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Sweet Spot Sunday: How to book intra-Japan flights for just 5,500 United miles

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with the latest information.

United Airlines has established a strong presence in Japan, offering nonstop flights from all its hubs. Additionally, United has a close partnership with All Nippon Airways, which operates flights within Japan and to numerous global destinations.

One valuable aspect of the United-ANA partnership is the ability to use United MileagePlus miles to book flights within Japan. This option is particularly beneficial if you need to book last-minute tickets or fly on peak travel dates. With MileagePlus, you can book many flights within Japan for just 5,500 miles and minimal taxes and fees.

After United increased many of its global award rates in spring 2023, this untouched sweet spot is a great way to maximize your United miles.

Why it’s special

ANA Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

As mentioned, you can use United miles to book intra-Japan flights for as little as 5,500 miles one-way.

This low mileage rate can provide great value. For instance, an ANA-operated flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) to Hiroshima Airport (HIJ) starts at $114 for a one-way ticket on Aug. 14.

Google flights

But you can buy this same flight for 5,500 miles plus $2.60, providing a redemption rate of around 2 cents per United mile. That’s nearly double our valuation of United miles.

HND to HIJ United miles

The same goes for other routes. For example, on some dates, a one-way ANA ticket from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport (CTS) to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX) costs over $150.

CTS to KIX Google Flights

Both routes — and nearly every other short-haul ANA domestic route in Japan — can be booked for 5,500 miles and minimal taxes and fees one-way in economy. Award space is generally plentiful, so you can book these award flights on most dates if you’re flexible regarding your departure time.

HND to KIX 30 day calendar
The award calendar from HND to KIX. UNITED.COM

You’ll pay more miles when booking within 21 days of departure. For example, the same Tokyo-to-Osaka award a week from departure costs 6,000 United miles. This isn’t a significant increase, but it’s worth noting.

HND to KIX close in

And some longer routes within Japan cost more miles. For example, this flight from Tokyo to Okinawa’s Naha Airport (OKA) costs 8,800 miles one-way. Given that airfare is typically over $200 on this route, this is still a great way to maximize your miles.

HND to OKA United miles

Related: The best ways to travel to Japan with points and miles

How to book this award

To book intra-Japan flights using United miles, go to Log in to your account, and enter your search criteria on the homepage. Select the option “Book with miles” to access award prices. If your dates are flexible, you can tick the “Flexible dates” box, which allows you to view a month’s worth of award availability all at once.

Searching HND to OKA

You’ll see all available flight options at the center of the screen. Plus, you can see a week’s worth of award pricing at the top of the screen. Completing your reservation is straightforward from this point.

Related: How United’s current credit card offers can help you qualify for Premier status

How to earn miles for this award

It’s relatively easy to earn United miles. Here’s a look at some of the current cobranded United credit card offers:

  • United Explorer Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Quest CardEarn 70,000 bonus miles and 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Club Infinite Card: Earn 80,000 bonus miles and 1,000 PQPs after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.

You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio. Here’s a look at some of the best Chase cards and their respective welcome bonuses:

You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to United at a 3:1 ratio. However, we usually recommend saving your Marriott points for stays or other transfer partners.

Related: How to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value

Bottom line

This straightforward United sweet spot can help you save money on domestic airfare in Japan. Redeeming United miles for ANA-operated flights within Japan can provide flexibility to explore different parts of the country and experience more of what Japan offers. So, keep this valuable option in mind for your next visit.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh.