Houston: How to visit both Japan and Hong Kong for $778 using Stopovers and an Open-jaw

Note: While the prices and availability of fares in this post can and will change, given enough time, the examples and methods for securing a stopover and open-jaw should be solid for a long time. If you’re visiting this post months/years from its published date, you’ll need to adjust your airfare search accordingly. This page contains links to companies that may compensate this site when you click on their link and purchase travel from their website.

In this post we’re going to talk about visiting both Japan and Hong Kong on the same itinerary and how to do it using stopovers and an open-jaw. Those of you that have been following this blog for a while probably already know how to take advantage of this to great effect. This post is for the 30,000 new subscribers that have joined since the last time I covered this (last year).

This post is based on airfare deals we’ve posted about earlier. If you want to know more about how those fares, you should read these posts:

Basic information

Discount Fares on United and All Nippon Airways to destinations in Asia, such as Hong Kong, Vietnam, Jakarta and Singapore will usually have a few significant fare rules in effect. They are…

  1. Two stopovers are allowed. One each direction (departing / returning). Price is $100 + Airport Landing Fee. None in Guam.
  2. Free open-jaws allowed. Which means you may depart from a different airport in Japan than the one you flew in on.
  3. Itinerary can have up to four segments (flights) total. Try to avoid routes that require a connecting flight, as that will burn a segment.

What this means is that you can easily setup a cheap stopover in Japan for flights in Asia.

Practical application

Let’s take a look at a few scenarios. For these examples, let’s say that we’re looking to do a two week trip to Asia and want to hit Tokyo and Hong Kong during Japan’s cherry blossom season and you prefer to get there on nonstop tickets on a Star Alliance carrier such as United or ANA. We fly out on April 06 and return on April 20.

Scenario 1: ($1492) Buy a regular round-trip flight between Houston and Tokyo and then buy another round-trip between Tokyo and Hong Kong.

This example is what most people do when they aren’t aware of the fare rules that govern their ticket. You should always read the fare rules for your ticket to see if there are any restrictions or benefits. On United’s website, you can find the fare rules link “View Rules and Restrictions” after you select your flights. In the fare rules, pay attention to the line items marked “Stopovers” and “Combinability”.

This is going to be the most expensive Scenario, because nonstops are nice, but pricey. To highlight the points of this post, I’m not going to look at cheaper flights that require connections.

Buying two separate nonstop round-trips will cost about $1492 ($407 + $1085). Here are screenshots of the setup.

Besides the high price, there are a couple of negative things to consider about this method.

  • First, you’ll need to make sure your Hong Kong to Japan flight gets into Japan with enough time to make your flight from Tokyo to Houston. In this example, we get into NRT at 3:00 PM, then leave at 4:35 PM. This may be cutting it close if you have checked bags and need to wait for them.
  • Second, the airline has no obligation to book you on another flight if a delay on the flight from Hong Kong to Japan causes you to miss your next flight from Japan to Houston. Those two sets of flights are on separate reservations with separate PNRs. The airline sees the two separate round-trips as exactly that; they don’t see it as a multi-city itinerary. This distinction is important.

You can offset this problem by flying back to Japan a day (or more) early, or padding a lot of airport time between the two round-trips.

We feel that this first method should be avoided if possible because there are better ways to do it…

Scenario 2: ($778) Buy a round-trip to Hong Kong with a stopover in Tokyo.

Generally speaking, round-trip flights between Houston and Hong Kong are cheaper than round-trip flights between Houston and Tokyo. At the moment, ANA and United have discount fares for about $665. You can pull up the details of that deal here: [Flights: Houston to Hong Kong $664 r/t – United / ANA].

Before we continue, let’s just clarify (in layman’s terms) what the difference between a stopover and layover is.

  • stopover – “I can leave the airport and hang out for a day, or maybe a month”. You stopped, then slept-over. This isn’t the technical definition for the term.
  • layover – “I’m stuck in the airport laying around for an hour or three”. When someone says that they have a connection in San Francisco for their flight going to Tokyo, this is what they’re talking about. Again, this isn’t the exact technical definition of the term.

As mentioned earlier, discount fares on United / ANA allow stopovers for $100 + Airport Landing Fees. So that means we should be able to add a stopover in Tokyo for $665 + $100 + Landing Fees. You’ll need to select “Multi-Destination” or “Multi-City” on whatever booking site you choose.

Buying a round-trip to Hong Kong with a stopover in Tokyo will cost about $778. Here’s a screenshot of the setup.

01-28-16-tyo-hkg-google3

Same flights, same itinerary, but about $712 cheaper. Nearly half the price of doing it as two separate round-trips. Adding a stopover to a round-trip is a better method in this case by far.

Besides the lower price, there are a few benefits to consider.

  • First, Your checked bags should check all the way to their destination. You will need to confirm this with the agent when checking in, but it’s been my experience that you will not need to pick up your bag when you do the connection in Tokyo (NRT) on the return leg of the trip. This should save you some time and make the connection easier.
  • Second, If you do miss your connection due to your previous flight being delayed, you should be protected by United / ANA (ie: they’ll try to book you on the next flight). The airline does not see this as two separate round-trips.

This method is good, and if you just want to visit Tokyo and Hong Kong it’s going to be the way you’ll want to do it. However, If you want to explore more of Japan than just Tokyo on your trip, you’ll need to make that stopover an open-jaw.

Scenario 3: ($778 + Rail / Shinkansen fees) Buy a round-trip to Hong Kong with an open-jaw stopover in Tokyo and Osaka.

As mentioned earlier, open jaws on these types of fares are free. In my opinion, there’s no reason not to use them unless you only want to hang out in one city (boring). If you’re going to visit Japan, you may as well make your way from Tokyo to Kyoto before flying out of Osaka.

This is basically the same setup as Scenario 2, except you’re flying from Osaka to Hong Kong instead of Tokyo to Hong Kong. Here’s a screenshot of the setup.

01-28-16-iah-tyo-gl5

A small increase in fare, probably due to some difference in regional airport tax in Kansi. $782 is a fantastic price for nonstop, flights out of two different airports.

You’ll still need to get from Tokyo to Osaka and there are several ways to do this. I suggest that you take the Shinkansen out of Tokyo and spend time in Kyoto before taking another to Osaka. This will cost you about $150 in fares. You may also consider buying a Japanese (whole country) Rail Pass for about $240, which will get you unlimited nationwide rail access for 7-days (note: JR-Lines only, and no subway). Finally, you could buy one-way airfare out of Tokyo to Osaka. This flight will cost you about $95, and may be worthwhile if you pair it with a JR-West – Kansai and Sanyo Area Rail Pass for $43.

If you’re going to be dealing with rail at all in Japan, your best resource for routes, times, and prices is Hyperdia. I use it every time I’m in Japan.

Other considerations

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re setting up your search for a stopover:

First, not every day of the week will be available for a stopover. What I mean by this is that if the discount fare doesn’t allow flights on Fridays, then don’t expect to be able stop in Tokyo on a Friday. For example, take a look at this fare calendar (snapshot 1/28/16) for Houston to Hong Kong…

Flight Availability: Houston to Hong Kong as of 5:33 PM on 1/28/16.
Flight Availability: Houston to Hong Kong as of 5:33 PM on 1/28/16.

As you can see, your best bets for setting up a stopover in IAH-TYO/KIX-HKG-TYO-IAH will be midweek. When I’m looking for a stopover, I’ll usually start with a Wed-Wed flight pair and then, start adding and subtracting days to see what else will work. Randomly dropping in Friday departures and Monday returns is going to disappoint you unless you’re familiar with what days you can fly into Tokyo and also fly out of Osaka.

Another thing to consider, is that prices to Asia have been decreasing for the past year, and I expect that trend to continue for a while longer due to reduced fuel costs. Historically, $664 is a great price for round-trip airfare between Houston and Hong Kong, but It’s not that great when you consider the direction in which airfare seems to be heading. We’ve seen American dip their price for Hong Kong into $460 recently [Cheap Flights: Houston to Hong Kong $461 r/t – American], and while that fare was kind of glitchy and was only bookable when you redirected the connection through Google Flights, I’m expecting to see UA / ANA flights in the lower $600’s soon.

Finally, you don’t need to do two weeks, You can squish things together into one crazy week where you only spend a couple of days in each place; that is if you can find the dates that will work. Or, you can spend most of the time in one place and only spend a day or two in the other. It’s pretty wide open, but you’ll need to experiment on finding those dates yourself.

Final thoughts

Hopefully this will give you a few extra ideas next time you see deals to Asia pop up on the blog. Here are a few relevant (but expired) posts that you may want to take a look at.


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6 Comments

  1. Michael Mortola said:

    since there is a layover in tokyo, can you circumvent hong kong altogether or would your ticket not be valid?

    January 29, 2016
    • If you skip a segment. All other segments after that become invalid. So it’s not a good idea unless your final destination is Tokyo.

      January 29, 2016
  2. David Chapa said:

    Thanks for this! I’m one of those new subscribers, and figuring things out has been quite interesting.

    January 29, 2016
  3. neverfull said:

    Thanks for this post. I looked into several itineraries and settled on IAH > KIX > NRT > HKG and the price was $751. I found some options as low as $721 when I changed the order of the cities and dates at the end of April/early May. I’ll be in Tokyo for Golden Week!

    February 4, 2016
    • Cheers! Glad you were able to tweak it into an itinerary that works better for you. Expect prices for this will drop as prices to Hong Kong drop.

      February 5, 2016

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