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. This article was last updated on April 9, 2020 to reflect the newest entry regulations by the Japanese government.
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?
In principle, some people can still travel to Japan. Most flights are not only canceled because of travel bans, but also because of the generally decreased demand for flights with dozens of countries globally in lockdown. 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 during these times.
However, if you are traveling from one of the dozens of countries flagged for covid-19 by the Japanese government (as of April 3, 2020), you can not enter Japan.
The full list can be viewed here, and includes all EU nations, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the US. Even if you aren’t a national of the listed regions, but have visited any of them in the past 14 days, you will also be denied entry.
It is further stated that if you arrive from any other country, you will be asked to quarantine for 14 days, at a location designated by a quarantine officer and to refrain from using any public transport.
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.
Important: Your resident visa for Japan might be temporarily suspended
If you are a Japan resident, take note: Your work, student, spouse, and even certain times of permanent residence visas currently do not guarantee your re-entry into Japan if you decide to leave and come back. The short version in English can be viewed on this site by the Japanese government (despite clearly being aimed at foreigners, the full version is available in Japanese only).
The gist is that if you leave on a multi-entry visa and return to Japan on or after April 3, you might be denied entry if you have been to any of the dozens of countries listed above as corona hotbeds, including the US, Canada, and most EU countries. Further, you will be asked to quarantine for 14 days if returning from any other country not on the list.
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.
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.
None of those options should cost you extra, but check with your airline and also check your passenger rights. Here are the rights for EU passengers and these are the rights of US travelers.
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.
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.