The Japanese LCCs: StarFlyer

Maybe it was supposed to be the best product because it was also the hardest to get booked. That’s my theory for now with StarFlyer. For my flight from Fukuoka to Nagoya I decided to try the sleek-looking StarFlyer and ultimately was well rewarded, though the effort required to get there was more than even I could handle alone. Thank goodness for friends.

Much like my SkyMark booking efforts I was originally put off from the StarFlyer option due to price. I know LCC doesn’t necessarily mean cheap to the passenger but in this case the price was significantly higher than the competition, at least as seen through SkyScanner or OTAs. I tried booking direct instead, discovering a $75 one-way fare that was perfectly priced, but only available for tourists on a foreign passport visiting Japan for a short time. Again, perfect for me. So I tried booking it.

The StarFlyer site has an English option but it is not really functional. A combination of Google Translate, the Japanese site and more than a bit of luck got me through the process such that I had a reservation for my travel, but no ticket issued. When I tried to use my credit card to pay I got an error that translated roughly to “all lines are down.” That made no sense but three days later I was still getting that error. And none of the phone numbers I could find for StarFlyer would work via Skype. I was running out of options.

StarFlyer is known (among other things) for its black aircraft livery
StarFlyer is known (among other things) for its black aircraft livery

I put out a call to friends to see if anyone was in Japan with a local phone and/or credit card. Fortunately one was and less than 15 minutes later the booking was complete. The irony around needing someone local to book a visitor fare is not lost on me, of course.

Check-in is handled by ANA in Fukuoka which was fine, though again kiosks were of no help to me. I didn’t try my luck with the lounges because I wasn’t technically on a *A flight but they did call for priority boarding (which I used; maybe they just didn’t stop me because they were being polite to the foreigner). And once on board the most crazy thing: It was actually really nice.

Legroom, IFE, power and more. This is bizzaro-world for an LCC option
Legroom, IFE, power and more. This is bizzaro-world for an LCC option

Everyone had plenty of legroom. The seats had IFE screens and cup holders. It was some sort of bizzaro world I’d stumbled in to. And given that I hadn’t paid for extra leg room seats on this segment it was much appreciated.

I wish I could tell you something about the service on board, meals or anything other than the seat. I cannot. I passed out hard before takeoff and woke up on landing. I assume we flew a few hundred miles during that time and that things went well for the other passengers on board. I can only say that I slept great. In a coach seat. Hooray, jet lag!

I stumbled off the plane and over to the Toyoko hotel just adjacent to the airport for a much needed real bed.

Scoring the StarFlyer experience:

Buying tickets: 2/5

Impossible online with a foreign card. But the ability to get a “visitor” price was a nice win.

Check-in/preflight: 3/5

Mixed in with the regular ANA check-in so that was slightly confusing. But I also boarded when they called for Star Alliance Gold priority even though it wasn’t showing on my ticket.

On-board: 5/5

Tons of space for everyone. This was not a typical LCC experience at all. The looped IFE video is a waste but it is there.

Overall: 4/5

The on-board experience was great but hamstrung by the challenges buying the discounted fare. Probably not worth paying the “real” price they wanted without the tourist rate compared to other options, but with the discount (if you can get it issued) very much worthwhile.

More from my Japanese LCC Adventure

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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, and LinkedIn.


  1. I’m somewhat amazed by the sheer number of LCC’s flying around Japan these days. I lived in Japan for 3 years back in the 90s and the change is simply astounding! 15-17 flights a day just between FUK and NGO!

    You know, everybody and their brother crows about how great the mass transit/train system is in Japan. Shinkansen this, monorail that, yada, yada, yada. But the existence of these LCC’s must be saying something? I know the rail fares are high, but the fares are a function of economics, and those trains are full.

    We’ve got this push for hyperloop type transportation, high speed trains, etc here, but Japan, with an already exemplary system, must be telling us something.

    1. The trains are impressive, fast, convenient and ubiquitous. Japan is also pretty big with a high population density. My average flight was over 400 miles which means a few hours on the trains, even as fast as they are. And in come cases the train really isn’t a viable play thanks to separate islands, distances or otherwise.

      So planes work, complementing the rail system. They’re nicely integrated in many cases, with train stations at the airports and such.

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