onto a direct to Los Angeles (LAX).

Note: Sapporo is cheaper from ITM than KIX, see the Sapporo section.

Avios Redemptions from Nagoya

Avios_JPNGO

The map was a tad cluttered with everything on this one for the bigger destinations. You can fly to Bangkok (BKK) for 20,000 Avios and Helsinki (HEL) or Honolulu (HNL) for 25,000 Avios.

Some of the international destinations from Nagoya are pretty exceptional. Taipei makes the lower tier level by 1 mile.

Avios Redemptions from Sapporo

Avios_JPCTS

NOTE: If you fly from Sapporo to Osaka, there are two different Avios levels depending on which airport you fly into. If you fly into Itami (ITM), you will spend 4,500 Avios, where if you fly into Kansai (KIX), you will spend 7,500 Avios.

Avios Redemptions from Okinawa

Avios_JPOKA

Maps generated by NRTW using the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

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