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SEA to Japan Options?

SEA to Japan Options?

Old Sep 1, 14, 1:03 pm
  #1  
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SEA to Japan Options?

A conference in September 2015 may be a great excuse for me and my wife to go back to Kyoto with side trips North. Rather than rely on reimbursement for one person in econ, I'm exclusively considering redeeming miles for both of us for C or F. Kyoto hotel costs will be covered by my employer, so that's not an issue.

Our last trip to Japan (Tokyo, Mount Fuji, and Kyoto) around 10 years ago was ex-ATL, so flying DL ATL-NRT direct in C was an obvious choice. Now that I'm ex-SEA, I have to rethink both my itin and miles earning strategy. I know a lot can change over the next 12 months, but I'd like to tap into your experience regarding the best flight, mile redemption value, etc.


The award itins (75k-80k o/w pp) I'm considering are:

1. SEA-NRT on ANA in biz and then on to Kyoto by bullet train or commuter flight
2. SEA-SFO-NRT in First on UA and then on to Kyoto by bullet train or commuter flight
3. SEA-NRT (same day transfer to) HND-KIX all on ANA in biz
4. SEA-ICH-KIX all on Asiana in biz
5. Something else?

Me and wife:
Highly value ease of connections
Highly value sleep-friendly, lie-flat seats on long-hauls
Fine with American and/or Japanese on-board dining options
Slightly favor flights with better alcohol offerings
Never been on a 787 or 773ER; I've been in C on ER1 (A380)


TIA
EkekoBWI is offline  
Old Sep 1, 14, 2:10 pm
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Originally Posted by EkekoBWI View Post
The award itins (75k-80k o/w pp) I'm considering are:

1. SEA-NRT on ANA in biz and then on to Kyoto by bullet train or commuter flight
2. SEA-SFO-NRT in First on UA and then on to Kyoto by bullet train or commuter flight
3. SEA-NRT (same day transfer to) HND-KIX all on ANA in biz
4. SEA-ICH-KIX all on Asiana in biz
5. Something else?
TIA
I've flown both NH & UA in biz to Jpn (including SEA-NRT in 787), but I don't recall that I've flown UA in first to Jpn in recent years and I cannot speak to OZ biz. But I have to think that UA F is better than NH J in terms of seat / sleep, while NH J is better than UA F in terms of food and service. Especially when you consider the SFO connection, to me it's easily 1or3>>2.

NH's seat on 787 from SEA-NRT is a generous 1-2-1 config with utmost in privacy if you're flying solo. Service is excellent. Meals are just ok, but part of it is I'm a picky eater... anyways, certainly better than anything I've had on UA recently. The available-anytime snack options are outstanding on NH. Back to seats... not the most comfortable, although it's still a lie-flat. The bed feels narrow and I've had hard time settling on their bed padding.

With regards to option 1 or 3, I'd go with #1 if you were going to get the Jpn Rail Pass anyways. To me, NRT-HND transfer is not bad. But then you're talking bus + flight + train from KIX-Kyoto. When all is said and done, it may be easier to take the train from NRT to Kyoto.
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Old Sep 1, 14, 4:06 pm
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Originally Posted by evergrn View Post
With regards to option 1 or 3, I'd go with #1 if you were going to get the Jpn Rail Pass anyways. To me, NRT-HND transfer is not bad. But then you're talking bus + flight + train from KIX-Kyoto. When all is said and done, it may be easier to take the train from NRT to Kyoto.
But then it seems even simpler to fly SEA-NRT-ITM without airport change. If the goal is to stay in the Kyoto area, a JR Pass doesn't really make financial sense.
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Old Sep 1, 14, 4:38 pm
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Your #5.

Maybe SEA-SFO-KIX on UA. I know there are UA haters on FT but that SFO-KIX flight in J or F on the 787 is quite nice. rather faster than going through ICN and arrives at a convenient time to continue on to Kyoto immediately.
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Old Sep 1, 14, 4:46 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
Your #5.

Maybe SEA-SFO-KIX on UA. I know there are UA haters on FT but that SFO-KIX flight in J or F on the 787 is quite nice. rather faster than going through ICN and arrives at a convenient time to continue on to Kyoto immediately.
Agree that arriving at KIX on the international flight is the nicest option in that regard. Transfer from NRT to HND then on to KIX or ITM is a pain at the end of a long trans-pac flight.
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Old Sep 1, 14, 5:00 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
Your #5.

Maybe SEA-SFO-KIX on UA. I know there are UA haters on FT but that SFO-KIX flight in J or F on the 787 is quite nice. rather faster than going through ICN and arrives at a convenient time to continue on to Kyoto immediately.
Thanks. And I see Biz SEA-SFO-KIX on UA is 65k o/w pp vs 75k+. I'm one of the UA haters (TRANSCON on dilapidated 757s have a way of negatively influencing one's opinion), but am keeping my eyes and ears open...

Other things to keep in mind?
EkekoBWI is offline  
Old Sep 1, 14, 6:08 pm
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Originally Posted by EkekoBWI View Post
... Other things to keep in mind?
Well, the UA-domestic to UA-international transfer at SFO is quite easy and doesn't involve re-clearing security. If you were in J, you'd have access to the UA International Terminal Lounge, which is ok but nothing special. If you happen to be in F, the International First Class Lounge is rather nice.

The transfer from KIX to Kyoto - and back - is most conveniently accomplished on the Japan Rail "Haruka," which is an airport special train that goes straight from the KIX rail station to Kyoto Station via a couple of quick stops in Osaka. Fast, comfortable and easy to arrange. About 75 minutes from KIX to Kyoto.

You don't say how long you intend to stay (on your own time) but from Kyoto, I'd suggest side trips west rather than "north." From Kyoto, I'd suggest Nara, Himeji (which will be back in business by then,) Hiroshima and Osaka. There are other quite nice destinations a bit further afield if you have more time.
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Old Sep 1, 14, 6:30 pm
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Didn't think about abmj-jr's SFO-KIX option. I agree that's definitely a good option for you, especially if it costs you less miles.

Originally Posted by mt-i View Post
If the goal is to stay in the Kyoto area, a JR Pass doesn't really make financial sense.
I wasn't suggesting that OP buy a JR pass specifically for this purpose. I was trying to say that, if he was going to get a rail pass anyways (OP said he's also heading to places "up north"), then he's better off taking train from NRT to Kyoto than going to HND then flying to Osaka and all that.

Last edited by evergrn; Sep 1, 14 at 7:38 pm
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Old Sep 2, 14, 1:13 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
Your #5.

Maybe SEA-SFO-KIX on UA. I know there are UA haters on FT but that SFO-KIX flight in J or F on the 787 is quite nice. rather faster than going through ICN and arrives at a convenient time to continue on to Kyoto immediately.
Totally agree. Have done just that a couple of times this year.
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Old Sep 2, 14, 8:02 pm
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Originally Posted by BH62 View Post
Totally agree. Have done just that a couple of times this year.
Thanks. Like that this gives me an evening in SFO, too, in the fall. But I'm a bit leery of UA's soft product. Unfounded?
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Old Sep 2, 14, 10:12 pm
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In my recent experience on UA, the customer service in flight is bad, the food is edible but not amazing, and the entertainment is pretty good. The flat bed seat on the 787 is really nice and sort of makes up for the deficiencies in the soft product.

JAL is considering restarting its LAX-KIX route in the near future, so that may also be an option by the time you travel.
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Old Sep 2, 14, 11:11 pm
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SEA-ICN on OZ is in slanty seats. You want NH if you value lie-flats, not OZ.

I enjoyed my trip earlier this year on NH SEA-NRT in C. Comparing the catering in UA F and NH C... I think NH's is better, but the UA F seat is better.
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Old Sep 3, 14, 12:09 am
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Originally Posted by EkekoBWI View Post
... But I'm a bit leery of UA's soft product. Unfounded?
I think it is very much variable. You can get a good crew but you could also get some of the ones who don't care. I have actually been pretty lucky in that regard. I never drink on long flights so can't speak to wine or liquor offerings. Food on the last few trips has been pretty good if unspectacular but I am easy to please.

All that said, it really doesn't matter much to me. International J or F is all about the seat for me. At 6'-5" 275, comfort and the ability to relax and lose myself in a book, movie or nap trumps everything else and the UA 787 works for me there. I was actually more comfortable on UA than on NH, although the service on NH is better.

I guess it all about what is important to you.
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Old Sep 3, 14, 1:53 pm
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Originally Posted by abmj-jr View Post
I think it is very much variable. You can get a good crew but you could also get some of the ones who don't care. I have actually been pretty lucky in that regard. I never drink on long flights so can't speak to wine or liquor offerings. Food on the last few trips has been pretty good if unspectacular but I am easy to please.
I guess it all about what is important to you.
As for food, on trips to/from Japan we pre-order the Japanese meal. Have posted in the past that it seems to be better ex-SFO vs ex-KIX, but I guess that depends on the catering origin & one's Western tastes. Since the OP is from SEA, as compared to Nishino the UA Japanese meal is a couple of steps below, but better than most of the alternatives on the menu.
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Old Sep 10, 14, 11:22 pm
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Originally Posted by BH62 View Post
As for food, on trips to/from Japan we pre-order the Japanese meal. Have posted in the past that it seems to be better ex-SFO vs ex-KIX, but I guess that depends on the catering origin & one's Western tastes. Since the OP is from SEA, as compared to Nishino the UA Japanese meal is a couple of steps below, but better than most of the alternatives on the menu.
Great, will keep that in mind.

And will keep an eye open for the return of JAL's LAX-KIX option.
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