Reward Flight Business Class Seat Choices To Japan

I will be booking the trip out to Japan shortly using United miles and converting some Ultimate Rewards points to United miles. With United miles, flights to Japan in business class are 60,000 miles one way. When I book flights normally, I usually just look for the cheapest fare and go for it. Picking planes or seats has never really occurred to me, other than if a certain airline appeals to me more than another similarly priced flight.  But when I pay for flights I fly economy.  I’ve flown first class a few times, but only for business trips and the occasional Delta Silver Medallion upgrade.  So I was a little surprised when I began researching flights and found out I have several airline and seat options!  I’m sure this is old news to any frequent fliers, but it may be useful for anyone just starting out or looking to use United miles to get to Japan.

Using United miles, I can fly on a Star Alliance airline or United. Many of the forums I came across recommended All Nippon Airways (ANA), as they supposedly have better service than United flights. In general forums seem to recommend foreign carriers over US for the same reason. When I started looking into specific flights, I found out even just on ANA flights I have differing seat options in business class!

One option is to attempt to get on a 787 – assuming they’re back in service by later this year. ANA flies the 787 out of Seattle, and potentially San Jose if the route comes back when the planes are returned to service. The business class cabin on the 787 has staggered fully-flat seats that turn into beds. The seats look fairly comfortable, and in general reviews seem to be positive. There is some mention of the seats not being meant for tall people (the two of us who will be traveling are both over six feet tall…). But there is a 17 inch touchscreen entertainment system with ipod integration and plenty of storage. The downside to the 787 is the question of availability and when they will return to the air with a battery fix as 787s are currently grounded.  The other downside is that as we are coming from the east coast, it looked like flight times require an overnight stay in Seattle or San Jose. Which is fine, I have plenty of Hilton points to cover it – but we’d rather spend that time in Japan. There is a great trip report on a 787 flight here on airliners.net.

787-8 Staggered Seat – from ANA’s site

The second option is the 777-300ER newly updated with staggered business class seats (77W). These flights are from JFK and we could make a same day connection, although it’s not as cool as a 787. The seats are fully-flat and look very nice. The catch here is that we are traveling as a couple and want to spend the fourteen hour flight together. The staggered seats are very private and not quite intended for that – geared more towards business travelers it seems. There is a great trip report on this flight by Frequent Flyer Guy here.

777-300ER Updated (77W) – from ANA’s site

The third option which we are leaning towards is the 777-200 with the older style seats. While these seats are not as comfortable and do not fully recline, they seem better geared for a couple traveling together. Since we’ll be arriving at 9pm Tokyo time, we figure maybe it’s better to go with more time together on the flight and less sleep. Maybe we’ll be able to sleep once we arrive. We could also share a window this way.  There is a great trip report on this flight here on airliners.net.

777-200ER – from ANA’s site

We are leaning towards the last option – but please feel free to comment if you have any recommendations for a couple traveling together using United miles!  The concept of being able to choose planes/airlines based on comfort and service and not price is new to me.  I have to say, I’m enjoying it! 🙂

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About Rebecca

I'm an engineer who is new to the points game. Hoping to share my discoveries as I collect points to travel the world.

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