Editor’s note: This is the first post of our Asia contributor, Jen. Jen and I met in Germany where we both lived in 2008 and now she currently lives in Japan. An avid traveler, she loves to explore Asia, taking advantage of Japanese Low Cost Airlines with her lovely family on weekend trips and family vacations. Headed to Japan? You can discover the Land of the Rising Sun and its neighbors for less than you may think! Her tips:
I moved to Japan 2 years ago and vowed to see it all…and experience the vast culture within the land of zen, beauty, and tradition. With the help of low-cost carriers, it is possible to travel the nearly 2,000 miles from snowy Hokkaido in the north to beautiful sub-tropical Okinawa in the south relatively inexpensively. LCCs in Japan are safe, reliable, and operate fleets of new aircraft.
Guide to Japanese Low Cost Airlines
Jetstar Japan flies to over 11 destinations within Japan using a fleet of 18 A-320s. I have traveled from Okinawa to Tokyo (Narita) as well as Osaka (KIX) on this airline. Both flights were pleasant and comfortable with leather seats. Many snacks, including shrimp chips and curry buns (almost like a panko donut filled with curry – amazing!), are offered for sale on board, as well as soft drinks, cocktails, Jetstar keychains, and a plush Jetta Red Panda, the mascot.
Service is offered to several smaller airports in Kyushu, such as Oita, Kagoshima, and Kumamoto. Because they are owned by Qantas and Japan Airlines, they also offer international flights partnered with JetStar Group’s subsidiaries to Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Hong Kong (most of these international flights will require a stop in Tokyo).
Skymark operates an all Boeing 737-800 fleet out of Haneda which is Tokyo’s city airport (Narita is 85 km away; Haneda only 25 km). Of the Japanese LCCs, Skymark has one of the largest fleets at 27 airplanes and has the largest route network.
They are the dominant carrier into Kobe (the world’s best beef!) and fly into other smaller airports including Kagoshima, Nagasaki, and Sendai. Sometimes it’s fun to just pick a cheap flight to a destination you didn’t even know you wanted to go! If you find a good price and have a sense of adventure, why not? The odds are that you’ll experience something fabulous.
A cool feature of booking flights with Skymark is that you can pay in cash or with credit at local konbini (convenience stores) such as Family Mart, 7-Eleven, and Lawson.
Vanilla Air is another great travel option. Owned by ANA, flights normally range from JPY 4990 (~$42 USD) to JPY 10,000 (~$83 USD) one way, depending on season and destination. They fly a small fleet of 8 A-320s to major destinations such as Tokyo and Sapporo but also internationally to Hong Kong, Taipei, and even Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
On-board they offer a variety of snacks and drinks. One tasty option is the Okinawan specialty, Goya Chanpuru – stir-fry consisting of vegetables with rice and goya (bitter melon). Oishii!
Solaseed flies in and out of Haneda mostly to the Kyushu region at the southern tip of mainland. For tourists classified as “temporary visitors” and non-Japanese passport holder, Solaseed offers a “VISIT JAPAN” fare for JPY 10,500 (~$88 USD) per flight for all routes. Fares and flights are available on a stand-by basis only. While not as convenient, it’s great for anyone who has the time to go wherever, whenever. More details about this fare can be found on Solaseed’s website.
Based out of Osaka with hubs in Okinawa and Tokyo as well, Peach is my favorite Japanese Low Cost Airline. They have a great schedule and offer 15 destinations on an all A-320 fleet throughout mainland Japan and internationally to South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Peach offers discount train tickets available for purchase in-flight for Osaka and Tokyo sightseeing.
My family (husband and 2 girls) has gone to Osaka, Ishigaki (service no longer offered), Fukuoka, and Taipei with Peach. All airfare costs per round-trip have been under $400 total for the four of us. They’re practically giving the tickets away. Peach’s pink, purple, and white color scheme is fun. They have also been known to be super generous and hand out stickers when certain children get rowdy!
Their on-board services are unique too, incorporating seasonal items. For summer, try the Sparkling Peach Rose or cool off with Peach Ice Milk. Cosmetics, fragrances, and Peach-themed accessories round out their offerings.
Most often, LCCs are subsidiaries of major airlines and are therefore able to provide air travel at a discounted price. LCCs may travel out of remote gates which require you to walk outside or take a shuttle to your flight. Also, you’ll likely end up paying for any extras such as checked luggage, snacks, and beverages. Pack light or prepay for luggage as it is much cheaper. Maybe shove a snack and drink in your carry-on before you board from any one of many konbini in the airport. Low fares make up for the lack of “extras” and leg room (if you’re over 6 feet tall like my husband) but absolutely do not compromise safety standards in getting you to your destination.
Whether you want to surf, snorkel, and relax on wild beaches in Okinawa; ski and hike in Sapporo; visit temples and experience old Japan in Kyoto; or hit up nightlife, high-end shopping, and the world’s best restaurants in Tokyo, LCCs have got you covered. Have you tried a Japanese Low Cost Airline? Which one? Tell us about your experience!
*(All Japanese LCCs fly in/out of Okinawa where I am based.)
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