Last Updated: August 16, 2023

Why Are Flights To Japan So Expensive Right Now (2023 Update)

Flights to Japan are very expensive this year!

You are probably wondering why it costs so much to travel to Japan, especially when things have generally recovered since the pandemic.

There are a variety of reasons why flying to Japan is more expensive than flying to Europe. And some of the reasons are not so obvious.

Let’s take a look and see what affects Japan flight prices…


flights to japan are expensive in August

Flights to Japan are expensive in August

Seasonality affects the prices of flights to Japan more than some other countries. There is a strong demand for flights during the summer months, over the new year and of course during cherry blossom season in late March to early April.

Ski season is also popular in Japan, so you will find costs in February and March might also rise because of this, especially if you are looking to fly into Chitose Airport in Hokkaido.

Christmas and New Year is expensive to fly to Japan

Christmas and New Year is expensive to fly to Japan

And, of course, flights to most countries peak over the Christmas and New Year period and they do in Japan as well as you can see in the chart.

Flight prices per month to Japan

Flight prices per month to Japan

If we take a broader view of the year as a whole the cheapest time to travel to Japan is in November, and the most expensive time to is in August, according to prices on Skyscanner.

Supply & Demand

Economics always plays a role in prices and flights to Japan are no different. There are fundamentally fewer flights per month to Japan than to more popular destinations like Europe. Of course, more people fly to Europe, but if the balance is off – demand is more than supply, then the prices rise.

USA to Japan - Flights per day

USA to Japan – Flights per day

For example, in November of 2022, there were 12,254 nonstop flights between North America and Europe. Although we don’t have the exact number for Japan, TravelMath states that there are 30 non-stop flights to Japan from the USA each day. That is only 1000 flights per month, give or take.

As you can see, that is 12 times fewer flights. So, supply is very tight when it comes to direct flights to Japan.

Airport Landing Taxes

Airport landing fees for foreign airlines in Japan are said to be the highest in the world which adds to the price of your flight too. There are many reasons for this including increased security, higher Japanese wages and potentially subsidising other airports through international flights (speculation). But in the end, it is a fact that landing at Narita Airport in Tokyo is very expensive for airlines!

Japan airport taxes

Japan airport taxes

The actual price of passenger tax is actually lower in Japan than in many other countries. You can even see that a flight from San Fransisco via Taiwan to Japan below and the taxes for each passenger in Japan are very low. So, that is not significantly contributing to the flight costs to Japan!

Fuel Costs

Aviation fuel prices over time

Aviation fuel prices over timeData source Index Mundi

We all know that fuel prices are a lot higher than they used to be. In fact, due to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine aviation fuel has significantly increased in the last few years. It is slowly returning to normal this year but still creates higher costs in our lives and in the cost of a flight ticket too.

Airlines have significant fuel costs of around 25% of their overall costs. So, fuel price variations play a huge role in ticket price costs.

Distance To Japan

Distance of a flight from San Fransisco to Tokyo

Flight distance from San Fransisco to Tokyo

Another clear factor in the price of a ticket to Japan is the distance or length of the flight compared to a domestic flight in the USA. Time in the air costs money in staff, food & beverages, fuel, maintenance, and more.

For example:

  • San Fransisco to Tokyo is 10 hours 45 mins
  • New York to Tokyo is 13 hours 40 minutes

When you compare that to one of the longest flights in the USA – San Fransisco to New York, it is only 5 hours!

Labor Shortages

We are still recovering from the staff shortages from the pandemic and I have seen the results of it locally here in Switzerland. There is absolute chaos at the airports here in July and August because everyone is flying but there is a lack of staff for security and for aircraft. 

Flights are being canceled, fewer flights are being planned and this makes the overall cost of flying to Japan a lot higher too. Until these labor shortages are resolved, which might take a few years, flights overall will be more expensive.




About the Author Roger