Trip Report Intro: Korean Air & ANA First, and A Whirlwind Week in Tokyo

by Stephen

This is a long overdue trip report covering a trip on which my partner and a friend couple of ours went to Japan via Korean Air first class and ANA first class.

Our trip was notable for a few reasons. All of the people in our group except myself had never been to Japan before, and it was quite enjoyable watching their reactions to the unique culture, efficiency, and overall pleasantness of how things work in Japan. Additionally our flight on Korean Air is, as far as I know, the first time (at least in our points/miles corner of the internet) a flight has been reviewed with four people traveling together on award tickets in international first class. Finally, as I mentioned in a short post previously, the timing of this trip happened to coincide with the opening of the brand new terminal 2 at Seoul Incheon airport and the new Korean Air First Class Lounge (again, this trip report is long overdue), and I was able to experience both within days of their opening.

Planning Our First Class Trip

a large stack of barrels with writing on thema crowd of people walking in a street

The rationale for this trip started, as many do, over drinks. We knew we wanted to go to Asia, and we wanted to go somewhere less overwhelming for Asia first-timers than, say, mainland China or India. Given that we only had a week, we needed somewhere in Asia that wouldn’t require 2 days of travel, as most of Southern/Southeast Asia does, so Japan seemed a logical and accessible choice. Most importantly, we wanted the flights to be a little more special than usual, given that all of us had flown various international premium cabin products over the years and flying separately only to meet up in Japan seemed a bit mundane. We of course settled immediately on Korean Air first class, which as I’ve discussed before is the only way to reliably travel with 3-4 people together up front.

a person standing in the middle of an airplane

Korean Air A380 first class

We decided to split our time in Tokyo between the Hyatt Regency Tokyo (which fellow Point Me contributor Shelli has reviewed before) and the Park Hyatt Tokyo, both located in Shinjuku. Tokyo is of course a very spread out city and there is not quite a “centrally-located” neighborhood. While none of the Hyatt properties in the city are in an ideal location, the PH was a must-do splurge for us while the Regency was the more cost-efficient location.

For our return to the US, we only needed two seats together, as our friends would be staying in Japan longer than us. My partner, having flown Japan Airlines first class in the past, wanted to see how ANA stacked up, and I figured this would be a perfect opportunity for her to find out. I’ve always personally preferred ANA first over JAL first and was curious what her thoughts would be.

an airplane with a computer desk and chairs

ANA First Class Suites

How We Booked Our Flights and Hotel

Our outbound flights on Korean Air were booked with Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Korean Air Skypass. We were easily able to find four first class award seats out of New York JFK and booked each award for only 80,000 Skypass miles and about $80 in taxes/fees per person for JFK-ICN-NRT. The transpacific segment was on the A380 while the intra-Asia segment was on a 3-cabin A330.

Our return flights on ANA were booked with Singapore Krisflyer miles. This was before Krisflyer increased Star Alliance award prices and a one-way from Japan to the US was 100,000 Krisflyer miles (now 140,000 after the devaluation). Other reasonable options included 105,000 Aeroplan points or 75,000 Avianca LifeMiles. Given that we both had some Krisflyer miles sitting around and my partner didn’t have a way at that time to rack up LifeMiles, we went with Krisflyer and paid 100,000 miles (with some transferred in from Chase and American Express) plus about $100 in taxes/fees each for ANA first class from Tokyo to Washington Dulles.

For our time in Tokyo, we spent three nights at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo on points. We then spent two nights at the Park Hyatt, with one night paid for using a category 1-7 certificate that came with Globalist status and the other night paid for at a cash rate of a little under $700. We were able to use Globalist suite upgrades at both properties without issue.

a city with many tall buildings

View from the Park Hyatt Tokyo

The Upshot

So stay tuned, this should be an enjoyable one. While this trip was quick, the products were generally fantastic and fun to experience. Sadly, of course, Korean Air SkyPass is no longer a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner and thus the days of easily accessible first class award space on Korean Air are gone. Even as I’m writing this now, I’m still lamenting this loss, but alas such is the nature of this game, and though I’d experienced Korean Air first in the past I’m happy to have flown it one last time shortly before this opportunity went away.

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Keita May 4, 2019 - 1:21 pm

So where’s the actually report?

mike May 4, 2019 - 11:10 pm

seriously, click bait. why not post the report?

Chris Dong May 6, 2019 - 5:11 pm

As Alvin commented, a series of review posts is the norm. The first installment of the Korean Air Lounge JFK is now live. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any content, sign up for our 3x weekly newsletter (Point Me Awake) which aggregates all of our posts.

Alvin May 5, 2019 - 3:23 am

@ Keita @ Mike – Holy crap, guys. He posted this introduction a few hours ago and will post the review installment by installment as is protocol for EVERY SINGLE travel blog out there. What are you guys moaning about?

Will Shrop June 3, 2019 - 8:55 am

What were your thoughts on the Hyatt Regency?

Stephen June 3, 2019 - 8:57 am

Full review here:

But briefly, I thought it was fine and an overall good value. Nothing fancy or flashy and on par with mid-to-top tier hotels in Asia.

JohnB June 5, 2019 - 10:37 am

This isn’t a review. This is a bragging post. Sorry!

Chris Dong June 6, 2019 - 11:03 am

This is a trip report intro, see the links at the top of the post for each review in full.


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