Airports around Japan are looking empty amid the COVID-19 containment measures. Here are your options and rights if your flight to Tokyo is canceled or if you want to cancel your trip to Japan.
How do I know if my flight to Japan is canceled?
Generally, airlines will proactively send an email if you are booked on an affected flights. However, flight schedules can change at very short notice, so make sure to check at least 24 hours before your flight on the my trip/my booking page with your reservation number.
Does this mean I can’t travel to Japan at all anymore?
Generally, you can still travel to Japan. Most flights are not canceled because of travel bans, but because of lower demand for flights. Operating almost empty flights is not feasible for airlines (and a disaster for the environment), so operators are reducing and consolidating the number of flights.
However, if you are traveling from one of the following regions (as of March 19, 2020), you can not enter Japan or can only do so after undergoing quarantine measures:
People’s Republic of China – Hubei, Zhejiang
Republic of Korea – most regions
Islamic Republic of Iran – several regions
Italy – several regions
The Republic of San Marino – all regions
Switzerland – Ticino, Basel-Stadt
Spain – Navarre, Basque, Madrid, La Rioja
Iceland – All regions
See here for more details on regions.
Foreign travelers from/arriving from close to 40 countries will need to quarantine (as of March 21, 2020) for two weeks. Many European countries are on the list as it is currently the epicenter of the breakout. See the above link for the full list.
On a side note, airports are also reducing their overhead, so several shops at Tokyo’s Narita airport are either remaining closed or have changed their opening hours.
Refunds and reroutes: Your options and rights
The airline canceled my flight
If your flight is canceled, most airlines offer you three choices: reschedule your flight to a later date, receive a full refund or reroute.
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Reroute means that they will put you on a different flight to get you to Japan. Options include 1) a flight with the same airline, but at a different time or date, 2) a flight with one of their partner airlines, or 3) a flight with a stopover somewhere.
I want to cancel my flight
If you want to cancel your flight because you changed your travel plans due to coronavirus, a refund or reschedule will be subject to the goodwill of the airline’s cancellation policy. Some have extended their cancellation policy in the face of COVID-19 and are offering full refunds to passengers even if the flight is still scheduled as planned (e.g. Hawaiian Airlines have just expanded their cancellation policy to reflect that).
But others, like Lufthansa for example, currently only offer refunds on flights that the airline itself canceled or suspended.
Also note that cancellation grace periods vary from airline to airline! Some offer free cancellations and refunds for flights until the end of April, while others offer refunds for flights only up to the end of March.
Also, check if your travel insurance might cover for this case.
Which airlines are canceling flights to Japan now?
Most airlines are operating only half their fleet (or less) now. JAL and ANA announced further flight cuts to both their domestic and international travel network on March 13, 2020. United Airlines has currently paused all flights to Japan.
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Here is an overview of most American Airlines and their updated flight schedules.
Here is a short summary of the updated schedules of the biggest international carriers connecting Europe, Asia, and the Americas with Japan.
As the situation is still evolving, note that while this information was up to date when published, things might have changed in the meantime. For the most up to date information, always check with your airline.