I took frequent day trips to New York during the pandemic, taking advantage of low fares and easy upgrades to enjoy hours of uninterrupted time to work and reflect. I’ve also done some crazy mileage runs, including to Sydney. But I recently did another run, this time to Tokyo Narita for a delicious lunch in the ANA Lounge.
Los Angeles To Tokyo On United Airlines For Lunch In The ANA Lounge
I’m not sure whether I’ll re-qualify for top-tier status this year with United Airlines. I’ve had Premier 1K status for many years, but this is shaping up to be a very odd travel year with a period of intense international travel using miles, followed by what will likely be a summer and autumn spent at home.
While it isn’t clear how much I’ll be able to travel on United for the remainder of the year, I do wish to enjoy 1K status while I have it and I still love flying for the sake of flying. Recently, I took advantage of a cheap fare (walk-up economy class round trip fares between Los Angeles and Tokyo have been running under $600) to do a day-trip to Tokyo. I even considered taking my son Augustine, though he simply would have plastered himself to the in-flight-entertainment for 20 hours, so we decided to save the money. I look forward to actually taking him to visit Tokyo and Osaka.
PlusPoints were available to upgrade to business class with immediate clearance. The trip took place just before the Polaris Lounge in Los Angeles reopened, or that would have been icing on the cake.
The flight to Tokyo on United was just fine. I did not sleep, deliberately. Service was kind, I had some lunch, worked for several hours, and then ate again. The flight passed by very quickly and as I powered down before landing, I was pleased at everything I had accomplished on the flight.
My last trip through Tokyo was via Haneda Airport…this time, it was nice to be back in Narita. I find the ANA terminal (T1) much nicer than the JAL terminal (T2), though most things were closed.
During my layover, I enjoyed some noodles and a lovely glass of Suntory World in the ANA Lounge. What a fabulous lunch.
Soon, it was time to board my flight back to Los Angeles. That’s where the real surprise awaited me.
I enjoyed a trip to Tokyo for lunch in the ANA Lounge. It was fun to do one of these trips again (I can’t do them to New York anymore…the 757-200s running to JFK are suddenly a very difficult upgrade to score) and I hope that as time permits and fare remain low (they won’t), I can trips like this again.
And a p.s., the flights were virtually empty and would have run without me. Let’s avoid the carbon footprint lecture.
Matthew, how did you bypass customs and end up back airside? Did you go through the transiting passengers lane with a boarding pass for the return flight?
That whole setup is gone. You enter from the jetbridge into the terminal now if transiting. No security re-check. No customs. No boarding pass check.
Hello, I am a fellow avid traveler but just a beginner. I can relate to you alot and also how traveling renews one’s soul. I’m just going through the comments but I’m sad to see all the negative comments. Do your thing forget about what anybody thinks. With regards to your business not doing so great, such is life. Things are not always smooth on this journey called life but don’t give up. Better days are coming. Don’t give you are going to make it through. I look forward to reading more about your travel experience while gaining new ideas like this one. For every hater there is a cheerleader. Kindness will win everytime.
How long was the layover? What about testing requirement for Tokyo and reenter the US?
Three hours in NRT. I checked in at LAX for both legs and received both boarding passes after providing my negative COVID-19 test. I did not have to deal with any UA agents at NRT.
Since entry to Japan is currently restricted for travelers from the US, what was the situation like when you checked in at LAX? Did you just explain that you were turning around and coming back to the US?
Entry to Japan is restricted for all nonresident foreigners from all countries.
You’re making it sound as if US citizens can enter Japan even as tourists.
No idea where you got that idea from but it is, of course, incorrect. Hence, the empty planes & cheap fares that were mentioned.
Not sure I want to requal for 1K this year. After yet another poor service/worse food round trip across the Atlantic last week, it’s wearing me down.
What a great idea. Flying to TYO for lunch at the airport.
What was the big surprise on your return? Or does that come in another report?
That will come in the next segment! 😉
What a loser! From your picture, the biggest achievement of your life is to get a business class seat using cheap points. Someone serve you, oh, you are somebody.
Yes quite a loser indeed. He touts his productivity on the plane. I’m sure he accomplished very important things.
You sound jealous lol
I’m just amazed that you’ve written that your business failed, that times have been tough (economically I presume) as a result, and that trip reports like this aren’t profitable, yet you’re still spending cash on trips to nowhere.
bahahahahah.. tooo funny. Seems like he wants an escape from his life?
Oh, it’s not that bad. But after all these years I still enjoy flying for the sake of flying.
My kids learned in pre-school a very valuable message: “Mind your own business.”
Well my kids learnt from Bismarck ,who said — ‘Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others’.
Yes, Bismarck never made mistakes.
What an asinine thing to say. If we all minded our own business we wouldn’t be reading this blog.
We’ve all done these kind of trips, you’re not impressing anyone.
I’m certainly not trying to impress pricks…
I don’t get to travel anymore, but I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Every time you pop up on my newsfeed I’m happy to see where you have been. I don’t understand why people are so impolite. I suppose they didn’t have parents that taught them manners. Maybe that’s just me..
Thanks for the excellent report Matthew. Having transited NRT so many times, very strange to see that terminal so empty.
Have you ever been seen as “suspicious” or been pulled aside by immigration personnel for these unconventional mileage runs and trips?
Not in the USA since I have Global Entry.
I was in Cuba, once:
Sounds fun! I haven’t been on a long flight in years. With the points I’m sitting on and the relatively empty flights, maybe I’ll just enjoy a weekend in the air! If I fly AA, I’ll probably pack my own meals
This actually sounds like a great way to spend a weekend. I may do the same thing soon. I didn’t realize a turn straight back to the USA would be allowed. Is it really as simple as just having a Covid test to board your flight back to the USA?
No more sundae cart?
Not since March 2020.
“… hours of interrupted time…”
We really could do without looking at that smug face of yours. Oooh look at me I just wanted to fly business class for some lunch at Tokyo then come back.
Easy solution for you – click away.
General aviation pilots talk of the $100 hamburger (flights to anywhere to keep their logbook active). Sounds like you did the frequent flyer’s version of that, priced a tad higher. 🙂
Do you know the maximum time you can be in transit? For that price I might fly there and have my brother who lives in Japan fly over to meet me at the Airport for lunch since I can’t enter to visit properly. Haha.
Your transit must be same-day. The airport apparently shuts down at night so unlike Haneda, no overnight transit is allowed.
But how will your brother get to you? Buy a ticket and then cancel? He’ll have to exit the country via immigration.
Matt, ignore the douches. Reports of actual flights and hotel stays are always appreciated
I hope you are buying whisky on these trips. That wound pay for them alone.
You mean from duty free?
There’s really nothing in the Narita duty free shops that you can’t get in the US, albeit a little cheaper in Japan.
They don’t exactly have hibiki 17 sitting around anymore.
I did this many times and want to again. How hard and cost of covid test to come back into stated. U only got like 3 hrs
I done that many times before covid. Once in Japan can u use the test you got in USA to get back to usa
Just get the COVID test in USA before your trip. It is valid for two calendar days. No need to get test during layover in Japan.
Thank u. I am an ual employee for 30 years I did those trips always to study. Best way. To work and study
Hi! I am thinking about replicating your round trip next week. Current US Covid rule is a negative test within 1 day of travel to US. Did you take a test just before LAX departure to meet the timing? Did gate agent in NRT check docs as you bypassed the ticket counter? Thanks for great articles!
Yes, I took test in LA the day before and it worked like a charm (though just in case, I took another the day of travel just in case they were very strict in Tokyo). Wasn’t necessary. They looked at the test in LA and not again in Tokyo – both boarding passes has the “Travel Ready” message on them.
Matt, thanks for the trip reports. Really not sure why some people have an issue with you taking a trip. This is a travel blog after all.
Please post more and ignore the trolls!
I liked your article until the p.s. at the end.
Since you are aware of the CO2 impact of such trips, either don’t mention it at all or compensate the emissions as a first step. But your “rational” doesn’t work. If the plane would have been empty, and maybe empty again next week, etc. eventually, the plane wouln’t take off at all.
Plane is full of cargo – would take off with or without passengers. But I recognize your point.
You do? I thought it was complete nonsense. So no passengers equals no flights equals no planes and no employees at the airline, plane maker, airports etc. And we all live happily ever after.
And yet he’s reading an air travel blog.
I appreciate that he acknowledged it. There’s something deeply unsettling about all the unnecessary flying happening worldwide, and making it popular will have knock on effects as more people start looking for these fares.
One thing I would say. Every person on that plane could say the same thing. “This plane was flying anyway, my carbon cost is zero!” The cargo shipper could say the same thing. “The plane is already going, the carbon cost of shipping some fresh cut flowers is basically zero!”
When a plane flies, the carbon cost is rightly assigned to everyone and everything on that plane equally. Including the paying, and thus revenue boosting, flyers to nowhere.
What is a good place to get a covid test if you are flying from LAX? I am going to Dubai shortly and if you want to visit the mosque over there, they still require a covid test that was taken within 4 days.
I did the testing site at LAX outside by the T7 garage. It was like $100 but was super quick and easy. Did this last year when I went to Hawaii and they still required tests, so pricing could have changed.
An update for you guys is that United plans to resume full meal service in Polaris on all TATL routes starting May 1. Dessert carts will return as well as plated meals instead of the casserole dish. There will be a multi-course with appetizers being served first instead of all on one tray.
Great news! Thanks for sharing.
This is not just an environmental issue, I’m here seething at the algorithm having placed in my news feed not just the privilege of but the sheer audacity to waste such a great deal of time and money on something so quaint, and a bunch of wealthy simps here in the comments looking to do the same. It perfectly captures what a dystopia the lower class lives in.
So what, in your opinion, would be an acceptable way for us to spend our money and time?
Correction re: “General aviation pilots talk of the $100 hamburger (flights to anywhere to keep their logbook active).” The “$100 hamburger” refers to flying yourself (and paying for fuel) someplace relatively nearby just to have a meal. Flights to anywhere for logbook activity are more likely to be called “making holes in the sky”. I fly one of the smallest GA airplane types, $100 is about 1.4 hours in fuel costs, plus insurance, maintenance, tie down/hangar and (replacement) engine reserve so maybe an hour of actual flight time, 100 miles from home base at best.
Matthew, keep up the good work, don’t let the trolls and AlphaHotels get you down. Intelligent people know that your vocation requires things like LAX-NRT for lunch. Your “I’m certainly not trying to impress pricks…” is outstanding, thank you. Re: (from a different post’s comments) “You poor man. Whether you are trolling or fearful, it makes me very sad. We’ll all light a candle for you.”, please don’t include me in that candle lighting, trolls don’t deserve candles. Do unto others, they certainly wouldn’t light a candle for you.
Wouldn’t a $600 fare net you like 400 PQP’s only though? How is this worth it?
No doubt it didn’t net 500 PQPs, but I struggled to even meet the 36 segment minimum last year (to avoid the full PQD threshold). Truthfully, it was just cool to fly on an empty plane to Japan and back. And it was highly-productive.
Maybe I missed something but why would you do this when you can’t even enter the country to enjoy some fabulous sushi? $600 is not going to get you much in the way of EQD or EQP or whatever they call it now. Does not seem worth the aggravation but I guess if you have time and $$ to kill…
It is not at all clear that 1K will be worth much next year (it has not been worth much for some time due to all the GS on the West Coast). We are currently 11-14th on the upgrade list using PP/miles for an upcoming transcon. There were 10 seats open before the GS window, now 0.
I’m just shocked that United actually served you real Champagne by a decent maker and not “sparkling wine” or budget Prosecco.
Now that US has moved to its revenue system, why didn’t you simply buy a $600 ticket from LAX to SAN and be done in two hours? In other words, since it’s the spend that matters, and not the distance, why fly to Tokyo for lunch, instead of San Diego?
I did the same thing last month. San Francisco to Singapore for lunch with United Polaris both ways. I might try Narita next month 🙂
Cool! How was new SQ lounge?
Nice but very empty. I’m looking forward a couple more mileage runs this year since I’m close to hit 1 million miles. Great idea on Narita. I’m sure the flights from SFO are pretty empty and upgrades should clear right away
I am a bit surprised that United let you board in LAX, as the Japanese rules talks about transit to 3rd countries. While it should not really matter, the letters of the rules are what they are.
But good thing there were no issues.
Perhaps a deal with United Airlines? I’d say half the flight was transiting to Guam, which is also a US-US connection.
Guam is a bit special in that context. Being a territory rather than a state. Though interestingly enough you can transit as 3rd country seen from Japan’s perspective yet fall under cabotage rules if you did the routing on JAL or ANA. Fun stuff….
But apart from United, no one would check your US to US flight, so minimal issues. I probably would not try on JAL or ANA though.
Shame on you! Most of us are trying hard to cut down on flying!
Why would you do that?
Disgusting behaviour of useless flying and waste.
Thanks for your insight.
Any issues on check in at LAX as tourists are not allowed into Japan?
You can’t just dismiss carbon impact on the environment because “the flight would run anyway”. You were on the aircraft, your weight affected the fuel consumption. On top of that your readers will probably try this because they’ve seen you do it and want to also brag about “going to Tokyo for lunch”, in an awful airport restaurant, eating horrible aircraft food.
You can run a blog and also be environmentally responsible, they’re not mutually exclusive.
I wish you could take such trip to Africa and visit one of the remaining mountains gorillas and in Uganda and support Mubakuvillage.org it would be such great opportunity to change life in African children.
Hey Matthew I am travelling back from SFO to India on ANA business class. Since I am transiting in Nareta airport and have a 19 hour wait time through the night I am not sure if I am allowed to stay at the airport In the first place. Could you share some experience. Would I get to use the lounge or the airport hotels through the night.
FWIW, I was told that overnight transits are not permitted in NRT because the airport shuts down overnight. Please check with ANA on this, because I would hate for you to show up to the airport only to be denied boarding.
Lounges close at night and there is no transit hotel currently available.
Do you know how long layovers are allowed in Haneda (my current booking is with 28h in HND). ?
Yes, that is permitted.
Hi. Would you happen to know if arriving at either HND or NRT Terminal 1, and departing from Terminal 2 via another airline on the same day is permitted? Trying to see if I can book 2 separate flights transiting via Japan. Thank you.
Yes, it does seem to be permitted. I’ve not tired it, but was told this was possible.