Tokyo Trip – Introduction (How I Booked & How Much I Paid)

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Shortly before American Airlines significantly devalued its AAdvantage Miles (by hiking up the cost of awards) I decided to book a few flights that I felt I may not be able to afford after the devaluation. I hadn’t ever seriously considered using my miles for First Class travel as Business Class is more than good enough for me most of the time but that suddenly changed.

The realisation that some First Class awards that I could afford were soon going to be out of reach (or at least highly uneconomical to book) changed my thinking as I realised that I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to try out some of the very best airline cabins in the world.

I’ve already reviewed my Cathay Pacific First Class experience between Zurich and Hong Kong and as I catch up on all my outstanding reviews I’ll post about Etihad First Class and Qatar Airways First Class too.

This trip, however, was booked to allow me to try out and review the Japan Airlines (JAL) 777 First Class cabin.

a bed with pillows and a blanket on itJAL 777 First Class

Booking Flights

I knew I was going to be in the UK for a few months in 2017 so, as it can be a lot easier to find JAL premium cabin awards out of Europe than out of the US, I decided to start my trip from the other side of the pond.

My flight requirements for this trip were simple:

  • A JAL First Class award on the 777-300ER
  • A JAL Business Class award on the 787 Dreamliner

I wanted to try out two different cabins on two different aircraft that JAL flies and, while I didn’t mind taking positioning flights, I didn’t want to be flying a long way to position.

Out of JAL’s 5 European destinations only Heathrow, Paris & Frankfurt could be considered close to my London starting point (Helsinki and Moscow are the other two destinations) so those were my focus cities.

If you’re trying to find award availability on a OneWorld airline BritishAirways.com is the best place to start – the airline may be pretty useless at most things but its site is great for OneWorld award searches.

Outbound: Frankfurt – Tokyo Narita

I couldn’t find any dates with availability out of London…..but I got lucky with Frankfurt:

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A few dates plentiful availability in Business Class and the aircraft was a 787 Dreamliner (specifically it was the stretch version – a 787-9).

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As it’s not possible to book JAL awards on AA.com I called up the Executive Platinum desk and asked to book the flight.

52,500 AAdvantage Miles and $91.60 in taxes later I has the first of my flights booked.

a screenshot of a computer

Inbound: Tokyo Haneda – London Heathrow

I was very fortunate with my return flight as, luckily, JAL had opened up availability on its Tokyo Haneda – London Heathrow route.

Not only is this one of only two European routes that JAL operates with a First Class cabin but a flight into London meant that I wouldn’t need a short-haul flight to get home.

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Another call to the American Airlines Executive Platinum desk saw my account debited 70,000 AAdvantage Miles & after I paid $22.60 in taxes I had my return flight booked.

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In total I had paid 122,500 AAdvantage Miles and $114.20 for my flights to/from Tokyo.

However, these miles came from a pool of 265,000 miles that I had purchased from American Airlines specifically so that I could splash out on flights like these before the award costs skyrocketed.

I had paid $0.018/AAdvantage Mile so, in reality, these flights cost me $2,205 + $114.20 = $2,319.20

I had one last flight to book….my positioning flight between London and Frankfurt

Fares for flights to Frankfurt were coming in at prices I wasn’t prepared to pay (over $175) and, to make things worse, there was no award availability either.

I decided that prices were unlikely to rise further so I could risk setting an ExpertFlyer alert just in case British Airways opened up availability.

About a week before I was meant to be flying out of Frankfurt (and just as I was about to reluctantly pay for a seat) I got a very welcome email from ExpertFlyer:

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Fortunately the alert didn’t arrive in the middle of the night so I quickly logged on to BA.com and grabbed the award:

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Flight-wise I was all set to go.

Choosing A Hotel

At the time of this trip I still had Hyatt Diamond status (which was rapidly running out) so I knew that I wanted to stay at a Hyatt property to get one last bit of use out of my top-tier status.

Hyatt has a number of properties in Tokyo…….

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….but I found narrowing them down pretty easy:

  • Park Hyatt: too many points (30,000/night) when I’m traveling without Joanna and when I’m not going to be in the room that much + cash rates are ridiculous.
  • Andaz Tokyo Toranmon Hills: cash rates I wasn’t prepared to pay, I wasn’t sure I liked the location and 25,000 points/night is a lot when I’m not really going to need a lot of luxuries.
  • Grand Hyatt: Possible interesting location but still 25,000 points/night and when compared to my eventual choice of property it didn’t seem worth the extra expense.
  • Hyatt Regency: Bingo! This was a lot better. Just 12,000 points per night, acceptable cash rate and in the very centre of Tokyo – this was going to be the place for me.

I was only going to be in Tokyo for two nights and 3 days so the question now was….how shall I pay?

Cash Cost – $458.39

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This seemed a little high for someone who didn’t really want to spend all that much on accommodation this trip.

Points Cost: – 24,000 Hyatt Gold Points (as they were then)

a screenshot of a hotel room

Points & Cash Cost: 12,000 Gold Passport Points and $171.82 in taxes & fees

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The choice was down to points or cash and points so it was time for the math:

Booking with cash & points meant that I was effectively paying Hyatt $171.82 for 12,000 points.

That’s a rate of around 1.4 cents per point and I’m definitely a buyer of Hyatt points at that rate.

So the cash & points rate was the one I booked.

Total Cost Of My Tokyo Trip

This was a lightning quick trip to Tokyo for just 2 nights and 3 days but I had a great time doing it.

In the end this is what the actual cost was to me:

Flights:  $2,346.70 + 4,000 Avios

Note: I didn’t assign a value to the Avios because I didn’t physically pay for them like I paid for the AAdvantage Miles – they were earned in course of my everyday life and travels.

Hotel: $171.82 + 12,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points

Reviews To Come

  • Review: JAL Sakura Business Class Lounge at Frankfurt Airport
  • Review: JAL First Class Lounge at Frankfurt Airport
  • Review: JAL 787-9 Business Class (FRA-NRT)
  • Review: Hyatt Regency Tokyo
  • Review: JAL Sakura First Class Lounge Tokyo Haneda
  • Review: JAL 777-300ER First Class (HND – LHR)

 

10 COMMENTS

  1. I love that your blog breaks down the details — the costs & points portion of the trip. Very useful for us planning future trips!! Thank you!

    • Thank you for the kind comment – I’m hoping to be able to do this for all my trips from now on….I just have to remember to take screenshots and notes as I’m booking 🙂

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