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Travel to Japan, doing a Mileage Purchase? Is it a good idea?

Travel to Japan, doing a Mileage Purchase? Is it a good idea?

Old Sep 5, 2022, 6:55 pm
  #1  
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Travel to Japan, doing a Mileage Purchase? Is it a good idea?

Four of us are looking to go to Japan in March from the DC area and are trying to figure out whether to purchase miles to buy Biz award tickets. The non-stop RT cash fare is about $11k, one-stop on AC is $6k, and non-stop using 350k purchased miles is about $6k with UA's 100% mileage bonus through 9/21. Non-stop is much preferred, but price could go down. Thoughts?
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 7:00 pm
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Are you sure on that pricing for the award tickets? Be careful, the mile amount shown as the cost for the award tickets is a one way cost.
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 7:36 pm
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JPN Mileage Purchase?

Originally Posted by angetenar
Are you sure on that pricing for the award tickets? Be careful, the mile amount shown as the cost for the award tickets is a one way cost.
The fare is showing 175k miles + taxes each way.
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 7:42 pm
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Originally Posted by Charmcity
Four of us are looking to go to Japan in March from the DC area and are trying to figure out whether to purchase miles to buy Biz award tickets. The non-stop RT cash fare is about $11k, one-stop on AC is $6k, and non-stop using 350k purchased miles is about $6k with UA's 100% mileage bonus through 9/21. Non-stop is much preferred, but price could go down. Thoughts?
Appears the RT IAD-NRT non-stop is 350K.

Two potential issues
The max miles allowed to be purchased
  • Bonus miles count toward the 175,000-mile annual limit per account.
  • You may purchase up to 175,000 miles per account per calendar year.
You are right at the annual limit to make the purchase
Appears you can only purchase112,500 miles at a time so will take two purchases


So you appear to be OK, but miles and tickets will have to be purchased individually, not on a common PNR. Not a big problem but does make some people uncomfortable

Also, number of award seats available, but as these are JN tickets, at this point that should not be an issue

finally as JN tickets, these will generally be easily changed but you will be locked into purchasing thru UA as the mileage purchases are not refundable

Will the mileage required go down, it could but it could go up if Japan entry becomes easier and pent up travel resumes
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Sep 5, 2022 at 7:59 pm Reason: speller correction strikes
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Old Sep 5, 2022, 8:24 pm
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Originally Posted by Charmcity
Four of us are looking to go to Japan in March from the DC area and are trying to figure out whether to purchase miles to buy Biz award tickets. The non-stop RT cash fare is about $11k, one-stop on AC is $6k, and non-stop using 350k purchased miles is about $6k with UA's 100% mileage bonus through 9/21. Non-stop is much preferred, but price could go down. Thoughts?
When in March can you travel? I'm seeing one-stops in Business (via DFW) available for 120K AA miles on March 2 and 9. Several other dates available for 155K AA miles.

AA periodically runs sales on their miles too, but the sales are only available to those who have had AAdvantage accounts open for at least ~30 days. So if you and your traveling companions are not already AAdvantage members, I'd suggest signing up for free accounts now. And if you're all credit-worthy, getting the Barclays/AA credit card, paying the $99 annual fee, and making one purchase of any amount would get you 60,000 AAdvantage miles.

AAdvantage awards are fully refundable without a fee at any time up until departure. So if Business Class award seats were to become available on JL's JFK-TYO nonstops a few days before your departure date, you could cancel and rebook without a fee. But you'd have to get yourselves to JFK, unless AA also opened MileSAAver award space between DCA and JFK. Hard to predict what availability will be like next March, when entry requirements for Japan may be eased, but for next week, AA is offering JL First Class -- not Business -- for 80K AAdvantage miles on at least one date:




Both AA and UA offer one-way awards, so you might possibly fly AA in one direction and UA (or its partners) in the other, if necessary.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 1:38 am
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Be aware of current COVID restrictions in Japan. Only travel agency groups can enter Japan. What will happen in March is a guess, but if we get another COVID variant it can get ugly.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 5:08 am
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Originally Posted by Charmcity
The fare is showing 175k miles + taxes each way.
Ok I misunderstood; I thought you were getting award tickets for everyone.

If you're flexible in your dates, I'm seeing some non-stops pricing at 70k each way.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 5:09 am
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Originally Posted by Rpg101
Be aware of current COVID restrictions in Japan. Only travel agency groups can enter Japan. What will happen in March is a guess, but if we get another COVID variant it can get ugly.
See some of the recent discussion in the Japan forum; essentially there was a change that you need your itinerary approved by a travel agency, but they don't need to supervise you.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 5:14 am
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Travel to Japan, doing a Mileage Purchase? Is it a good idea?

Our dates are fixed due to travel schedule - depart 3/11, return evening of 3/21. I like the idea of splitting airlines, but only UA has the bonus mileage option for now. We are open to a combo of mileage/buying if it made sense. At $11-12k cash RT, I haven't figured out a good reason yet to buying a segment.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 5:26 am
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Originally Posted by Charmcity
Our dates are fixed due to travel schedule - depart 3/11, return evening of 3/21. I like the idea of splitting airlines, but only UA has the bonus mileage option for now. We are open to a combo of mileage/buying if it made sense. At $11-12k cash RT, I haven't figured out a good reason yet to buying a segment.
I am seeing 70k on the non-stop on 3/11. On 3/21, I also see a 70k but with a stop in EWR/IAH. I agree that those cash prices seem unreasonably inflated.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 7:41 am
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Originally Posted by angetenar
I agree that those cash prices seem unreasonably inflated.
Six months out, UA/NH see no reason to offer discount fares. Most travel to Japan is still need driven so the demand is fairly inelastic.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 7:45 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee
Six months out, UA/NH see no reason to offer discount fares. Most travel to Japan is still need driven so the demand is fairly inelastic.
It isn't just 6 months out though. I checked a random sampling of dates from November to next June and all the flights are pricing at this level: 2.5 for economy, 3.5-4k for pe, and 11-12k for business.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 7:53 am
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Originally Posted by angetenar
It isn't just 6 months out though. I checked a random sampling of dates from November to next June and all the flights are pricing at this level: 2.5 for economy, 3.5-4k for pe, and 11-12k for business.
So we can amend to just say flat out UA/NH see no need to discount with the current inelastic demand. Not quite so bad as the PVG fares, but same basic issue.
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 8:56 am
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Originally Posted by Rpg101
Be aware of current COVID restrictions in Japan. Only travel agency groups can enter Japan. What will happen in March is a guess, but if we get another COVID variant it can get ugly.
Japan just loosened requirements again and added a statement clearly directed at their elderly population fearful of the filthy infected Gaijin that "We will be aligning our covid measures with other G7 countries."

The absurd restrictions were kept in place for the election, in order not to lose the older vote. While anything can happen, barring any major developments it's highly unlikely to still be in place even as long as December.

The tourist sector begging for relief found that only a tiny number of people were willing to visit under the "Visiting North Korea" like restrictions for foreigners scheme started a few months ago.

Last edited by Ghoulish; Sep 6, 2022 at 9:02 am
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Old Sep 6, 2022, 11:03 am
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I am assuming $11K is for all travelers in business?

- Under normal conditions UA will have plenty of relatively reasonably priced award options to Japan. As mentioned above, since Japan is currently effectively closed, the availability is poor.

- I would normally expect a business award to price around 70-75K miles one way. So, 140K miles both ways, at 1.88 cpm that's about $2650ish. FWIW, pre-COVID that would also be a not-unusual cash ticket price (though may be not on UA or at least not bought directly from them). Buying cash has an advantage of earning miles, effectively discounting the ticket some. Are you looking at UA for a specific reason? Normally they would not be one's top choice of an airline, esp. to Japan (NH OTOH would be)

Cheapest miles to buy are Lifemiles, they also have better award pricing (but availability is very spotty). AC has better award options an better pricing (but not on sale right now). For United - 1.88cpm seems like too high of a price to pay for UA miles now (would have been great some years ago) - they are flexible for sure, but availability is on-and-off, and variable award pricing often is very suboptimal.

Personally, I would wait - March is far and there will almost certainly be other options. (Haven't been to Japan since the beginning of COVID, can't wait for them to reopen, fingers crossed)
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