Japan Airlines Offering Free Domestic Tickets To Foreigners

Filed Under: Japan Airlines

While we don’t yet know all of the details, Japan Airlines is offering a promotion that seems counterintuitive on the surface, as they’ll be giving away 50,000 free roundtrip tickets to foreigners for travel next summer. Keep in mind that the Olympics will be in Tokyo in the summer of 2020, and the country is expected to see as many visitors as ever.

Japan Airlines Offering 50,000 Free Tickets

Starting in late February 2020, Japan Airlines will be offering free domestic roundtrip tickets to foreigners:

  • The promotion will be valid for travel between July 1 and September 30, 2020
  • The promotion is only valid to those who have residence outside Japan
  • You’ll need to be a member of Japan Airlines Mileage Bank to participate
  • When you apply for the promotion, you’ll be shown four possible destinations
  • Within three days you’ll be told which destination you’re going to
  • Flights will depart from and return to Tokyo Haneda or Osaka Itami/Kansai only
  • You can apply as a group of up to four people

The way that they describe the booking process doesn’t exactly clear things up much:

You’ll see four possible destinations. If you’re happy with all of them, enter passenger information and apply.

  • If you search again, the destinations will change.
  • Make sure the passenger information entered matches the membership informationin JAL Mileage Bank.
  • You’ll need the departure date and flight number of your flight to Japan

Why I Find This To Be An Odd Promo

This is of course a very generous offer. At the same time, I’m not sure I understand the logic or logistics of this promo.

Generally if you’re going to offer something for free you’d think you’d want to do so during a quiet period. But that’s not what Japan Airlines is doing — rather they’re offering 50,000 free domestic tickets next summer, during what should be the busiest travel period Japan has ever seen.

Hotels in Japan are already really heavily booked for next summer, so it’s not like this should logically encourage any additional tourism to Japan, and beyond that, the way the logistics work will make it hard for people to plan.

Essentially Japan Airlines will be deciding where in the country you go to, and while that might be a cute concept during a quiet period, it just doesn’t seem ideal for what will be an extremely busy period.

Lastly, I would have assumed that they’d offer this in conjunction with booking your ticket to Japan on Japan Airlines. That would be something to encourage people to fly Japan Airlines. Meanwhile with how this promo works, you could fly All Nippon Airways to Japan, and then take a free flight within Japan on Japan Airlines.

Bottom Line

Japan Airlines is offering 50,000 free domestic tickets to foreigners next summer, which is a generous promotion.

It’s not yet clear how exactly it will be decided who gets free tickets, though if you’re going to Japan next summer it could be worth giving this promotion a try. I’ll post about it again once it’s actually live, or once we have more details.

Anyone else find this promo to be well intentioned and generous, but oddly timed?

  1. Definitely slightly odd given that the terms and conditions don’t mention that you need to have travelled to Japan on JAL, which would have made more sense in my opinion.

  2. The tickets will be on a first come first served basis. And one goal is to help prevent regular tourists avoiding Japan due to the Olympics and shortage of accommodations in Tokyo and Osaka. It’s not just foreigners taking up the accommodations in Tokyo – there will be a lot of domestic visitors as well as volunteer staff as well. For example, when the Olympics were held in London, a lot English from outside London attended.

  3. My (pessimistic) guess is that these flight are bound to cities/regions that are not expected to have too many tourists from overseas, even during the Olympics. It is very possible this is partially funded by the government to introduce overseas visitor to areas new to them (i. e. places that are not promoted by “influencers” ad nauseum).

  4. It may also be to encourage imternational visitors to travel off the beaten places thereby preventing the crowd from major tourist destinations like Kyoto and Mt. Fuji. A lot of under visited areas are heavily promoting tourism and I wouldn’t be surprised there is some government subsidy in a promotion like this.

  5. Pretty dumb to travel to Japan during the Olympics with hotels rooms rates going through the roof! Did I mention the heat and humidity?

  6. I doubt this will be a busy travel period since anyone with any sense will stay clear of any city/countty hosting an event like the Olympics. Hotel and other prices will be sky high in Tokyo and surrounding spots, but it will keep people from overseas away from the rest of the country. So this is an ideal way of keeping the domestic tourism going while the Olympics destroy what would otherwise have been a major up period for foreigners to visit Japan.

  7. Oh no no this isn’t Japan Airlines’ doing. This was probably sponsored by the Japan government as they wanted to lead tourists away from Tokyo during the Olympics due to the accommodation shortage!

  8. well its better then having to go on a japanese game show to win the tickets. JAL can make up any rules it wants for the tickets. they own the tickets and are giving them away

  9. It definitely does sound odd, but I think I have to agree with the reasoning that it’s a contest to get people away from Honshu during the Olympics.
    If you’re already in Japan during the time period, scoring a free ticket to a place like Kyushu or Hokkaido would be pretty nice.

  10. “it just doesn’t seem ideal for what will be an extremely busy period.” – They are working with the Japan Tourism Agency, the Japan National Tourism Organization and Nomura Research Institute Ltd. The whole idea is to get some of these tourists to go to rural parts of Japan instead of just places like Tokyo or Kyoto. Those tourists go to those places and spend money and then go home and tell their friends about those places and maybe more people visit rural areas of Japan. The whole it being an extremely busy period thing kinda misses the point. They aren’t sending people to places where there is high demand. They are sending people to places where they likely would never have gone otherwise, so no those places would not be extremely busy. The reality is most foreign tourists who go to Japan follow the same exact tourist track as every other tourists and miss a large portion of the country that the tourism industry is trying to develop.

  11. I will tell my brother about this as he is planning to visit us in Tokyo for the Olympics – no hotel needed – but was also planning g to travel outside Tokyo while he’s here. Thanks for the tip!

    I agree with others that it is to draw people to other parts of the country. There is an article in the Nikkei Asian Review today about the jump in flights between regional cities, but the numbers are still very low in absolute terms. The train system still takes the lion’s share of intercity travel.

  12. I don’t quite get the logic.
    Surely if you’re going to Tokyo/Osaka at this time already it’s because of the Olympics?
    And therefore even if you get a ‘free’ domestic flight, this shouldn’t tempt anybody without an Olympics ticket to fly to Tokyo/Osaka on what is presumably a busy and therefore expensive flight to take advantage of this offer.
    What is the target segment exactly? Perhaps those with a two-week itinerary in Tokyo but with only one or two Olympics tickets being persuaded to spend a few days outside the city, I guess…

  13. Japan does a lot of programs like this. I participated in this cultural program called the Kakehashi Project which flew me all expenses paid in college from Honolulu to Tokyo to attend sessions with the ministry of foreign affairs. From there, they funneled us to a rural ski village in Nagano prefecture (again, all expenses paid — even cash for spending money). We finished up by presenting our findings on the differences between Japanese and US Culture which was cool since I presented in English and Japanese through an interpreter. Bottom line this was easily a 5000-6000 trip with the kinds of meals and activities they paid for us to do. I’m sure it’s government subsidized.

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