With the Boeing 787 Dreamliner entering service in the next few weeks I’ve been quite excited about the opportunity to fly on it. Seats on the inaugural flight – from Tokyo to Hong Kong – are being auctioned off for charity and I’m quite certain I don’t have the scratch to make that work. Plus the dates for that flight wouldn’t work in my schedule. But thanks to a great sale fare from Seattle to China I’ve found a way to make it happen at a reasonable price.
The plan moved from the day dreaming phase to potentially real a couple weeks ago when a sale fare popped up between Seattle and Beijing. The timing on that deal was a bit tough – it only worked on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and had a 3-night minimum stay – but I had a few days at the end of October/beginning of November where it could fit in my schedule and the $400ish price tag was hard to complain about. At that point I was pretty much ready to go to China for a few days and wasn’t thinking much about the 787 options.
Then someone mentioned that the fare also permitted a stopover in Tokyo in either direction for only $100 more, Now it was getting interesting. I could get in a trip to China and a stop in Tokyo during the first week the 787 is supposed to be flying. Now the planning started to get interesting. I ticketed the Seattle – Beijing – Tokyo – Seattle flights and then started researching the 787 options.
I really, really, REALLY didn’t expect the fare to be so high. That was definitely putting a wrinkle in this master plan of mine. I found that I could get a one-way award ticket for only 6,000 points on the outbound flight to Hiroshima, saving $400, but the return flight was still full price. That was going to sting.
Fortunately, however, both ANA and JAL offer up Japan Air Pass tickets in conjunction with their alliance partners. These passes allow you to assemble domestic Japan flight segments in conjunction with an international itinerary at a much more reasonable rate. The Star Alliance version prices at ¥10,000 per segment, plus ¥50,000 in taxes per segment. Even better, the
¥50,000 ¥5,000 tax is not paid on any segment which is within 24 hours of the international arrival or departure. Since my total time in Tokyo is barely 40 hours it turns out that both of my domestic segments are within that threshold. All of a sudden I had hope for a quite reasonably priced adventure.
The challenge was not over yet, however. The Japan Air Pass on ANA requires inventory in the M fare bucket. This is a mid-level bucket on ANA so not impossible to find. In fact five of the seven outbound flights had the M bucket as an option for the day I was in town. Of course the one I wanted (the most reasonably timed flight in the morning) did not. Neither did the 787 flight from Haneda to Hiroshima. And for the return segment the Hiroshima to Haneda flight was also missing the appropriate inventory. Back to the drawing board. Sortof.
While considering whether paying the $400 was back to a viable approach for me I also figured that maybe I’d get lucky and that maybe the M inventory would open up. I set up an alert to watch that fare bucket and hoped that the email would come soon. Somewhat to my surprise, it did! A quick call to the folks at United Airlines (the Japan Pass is booked through the airline operating the intercontinental flight) and I had my seats reserved. It was going to take a few days for the rate desk to price it out but the seats were mine.
I called back a few days later as instructed and got the good news. That $800 plane ticket was mine for only $264.40. That’s 66% off. Woo hoo!
Sure, there is always the chance of an aircraft swap. And the day starts WAY too early so that I can also spend a few hours touristing about in Hiroshima. But overall I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity and about the price point at which I got everything put together. I’m also impressed that I finally found one of the regional passes where the fare makes sense. I guess there is a first time for everything.
A special thanks to the friends who suggested looking in to the Japan Air Pass option. Most excellent advice indeed.