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Getting around by air

Air services in Japan are extensive, reliable and safe. Flying is often faster and cheaper than shinkansen (bullet trains) and good for covering long distances or hopping islands.

All local carriers have websites in English on which you can check prices and book tickets.

Airlines in Japan

Japan Airlines, which includes Hokkaidō Air System (HAC) and Okinawa carrier Japan Trans Ocean Air (JTA), has the most extensive domestic network; All Nippon Airways is second.

Both All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) offer discounts of up to 50% if you purchase your ticket a month or more in advance, with smaller discounts for purchases made one to three weeks in advance.

Budget airlines run between major regional airports, including Narita, Haneda, Kansai, Naha and New Chitose, and offer prices often lower than discounted fares on JAL and ANA for the same routes.

Air Do (www.airdo.jp) Flights from Hokkaidō's New Chitose Airport to Sendai, Haneda, Nagoya (Chubu), Kōbe and to Hokkaidō regional airports.

Jetstar (www.jetstar.com) Destinations from Tokyo's Narita Airport and Osaka's Kansai International Airport include Okinawa (Naha), Sapporo (New Chitose) and Fukuoka.

Peach (www.flypeach.com) Good for flights out of Kansai.

Skymark Airlines (www.skymark.co.jp) Connects many regional airports; Tokyo routes fly in/out of Haneda.

Vanilla Air (www.vanilla-air.com) Destinations from Tokyo (Narita) include Okinawa (Naha) and Sapporo (New Chitose).

Passes & Discounts

  • Foreign travellers can purchase ANA Experience Japan Fare one-way domestic tickets for the flat rate of ¥10,800. For details, see www.ana.co.jp/wws/th/e/wws_common/promotions/share/experience_jp.
  • JAL's Visit Japan Fare offers a similar ¥10,800 flat-rate ticket for domestic routes to foreign travellers flying inbound on any Oneworld carriers. For details, see www.jal.co.jp/yokosojapan.
  • ANA Mileage Club members aged 12 to 25 years or over 65 can purchase discounted 'youth' and 'senior' same-day domestic tickets from ¥8000 (from ¥5200 for youth) to ¥22,000 per sector.
  • JAL's Okinawa Island Pass (www.churashima.net/jta/company/islandpass_en.html) makes island-hopping cheaper; it's only available for foreign visitors and must be purchased abroad.
  • Early morning and late-night flights are usually the cheapest.