Journey Into Japan - 2019
Air Travel

Thoughts on air travel between Denver and Japan

There are lots of alternatives and trade-offs: here are some lessons I've learned

Note: do not purchase airline tickets, using money or points, until the trip is confirmed a 'go' - that is, we have our minimum number of travelers. We wil send an email to confirm the trip is on when we have eight or more committed travelers.

  • The most convenient flight is the United Dreamliner (UA 139 out / UA 138 back).

    • But you miss out on the Japanese / Asian experience
    • And it is expensive
    • However: you can travel on United award points.
    • One couple booked the Dreamliner one way (Narita -> Denver) for 70,000 points (milage plus economy saver award) plus $77.20 total for the two of them. Very reasonable.

  • A popular alternative is to take United, Frontier, Southwest, or some other domestic airline to LAX (Los Angeles) and then fly Singapore Airlines to Narita

    • Singapore airlines is consistently rated one of the top airlines in the world
    • The flights are SQ 11 out and SQ 12 back; however, recently the schedule has changed so that the outbound flight is not very convenient to catch (leaves LAX at 10:00 a.m.)
    • Even though Singapore is a partner with United, you cannot use Mileage Plus points to fly on Singapore
    • A recent check (Dec 20, 2016) found round trip to be $738.30 per person between LAX and NRT; of course, prices change frequently

  • Another alternative is American Airlines, which partners with Japan Air Lines

    • You have to watch carefully: some flights are operated by AA, some by JAL; to get the Japanese experience you want the flights operated by JAL
    • For American you fly out of San Diego or Chicago (if you try other gateway cities you may end up going through these cities anyway).
    • (You can fly out of New York (JFK) or Newark, also, but this is really going out of your way - if you're Denver based.)

      • For this trip, one couple thought they'd try this one way: Denver to Narita, since they had American points to use up.
      • Imagine the surprise when they found they could do DEN -> PHX -> SAN -> NRT for just 50,000 award points (plus $11.20). It would cost the same for just the domestic part!
      • They booked this leg by talking to the AAdvantage desk (1-800-882-8880) since this routing did not show up online(!) A little scary.
      • So the airfare, roundtrip, to Japan on JAL, back on the Dreamliner, cost this couple $89 plus some points they had to spend anyway.

Special notes:

You might find cheaper seats by flying in a day or two early. If your schedule can accomidate that, and you're comfortable doing it, you should definitely examine that option.

Other options:

  • I got this lead from one of our homestay mothers: Scott's Cheap Flights
    (be sure to read their FAQ page carefully - lots of good information there)
  • Use the travel agent for our trip: M.E.M. Travel; call Yoshi, Maki, or Yumi
    at 303-295-1300 or email them at
  • HIS-World out of Las Vegas always seems to find inexpensive flights. Contact Aki Steware ( / 1-702-798-4210)
  • Use your own travel agent if you have one you have worked with in the past and like.
  • You don't have to do it yourself, online or otherwise - go with a professional.

If you do it yourself:

  • Watch out that the quoted travel time is in the 10-17 hours range; I've seen routings that take 29, even 52 hours with multiple stops and layovers!