Booking my first 787 Dreamliner flight


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.

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Yikes!

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!

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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.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

17 Comments

  1. Congrats indeed! I remember all the excitement during the SQ A380 inaugural flight in 2007 getting to me so much so that I ended up taking the plunge and buying some seats.

    Unfortunately, my visa for Australia didn’t come in time…

    Now reading this post again, I’m sorely tempted to try my hand at another inaugural flight.

  2. Looking forward to the photos! Any idea on the winter schedule of the A380? I’ve got an ANA award ticket from HGK-PEK-HND (waiting for the non-stop), and would love a chance to fly on the 787. When I checked on seats for the PEK-HND segment this evening, it told me the aircraft is scheduled to be changed, but did not say which one it would change to..

    1. Oops…that’s suppose to be 5,000 Yen in taxes. 😮

      It is billed as a “consumption” tax but it is waived for flights within 24 hours of arrival or departure from Japan.

  3. well done! I have been trying to work out how to get on the 787. I was trying for earlier. cross fingers no aircraft subs

  4. @abcx: It is only 800$ if you book on a foreign based website—they tend to price out as full Y. Booking directly on ana.co.jp generally lowers the cost dramatically.

    1. @Brian: When I was searching before only Y fares were available either through the US or other booking channels; I did search. I now see that some lower fare buckets have opened up on some days but it is still more than the Japan Pass cost (by about $100 return).

  5. Yeah, I was shocked at the price of the flights on that market as well. I guess they are heavily traveled and only the two carriers serve it. Glad you were able to get it down to something reasonable.

    Hiroshima is a very cool city and you’ll have a great time tooling around. They are very haute couture so its really nice.

    Awaiting pics :-). I’m always excited about the 787; been watching its “birth” for years now :-)… More than likely I’ll fly it if I win one of those tickets the Japanese govt. is giving away :-)…

  6. So I spoke with a few passengers on the flight (NH651/2NOV and NH654/2NOV) and one bought a 26,000 YEN flight and the other a 40,000 YEN flight.

    Apparently what ANA did was to offer a round trip 787 flight plus an overnight hotel stay in their hotel :). It was offered about a month or two ago I’m told. One guy I met was returning on my NH654 flight having flown on NH651 on 1 Nov. and the other was on NH651 on 2Nov as his first leg and was returning the next day on NH654.

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