Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, travel to and from Japan had been cheaper and affordable to budget-conscious tourists like us. Three budget carriers namely Cebu Pacific Air, Air Asia and Jetstar Asia used to service the busy routes to Japan from Manila/Cebu/Clark. Throughout the pandemic, only Cebu Pacific (and Philippine Airlines) have maintained limited flights in these routes.
But with the easing of travel restrictions and lifting of the ban on travel for tourism to Japan, airlines have now started to resume flights, although gradually. As of late, the following airlines have existing or scheduled operations/flights to and from different ports of entry in Japan:
Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest air carrier, offers the most flights and frequency to Japan among the budget airlines. It flies to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka from Manila (NAIA). You can book through its website or using the CEB app. You can also book through accredited travel agencies. Other travel booking apps like Trip.com, Kiwi.com, Bravofly, etc are legitimate third party sites but they have limited flexibilities. When booking online, you have the option to pay by Credit/Debit cards, E-wallet apps like GCash/Maya and over-the-counter at 7-11 stores.
If you are a light traveler, you can just bring your small cabin baggage and a small hand carry. Please be careful with the prescribed dimension and also the weight of your bags to avoid additional fees and of course inconvenience. For checked baggage, you are allowed up to two bags at 20 or 32kg each.
You can either pre-book or make add-ons before your flight. This includes additional baggage, seats, travel insurance, and inflight meals.
TIP: While CEB`s planes are relatively new, some of their units have seats which are non-reclining and legroom has become smaller. For added convenience, please bring a travel pillow. But if the flight is not full, they do allow you to lie down on vacant rows. Also, choose the aisle seat so you can easily stretch up down the aisle.
Flight Schedules (starting December 15, 2022)
We have tried Jetstar a few times on our flight to/from Nagoya, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Yangon. While they are not as popular as local budget carriers, they are actually cheap and reliable. They used to operate flights from NAIA Terminal 1 and at Clark Airport. This time, it is scheduled to resume flights initially to Tokyo this December from Manila (NAIA). They don’t have a booking app so you have to book on their website or through travel agencies.
Flight Schedules (No final date of flight resumption)
They used to be the cheapest carrier going to Japan pre-pandemic servicing Tokyo and Kansai until 2022. They have started to offer fares few months ago, unfortunately, the flights that we booked out of Kansai last July and other subsequent flights were canceled for unclear reasons. We will update this post once developments come.
Given the limited flights going to Japan, it is expected that it will take some time before fares and frequency go back to pre-pandemic levels. However, CEB had been offering frequent pomos, mostly its base fare on international flights. Jetstar on the other hand is offering promotional fares for its upcoming flight resumption. While AirAsia, which used to offer the cheapest fares, has yet to announce the final date to resume its flights. So, as early as now, it pays to regularly check their websites or social networks for updates.
Is it safe now to fly despite the risk of Covid-19?
We share the view of the authorities that it is now safe to travel given the prevailing protocols and policies in place. Also, airlines have now implemented Covid-related precautions. But of course that could be sweeping and may not re-assure all people, especially those who love traveling. We think that public conveyance protocols and your personal protection should go together. When we say personal protection, we mean vaccinations and health conditions.
So if you have any plans of going abroad anytime in the near future, you have to first consider the following: Are you fully vaccinated? Do you have a pre-existing condition? Are you still capable of air travel and public commuting? If the answer is yes then chances are you are ready to go. But that’s only the initial step. Preparation is the key for any eventuality or unforeseen circumstances related to your health and safety.
Is travel insurance necessary?
It is not a requirement for entry to many countries like Japan but it is definitely IMPORTANT. While we want you to travel on budget, we don’t want you to end up spending more or putting your family in a stressful situation for any untoward incident throughout your trip. We heard about horror stories of tourists being stuck abroad. Remember, hospitalization and/or repatriation in Japan is expensive. So consider it as a rolling investment more than an expense. Not to mention, current insurance products offer a wider range of coverage from medical intervention and repatriation to flight delays/cancellation, and lost baggage.
We used to avail the travel insurance offered by Pacific Cross. The rates depend on your destination and length of stay. CEB and AirAsia also have their own in-house insurer and offer affordable rates and decent coverage. You might want to find a product that covers COVID-19 related illnesses. [TBC)