Wide open United Airlines business class availability to Japan through 2022.

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United Airlines currently has oodles of Business Class Saver Award availability through the end of 2022.  Flights are available out of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver, in most cases with availability of 2 seats or more. (h/t: Thrifty Traveler Premium)

The new Polaris seat, not a bad way to get to Tokyo.

I’m a committed Japanophile.  It’s one of my favorite places on Earth, so my award ears always perk up when I hear rumors of good business class availability.  In this case, it isn’t just good, but pick-your-date fantastic.  Japan’s borders are closed to visitors through the end of February, so this might seem like an awkard time to be planning travel, but it’s likely that once the Omicron surge has crested, tourism will reopen.  While getting there for Sakura in March might be a gamble, it seems much more likely to be open for Summer and for Fall leaf season when the whole country becomes a multi-hued wonderland.

Rikugien Gardens in Fall

United is currently showing availability out of all three cities starting on March 4th and going to the end of the year.  All three flights are operated with 787-9’s, but the LAX flight is the only one that reliably features the new 23″ wide Polaris seat with direct aisle access and Saks bedding, a significant upgrade on the older planes that are often flying out of DEN and SFO.

Wide Open Availibility from LAX – TYO

How to Book

You can search for open dates a month at a time by looking directly on UA’s website site and selecting “flexible dates,” or search for an entire year at a time using Seat Spy.

Searching UA availability by month

If you recently signed-up for the United Miles Quest card or are planning on adding the United Business Card with the 150,000 point offer that Nick recently wrote about, you may have United miles to burn.  If so, burn ’em baby and grab ’em through United at 70,000 each way.  But the real magic happens when you book the very same United seats with ANA.

In comparison to United’s 140,000 roundtrip price (or 150,000 with Aeroplan), ANA charges just 85,000 miles round-trip for the those United flights between the US and Japan, one of the many ANA sweet spots worth drooling over.  ANA is a transfer partner of Membership Rewards and if you’re bathing in AMEX’s recent largesse through the Platinum Resy welcome offer or got on the Business Platinum bandwagon before the changed annual fee, you probably have enough for you and a lucky friend to get to Tokyo in style (or for the whole family if you bought a car with it).   Be aware that MR transfers to ANA usually take 2-3 days, award availability can change while you’re waiting and there’s a three year hard expiration from the date of transfer.

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jeph36

I just had to cancel a paid trip to Tokyo leaving Jan 30. They had some stupid cheap economy flights back in April – it was $225 ORD to NRT via DFW – and since I have never been to Japan (or Asia) I took a shot. It was Main Cabin too, so at least I still have the flight credit. I also had won some seat upgrades during AA’s giveaway last spring to have a little extra leg room on the long-hauls. Oh well, given the AA/SimplyMiles bonanza and an influx of MR over the last year, I will have to give it a go later, and perhaps in more style.

Anita

A fellow Japanophile here. I have cancelled 4 (award) trips to Japan since the pandemic started. I will probably book again, and if they remain closed, I’ll just cancel again. Japan was closed for 214 years-so this is nothing new for the country. It is still my favorite place to travel to, and I try to go every year.

When any of these closed countries open there will be huge demand, so I might as well take the bet. It’s easy to cancel. And ANA or UA miles can be used worldwide. These days any international booking is speculative. Will I test negative and be able to board? Will the country close at the last minute? Will I test positive and not be able to return as planned? Even with the hassles, I’d much rather travel than not travel, and for less miles, of course.

Marc Correra

United Airlines also seems to have added a lot of Business Class Saver Award availability to Europe out of Los Angeles and New York. 

Peter

How would this LAX UA Polaris hard product stack against JL 787 Apex Suite or the old ANA biz (supposing no contest vs. “The Room”)?

Amy

I have a trip to Japan on 3/1 booked with Virgin Miles–which I have to reschedule. When I check award availability via the United web site I only see ANA economy in Sept and Oct. Is there a better way to search for BIZ or FIRST on ANA?

Billy Bob

One problem with business class these days: the FAs have more time to keep both eyes on you while you remove your mask to sip something, eat something or even to adjust it. On one long-haul AA flight in which I was in 1A, I had a FA admonish me for not replacing my mask between bites! She forced me to chew all masked up, whereas I could bite without a mask (thank goodness). Next business class long-haul I booked 4A – the seat angled inward toward the window, for a little more ‘breathing room’.
Another FA came over and suggested that I keep an unfinished glass of wine on hand. It was good advice and I used it in economy recently and was left alone to breathe. In my case, a bottle of Afrin is necessary for my regular USA-Asia flights.
You might get more peace in economy these days vs the constant attention in business when you’re just trying to eat comfortably – i.e., not with one hand on the food and the other constantly shifting the mask.
Something to think about.

Parts Unknown

None of that happened.

Drew

“Japan’s borders are closed to visitors through the end of February…[because of] Omicron… [but] it seems much more likely to be open for Summer and for Fall leaf season when the whole country becomes a multi-hued wonderland.” -Tim Steinke

Really? Similar things were said around this time last year. But guess what? Japan tightened their borders and never reopened. Last year was the Delta. This year is the Omicron. Who knows what it will be next.
Unless you hold a magic ball, please stop pushing travel to countries you know very little about. Please.

Last edited 8 months ago by Drew
Pete

The great thing about award flights is that they can often be canceled and miles redeposited without much of a fee (esp with elite status), so I for one appreciate updates on award availability.

Drew

And, the other great thing about award flights is that the airline can devalue their award chart at anytime, which will affect you if you have to cancel your flight because Japan hasn’t reopened their borders, or you will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine at your own expense that no vacationing traveler wants. But, this author makes no mention of that, misleading FM’s readers into believing they can actually vacation in Japan like any other year.
Additonally, people who have no UA miles in their account are led to believe they can go to Japan this year without quarantine. Therefore, they transfer UR points into their account and book an award ticket that will be ultimately cancelled. Now their 140K miles are sitting there until UA devalues their award chart, leading for the need to have 200K miles for the same trip. Now this unsuspecting FM reader must deposit an additional 40K miles for the same flight, if it ever happens.

Last edited 8 months ago by Drew
Pete

I’m not sure what canceling a flight because a country has not reopened has to do with a 14 day quarantine? Right now Japan is closed. I have a trip booked later this year in the hopes it will open. If it doesn’t, I will cancel. Simple enough.

And you keep talking about seem a devaluation. Do you have some insider info that you would like to share? If not, then you seem to be also needlessly misleading readers too.

Drew

How am I misleading readers when I’m providing potential pitfalls of gambling on an award ticket by transferring miles to the account? Many readers don’t have thoudands of UA miles to burn. They have to transfer them from Chase.

Open borders mean nothing if you’re subjected to a 2-week mandatory quarantine. I guess Americans don’t understand this simple concept.

Billy Bob

I have been saying this for two years now:
The whole COVID mania will run 5-6 years. We’re only two years in, so we’ve got four (at least) years to go. There will be new variants, new lockdowns, new rules, country closings, and vaccine passports.
Masks on planes are forever. No one will ever fly again without a mask. It’s like smoking on a place and keeping your shoes on through security – gone forever.

Bill

Uh, it’s called precheck, you whiny man child.

Jed

I wish they would do a vaccine passport, keep all these horse dewormer eating piss drinking mouth breathers at home and let the rest of us live our lives in peace

Kim

I agree with posts re award availability. I have planned/cancelled 2 trips, and I have 2 trips on the books hoping that Marhc or May will work..

SMR

This is hilarious ! I mean… that’s like saying free trips to North Korea. It’s probably easier to get to NK than Japan. So who cares about open mileage seats to Japan !?

Drew

Agreed. The author is just pushing credit card miles. I understand that’s the point of this website, but let’s be realistic: Japan is not opening up their borders any time soon. And even if they do, you’ll be subjected to a 10-day mandatory quarantine (prison) at your own expense. Who wants to vacation to Japan so that they can be stuck in a room all day? The author did not properly research this before writing the article.
EDIT: 14-day quarantine, not 10 days.

Last edited 8 months ago by Drew
Dick Bupkiss

Great availability to Australia, too. Just ask Novaxx!

Billy Bob

But you must buy a same-day round-trip, I hear.

CericRushmore

It’s funny you say that. I have a trip to Australia planned n August/Sept. Any guesses out there if that will happen?

Kim

I am confused by the mention of ANA at the end of the post. Is the point just that it is a better deal or are you saying that the availability on United has some connection with availability on ANA? If the latter, why not mention JAL, which can be booked with AA miles that people are flush with from the Simply Miles promo and likely is a better deal than United?

Gio

Agreed very confused about the ANA mention!

Pete

He mentions it because you can use ANA miles to book the same United flights. And if can commit to a round trip booking it is only 85k instead of 140k United miles. This post is about United availability, nothing to do with AA.

Kim

Thanks, Pete! It wasn’t clear to me in the post.