What's a reasonable price range for airfare from New York to Tokyo?
November 29, 2013 10:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm traveling with a friend to Tokyo next year, May 24th to June 6th. I've had Orbitz, Expedia, Kayak and Skyscanner on heavy rotation for three weeks and the best price I can find for travel time shorter than 24 hours is about $1500 round-trip. I'd rather not get scolded by our friends for paying too much, and Googling "nyc to tokyo airfare price range" is giving me the equivalent of hearing "usual and customary" from my insurance company, so I am turning to MeFites for help. Possible pertinent details below the fold.

I've searched AskMe and gotten great general tips on getting to Japan, but the questions so far haven't quite matched mine, so I'm firing away.

We can't budge on leaving earlier than the 24th due to our schedules, if that makes any difference. Ideally, I'd like our flights to meet the following criteria:

Departure from either JFK or LGA
Departure from New York between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Arrival in Tokyo before 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 25th
One stop max in either direction. I'd prefer non-stop going to Tokyo because I'm terrified of us missing a connection.
Departure from Tokyo in late afternoon on June 6th (earlier is OK, but I'd prefer nothing before noon so we don't have to jump out of bed to get to the airport on time)

If the fact that we want to fly on Friday or Saturday is a factor in the high cost, that's understandable. I haven't been to Japan in 15 years and I paid through the nose for plane tickets back then, and I'd like to be smarter this time. Thanks!
posted by Recliner of Rage to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
$1500 is pretty reasonable.
posted by pravit at 10:23 PM on November 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah I think somewhere in the $1500-2000 range is about what you're going to find. You might luck out and pay $1400, but every time I've searched NYC>Tokyo airfares it's been close to $2000.
posted by Sara C. at 10:33 PM on November 29, 2013

yeeahh...that's about as far as you can travel on the globe (you might even be going over a pole...bring a camera, it's pretty)
thing is, you might be trying to buy a ticket too soon...IIRC the lowest rates are to be had approx 2 months before travel time, in general...what you might want to be googling is general travel purchase tips (as oppossed to NYC>Tokyo, specifically)
Are you only going to Tokyo or were you planning to travel within Japan? If so, you want to get your shinkansen (bullet train) rail pass BEFORE you go as it's not available within the country (it comes in various weekly increments and allows unlimited travel on the high speed trains...Kyoto is wonderful)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:05 PM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It seems high to me, BUT you've got to be flexible in terms of dates to get the best deal... I've flown a lot of miles and have seen flight prices differ by hundreds. You've got a lot of time, so keep looking. Prices change based on: fuel prices, Saturday stay, date you look, day of the week you book, cookies stored on your device, etc. I've flown (often further) between TX/CA and Tokyo/Beijing/Singapore/Bangkok for a lot less ($600-$1050). You might want to look into flying to the Bay Area for a night on the way there or the way back- breaking up the trip may be more difficult if you have a lot of luggage, but multiple reservations may save you a lot of money... Good luck.
posted by maya at 3:06 AM on November 30, 2013

In response to my June AskMe about getting from Seattle to Africa, b1tr0t put me on to Hipmonk. You can search using flexible dates (or not), the graphically displayed results make it easy to compare flight details and if you save the search they email you when fare prices change.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:57 AM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I use Google's ITA Matrix Airfare Search when pricing out options. Even using the "calendar of lowest fares" and removing a lot of your restrictions, any trip from NYC to Tokyo starting in the month after 24 May for 7–12 nights costs at least $1442.

You can wait and see whether prices change. It's possible that they will go down a little. It's also possible that they will go up a lot. It's not a bet I generally like to take.
posted by grouse at 6:14 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should also mention that if prices do happen to go down greatly, you can sometimes get a partial credit for the decrease. Assuming you are using nonrefundable tickets, the credit will be applicable to future travel and will be reduced by the amount of a change fee. Whether you can do this and the amount of the change fee varies based on the policies of the carrier and the individual fare rules.
posted by grouse at 6:23 AM on November 30, 2013

Not flown to Japan, but to Korea, which I think has similar fairs and I think 1500 is pretty reasonable.
posted by kathrynm at 8:32 AM on November 30, 2013

Orbitz has a thing where they will refund you the amount of the difference if the cost of a specific ticket you buy goes down after you buy it, but of course that doesn't apply to other airlines that might have sales, etc. The thing is, if you were flexible on your dates and times you could wait for one of those Travelzoo type specials to come along; but you aren't, and without that flexibility, $1500 is totally reasonable. It could go much higher.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:20 AM on November 30, 2013

I did a quick search on ebookers.com (which I've used several times successfully), and it seems that $1500 is the best rate for flights that are <24 hours travel time. There's an Air Canada flight, 15 hours, for about GBP1000. Looks like it fits your scheduling parameters.
posted by hawkeye at 10:44 PM on November 30, 2013

I suspect you're looking too far in advance. Generally speaking, long-haul international fares tend to be more expensive many months in advance and then go down (slowly) as you get closer to the dates of travel, before then going up again (significantly) for tickets purchased only a few weeks in advance. It's not your exact route, but see for example this reedit comment from a user who travels between Houston and Tokyo several times a year, and kept track of the fares for a single set of dates overtime. Fares started out at about ~$1800 at four months in advance, and then slowly dropped, bottoming out at ~$1200 five at weeks in advance, before then increasing to $2200 at two weeks in advance. That all being said, $1500 is certainly a reasonable fare for this route, especially if it's on one of the nicer Asian carriers like ANA, and if I liked the times and routings I would probably be tempted just to book it and be done with it. But I suspect it will go down a bit if you wait a couple of months.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 12:22 PM on December 1, 2013

Thanks all! I went ahead and booked for $1521 - it's a round-trip on United, but the flight there will have a crew from ANA, so I'm hoping it's worth it. I booked through Orbitz so I'm going to keep my eye on fare changes for my ticket.
posted by Recliner of Rage at 3:08 PM on January 6, 2014

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