Looking to fly from London to Tokyo? Read our guide on how to do so cheaply—written by someone who has made the trip many times!
Quick tip: Getting an air miles credit card, like the BA Amex card is a must, but travel hacking aside (more below), there are usually some standard cheap flight options to get yourself from London to Tokyo.
You’re pretty likely to save at least 30% off the cheapest direct flight fares if you choose a transfer flight via one of the cheaper routes/airlines. Unfortunately these transfers can be quite laborious with the extra travel time and sometimes extreme distance they add to your journey.
Aeroflot (on whose flights I hear it is customary for people to clap on successful landing) is a cheap Russian carrier and is regularly your absolute cheapest option for flying between Japan and Europe. Since direct flights fly over Russia already, the Areoflot route doesn’t add much extra flight time, but the layovers in Moscow can be rather lengthy.
There are often other European carriers running sales or longer-term cheaper pricing in a pitch to get more business—generally flight comparison tools will uncover these. These are usually the most comfortable transfers with more reasonable overall flight time and waiting time.
Many of the airlines via the Middle East such as Qatar Airways and Etihad are very cheap (cheap oil) and rather luxurious. Of course the big caveat is the massive increase in journey time—usually around one 7-hour and one 9-hour flight, plus waiting time.
|London Gatwick => Tokyo Narita||Air China||£458.00||Jan 10, 2024||Booking options|
|London Stansted => Tokyo Narita||Ryanair||£536.00||Dec 05, 2023||Booking options|
|London Heathrow => Tokyo Haneda||China Southern||£566.00||May 18, 2024||Booking options|
|London Gatwick => Tokyo Narita||easyJet||£598.00||Apr 11, 2024||Booking options|
|London Gatwick => Tokyo Narita||China Eastern||£606.00||Dec 31, 2023||Booking options|
|London Luton => Tokyo Narita||Wizz Air UK||£714.00||Dec 12, 2023||Booking options|
Direct flights from London to Tokyo
If you prefer to pay a little extra in return for a shorter more comfortable trip, then you’ll need to put your travel-hacking hat on. Apart from changing your dates to a less-popular time to fly (flying in winter is cheapest), or changing your destination to a different airport (taxes vary by country/airport), you’ll need to swot up on travel hacks and travel miles loop holes—see the tips below.
|London Heathrow => Tokyo Haneda||British Airways||£897.00||Feb 03, 2024||Booking options|
|London Heathrow => Tokyo Haneda||ANA||£1,274.00||Jan 05, 2024||Booking options|
Standard travel hacking tips
Travel hacking is both an art and science. There’s a whole industry around it, so if you’re a travel hacking newbie, then we definitely recommend reading up beyond this article. But here are some fairly basic tried and tested tips:
- Make sure you are racking up travel miles that go toward useful airlines (i.e. airlines that go to destinations you want to go to).
- Ideally, you’ll register for travel miles accounts with each major airline group so you’re always collecting miles.
- Have a credit card that collects miles as you spend. For Brits, the best card is probably the British Airways AMEX card, with no annual fee and generous air miles sign up bonus.
- It’s usually cheapest to book flights departing mid-week, and best to search roughly two months in advance.
- Learn how to use all the flight comparison tools.
- If you have flexibility, be sure to try various permutations of your desired dates—sometimes a 15 day return will cost substantially more than 14 days, or leaving/returning Tuesday will be 30% cheaper than Wednesday.
- Set up flight price alerts (using Kayak for instance) so you’re saving your time as well.
- Familiarize yourself with normal pricing for the route you are flying (so you can quickly spot a bargain).
Extra tips for people living in Japan
There’s a few differences when booking flights in the opposite direction (i.e. a return flight starting in Japan).
Seasons and holidays
Peak season for Japanese travel is in the summer months, with winter being by far the cheapest time of year to fly to the UK/Europe. There are also a few specific holidays around which prices surge and fall. If you’re flexible, fly outside these times to get cheaper tickets, otherwise make sure you book well in advance for these holiday dates.
If possible travel after or before Golden Week (April 29-May 5), you’ll see flight prices easily double around this time. But they quickly drop back down again, so—once again—if you’re flexible, avoid Golden Week!
Similarly, many people fly back home (to Europe) for Christmas, and also Japanese people taking off on holiday over the New Year break. You can usually find cheap tickets if you travel against the normal flow. For example, arrive in the UK way before Christmas (early December) and leave the UK just after Christmas (most people stay for Christmas and NYE). Leave Japan after the New Year Holidays are over—after the 5th of January.
Using Japanese booking systems
Probably the biggest money saving tip is very simple (but maybe not easy)—use the flight search tools (Skyscanner, Kayak, etc.) with language set to Japanese. Many of the cheapest return flights out can only be purchased via a Japanese booking system, so the flight comparison tools won’t display these if you search in English.
|Tokyo Narita => London Gatwick||Air China||¥91,979||Dec 20, 2023||Booking options|
|Tokyo Haneda => London Gatwick||China Eastern||¥96,590||Jan 17, 2024||Booking options|
|Tokyo Haneda => London Heathrow||British Airways||¥100,442||Jan 31, 2024||Booking options|
|Tokyo Narita => London Heathrow||SriLankan Airlines||¥107,650||May 16, 2024||Booking options|
|Tokyo Haneda => London Heathrow||China Southern||¥116,236||Mar 05, 2024||Booking options|
|Tokyo Narita => London Heathrow||Malaysia Airlines||¥124,372||Jan 25, 2024||Booking options|
If you’re not used to the character-building experience of booking on a Japanese website in Japanese, then definitely have a native (or experienced) Japanese speaker on hand to help. Or in a real pinch, there’s always Google Translate.The good news is, once you have made the booking you should be able to take your booking reference and then manage your booking through the airline’s English website or app. For example, if you book a British Airways flight via a Japanese booking site, you can just plug the 6-digit reference into the “Manage My Booking” section on their website and check in, order special meals, etc., as normal. If the Japanese booking system doesn’t make the booking number available or obvious, just contact their support and they will provide it.