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Best strategy for London to Tokyo economy flight prices end March to early April

Best strategy for London to Tokyo economy flight prices end March to early April

Old Sep 5, 19, 5:38 pm
  #1  
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Best strategy for London to Tokyo economy flight prices end March to early April

Hi, apologies if not the right place...

With some good prices that appeared today with AF/KLM from London to Tokyo I'm interested to canvass some opinion on the best time and airline to book on this route, which I've not flown before. On this trip I am price sensitive but also put a small value on a decent airline and not changing in Beijing if I can help it (but I will if the price is good enough). I also need a hold bag.

I want to fly out mid-late March, and arrive back on or just before the Easter weekend - about 3 weeks. Saw a date that wasn't perfect (few days earlier than desired) but close enough earlier with AF at £470ish return including baggage, and wondering whether I should jump on this, go with Air China, or wait till nearer the time and see what else comes up that might be a slightly more perfect date. Anyone with more experience of the route have any ideas?

Thank you in advance.
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Old Sep 5, 19, 5:57 pm
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Have no info on the flights. But want to note that the time of year is cherry blossom viewing season. A big deal in Japan, but also a peak travel season.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011.html
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Old Sep 5, 19, 5:59 pm
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Air fare is not something easy to predict or make sense. Today most airlines use revenue management software to control availability and price of air fares, revenue management software is complex enough that we cannot predict or make sense of air fares. If you will find anything cheaper later is anybody's guess.

That said, your are planning a trip to Japan during end of March and early April, which is the cherry blossom season in Japan. About past 10 years plus cherry blossom has become extremely popular event by non-Japanese tourist visiting Japan. End of March and early April has become one of popular time to visit Japan among tourists, which usually means cheaper fare will be harder to come by. But again you have 7 months till the trip, it is anybody's guess what kind of air fares on which airlines will become available.

My advise is that fining air fares is not a game or gamble. Some people get so consumed about finding cheapest possible air fare available. But if an air fare you found is something you can afford, dates you can work with, routing which you have no problem, and an airline you are comfortable with, then buy that air fare. Don't get too consumed about if cheaper air fares will become available later or not.
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Old Sep 5, 19, 6:00 pm
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Originally Posted by nishimark View Post
Have no info on the flights. But want to note that the time of year is cherry blossom viewing season. A big deal in Japan, but also a peak travel season.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011.html
I'm aware of this, but also one of the only seasons that matches my work schedule and where I'm gonna enjoy the weather, unless you have another tip? I can never travel in autumn unfortunately.

Last edited by shallowdrift; Sep 5, 19 at 6:01 pm Reason: Quote
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Old Sep 5, 19, 6:05 pm
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Originally Posted by AlwaysAisle View Post
Air fare is not something easy to predict or make sense. Today most airlines use revenue management software to control availability and price of air fares, revenue management software is complex enough that we cannot predict or make sense of air fares. If you will find anything cheaper later is anybody's guess.

That said, your are planning a trip to Japan during end of March and early April, which is the cherry blossom season in Japan. About past 10 years plus cherry blossom has become extremely popular event by non-Japanese tourist visiting Japan. End of March and early April has become one of popular time to visit Japan among tourists, which usually means cheaper fare will be harder to come by. But again you have 7 months till the trip, it is anybody's guess what kind of air fares on which airlines will become available.

My advise is that fining air fares is not a game or gamble. Some people get so consumed about finding cheapest possible air fare available. But if an air fare you found is something you can afford, dates you can work with, routing which you have no problem, and an airline you are comfortable with, then buy that air fare. Don't get too consumed about if cheaper air fares will become available later or not.
Thank you for the detailed reply. I know this is quite a popular season, but as mentioned in my last reply it's probably the best for me in terms of 1) weather and 2) my own schedule. I could probably do a touch later, but I understand I risk getting into Golden Week then which is likely much worse?
I know maybe if I see a fare that looks attractive I should take it, but being this far out I am also interested to see the experience other people have with this route and whether it's better to sit tight. Historically I tend to leave my bookings late-ish and that has served me quite well, but it's good to get a feel for the route.
I can probably in theory afford to pay more, but it's a question of how far I want to dip into my savings, and for this type of holiday I would prefer to be efficient money wise on the flights. I was also considering the Olympics may induce people to book this period less heavily than usual.
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Old Sep 5, 19, 7:01 pm
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You can set a price watch with Google Flights to save yourself some of the work of periodically re-checking manually. If you have enough time or want a better fare, see if you can go from London to TPE or ICN and hop on a separately ticketed LCC from there to HND, NRT. KIX has several LCC flights if you were thinking of visiting Osaka/Kyoto.

Hotels also fill up more quickly around hanami season. It is usually possible to book six months out for JP business hotel chains with free cancellation.

I doubt the Olympics will cause less people to book for hanami in 2020. Foreign visitors have visited plenty without Olympics https://public.tableau.com/views/3_1...viz_share_link

Overseas Visitors might trend lower if China and HK are a bit uncertain and people less willing to spend more money
https://public.tableau.com/shared/RQ...viz_share_link
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Old Sep 5, 19, 7:06 pm
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Originally Posted by freecia View Post
You can set a price watch with Google Flights to save yourself some of the work of periodically re-checking manually. If you have enough time or want a better fare, see if you can go from London to TPE or ICN and hop on a separately ticketed LCC from there to HND, NRT. KIX has several LCC flights if you were thinking of visiting Osaka/Kyoto.

Hotels also fill up more quickly around hanami season. It is usually possible to book six months out for JP business hotel chains with free cancellation.

I doubt the Olympics will cause less people to book for hanami in 2020. Foreign visitors have visited plenty without Olympics https://public.tableau.com/views/3_1_Visitor_arrivals/DB_1__1_2__1?:embed=y&:toolbar=no&:display_count=n o&rigin=viz_share_link

Overseas Visitors might trend lower if China and HK are a bit uncertain and people less willing to spend more money
https://public.tableau.com/shared/RQJ573N58?:toolbar=no&:display_count=no&rigin=vi z_share_link
Thanks, I flew to TPE in plum rain season this summer (to visit TPE rather than as a staging point) and got a good short notice deal there so definitely worth bearing those endpoints in mind. I am not familiar at all with LCCs in East Asia so would be grateful to hear any info or recommendation on those.
Edit: Nice Tableau there from JNTO! Wish more organisations would put out data so readily. Wish I could do the autumn period just past typhoon season but it's not gonna happen with my work pattern.

Plan was to do some days in Tokyo, then do a gradual south to north trip and end in Tokyo for some days again, but from this it could be TPE or ICN, straight to somewhere south of Tokyo might work better. valuable info. Thanks again. I guess my idea is kind of a backpacking trip but middle-market rather than super luxe or completely budget,

Last edited by shallowdrift; Sep 5, 19 at 7:18 pm
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Old Sep 5, 19, 10:33 pm
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Originally Posted by shallowdrift View Post
I am not familiar at all with LCCs in East Asia so would be grateful to hear any info or recommendation on those.
@Carfield has trip reports on a lot of LCC's from this region
Originally Posted by Carfield View Post
I flew Vanilla Air, another LCC created by ANA, in March from Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita. The ticket is $1000HKD, which is a plus fare that allows changes and free premium seat and baggage allowance. For this price, my expectation is low and to no surprise, Vanilla Air is the least impressive Japanese LCCs compared to Jetstar Japan and Peach. The seats don't recline and legroom on regular rows is tight. The new NRT terminal three was not used when I flew it last month, so the ground experience might not be important. I believe that there will be real gates for international flights and there will be less walking. The bridge to the domestic pier looks impressive, but it also means that lots of walking. I think I am accustomed to LCCs now but my first choice is still Peach and Jetstar Japan!
You might also find this useful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN6CBDYDkYc
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Old Sep 6, 19, 3:52 am
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I do the trip from London to Tokyo every year, but during Easter to coincide with the school holidays.
The deals start appearing around now but seem to peak in October and by November they tail off.

I don’t know what you mean by “decent” airline. There are very few airlines who offer this route that I haven’t travelled with, and, in Economy, my preferences are often catered to better with what others regard as “lesser” airlines (e.g. wider, more comfortable seats and two pieces of hold luggage).

Be aware that middle to end of March is not a great time to visit the main tourist areas in Japan on a budget. Easter sometimes forces us into Tokyo during late March and, as it’s a huge city, we’re untroubled... BUT, it does mean that we put off a lot of our sightseeing or moderate it until April. Many parts of Tokyo and the surrounding areas remain the same as always and are lovely, but those that appeal to high school children/young adults and tourists are RAMMED, so a visit to Harajuku or Akihabara can be very unpleasant at this time. The queues at the Disney lands are beyond ridiculous. I understand that Kyoto has similar problems.
As it is peak season hotel prices will be higher too.

You can make your time frame work for you. My advice is to stick to less famous places, sites and attractions for the first two weeks (Tokyo itself is actually fine, only certain pockets get the crowds), leave Kyoto for the end of your visit.
By going through Beijing, Shanghai or another Chinese hub you may find that an open jaw ticket is available cheaply, arriving at HND/NRT and flying out of KIX could save you money and the experience of transiting through PEK (which isn’t great but isn’t that terrible) mitigated by cutting out an unnecessary trip back to Tokyo.
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Old Sep 6, 19, 5:57 am
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Have lived in Japan for 10 years and been buying flights for the family to go back and forth for the last 20. Anything under £500 for a one-stop flight on a European airline is a good deal. If you're hoping/expecting it to get cheaper than this it won't, especially that time of year. Aeroflot is sometimes a slightly lower cost option with decent connection times.

Otherwise open jaws/China/TPE/ICN + LCC into Japan options are unlikely to give you much if any change out of £500. Remember to add a big gap (preferably a day) if you do connect onto a separate ticket LCC for the final hop to/from Japan.
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Old Sep 6, 19, 7:07 am
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Originally Posted by NewtonsLaw View Post
If you're hoping/expecting it to get cheaper than this it won't, especially that time of year.
Speaking as someone who canít afford to fly to Japan once the flights go past the £500 threshold, it seems strange that I manage to do it year after year (and personally know many others who do the same). Perhaps itís the limited budget that makes me try harder to make it work.

Welcome to Flyertalk! And if you arenít already familiar with it, thereís a great acronym that can come in very useful at times like these; YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)
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Old Sep 6, 19, 8:02 am
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Indeed, but I'm referring more to the "decent airline" type options the OP indicated, let's say the AFKL's, LHG, SAS, AY's of the world with through ticketing, civilised connection and total journey times etc. For any of those £470 (with baggage) is a good price, again especially so March/April time. Sure, if you're prepared to two-stop, separate ticket or say go via PVG on Air China and take 22 hours to get there, then closer to £400 could be achievable.
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Old Sep 6, 19, 8:50 am
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I have a suspicion that the £470 “AF flight”, on the days not perfectly suited to the OP, is a 2 stop affair (CDG & ICN) on the way out.
Also means extra days in Japan when hotels are peak priced.
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Old Sep 6, 19, 3:59 pm
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Using Skyscanner instead of google flights can be productive.

Currently seeing a slew of 16 or so hour open jaw flights from Air China within the date range the OP is interested in. They connect LHR and HND and then KIX and LHR for the return.
Flights have one stop (mostly PEK but also PVG) and cost £480. There are considerably cheaper options but these involve longer transit times. I personally take these (particularly for the Eastbound Route) as I find tight transits stressful and have found that longer journeys mean that neither I nor my daughter suffer from jetlag as a result. Not everyone shares this preference.
Not only is hold luggage free on Air China, but for flights to and from Japan you get to take 40kg in Economy.

(Am remembering yet another reason why I now prefer Asian Carriers to European ones - the child discount is significantly better.)

Here’s an example of a cheaper option that would interest me
The flight out gives 8 hours in PVG, enough time for a short visit to the city.
The return from KIX is quicker. (I don’t get jet lag travelling West, so shorter travel time in this direction preferred)
This option costs about £430
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Last edited by LapLap; Sep 6, 19 at 4:16 pm
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Old Sep 7, 19, 2:54 am
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Forgot to add that it’s worth noting that any flights bought this year for travel next Spring (later March/April) are extremely likely to be changed when the airline eventually confirms their seasonal schedules.

In practice, this means that a 3 hour transit period can become a 1 and a bit hour transit, or an 8 hour stopover transforms into a 12 hour wait. You may also find yourself expected to be at the starting airport at a much earlier time (too early for economic transport). Booking directly with an airline or with a travel agent you can actually talk to is the best way to shield yourself from the worst of these potential (I’d say inevitable) changes. Once a schedule change appears you should be in a position to decide what you will reject or accept, often (as long as you are reasonable) you can change flights in your favour.

Air China is particularly prone to schedule changes, but then again they offer a much better smorgasbord of alternatives to mitigate them than most. You want a strategy? Make sure part of yours is not booking with an online travel agent (OTA) with customer services that cannot be reached by phone.
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