Flying to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games using miles

Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo
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After watching the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, I’m totally motivated to visit Tokyo to experience the excitement and competition of the 2020 Olympic Games.  Since you can book your flights 330 days in advance on most airlines, there are 3 years to plan and book flights and accommodations!  Now is the time to start building your miles and points balances.

It’s never too early to start planning, because you know that Tokyo will be booked solid with normal tourism plus all of the athletes and media for the Olympic Games.  If you time things right, you should be able to book your flights using miles and your hotels with points to save some serious coin!

The 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil

The 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil are now over.  There were some amazing moments for the US athletes, including dominant performances by women’s gymnastics and the men & women teams.  Other athletes represented their home countries brilliantly, but the US Olympic team was dominant!  Not only did the US Olympic team win the most medals of any country, they won the most medals in each category – Gold, Silver, and Bronze!

2016 Olympics final medal count 2016 Olympics final medal count

With this many medals, there’s an amazing offer from US Bank to earn 34,800 FlexPoints, which is worth up to $696.  You have until September 3, 2016 to apply for this offer.

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo
Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are also known by the more formal name of “Games of the XXXII Olympiad”.  I had thought about attending the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, but after seeing the problems with foul water, body parts, and daylight robberies in public, I’m really glad I didn’t go.

Since Japan is a First-World Country, I doubt there will be the same types of issues faced in Brazil for 2016 and even in Sochi (2014 Winter Olympics) during the 2020 games.  There is amazing public transportation in Japan.  Tokyo is a first-class international city.  And the society doesn’t have the same type of crime or political instability that Brazil has been suffering from.

The main controversy has been the potential that their original logo was plagiarized.  But the new logo was released a few months later in April 2016 after a nationwide contest, in which over 15,000 entries were submitted.  The new logo is meant to “express a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan” according to its designer Asao Tokolo.

The opening ceremony opens the games on July 24, 2020.  The Olympic competitions will run from July 22, 2020 through August 9, 2020.  The closing ceremony is also be held on August 9, 2020.  Here are the links for the official Tokyo website and the Olympic Committee’s 2020 site.

How to fly to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics using miles

There are many airlines that fly to Tokyo.  Since I live in Southern California, I’m going to focus on flights originating from Los Angeles (LAX).  Also, I don’t like paying for flights, so this post will focus on how to use miles to book your tickets.  Take note that award charts and rules change all the time, so we’ll be using today’s award charts since we don’t know what changes will happen between now and the summer of 2019, when you can start booking tickets 330 days out.

Flying to Tokyo using American Airlines AAdvantage miles

AAdvantage miles are my favorite “currency” when booking international fares due to their off-peak award discounts.  They devalued their miles in March 2016, but they’re still a pretty good deal.

The weird thing is that you can fly “off-peak” to Japan during the summer (from July 1 through November 30), but to fly back you’ll be flying at normal prices (click here for AA award chart).

To fly from LAX to HND (Tokyo), it will cost at least 32,500 AAdvantage miles when using a MileSAAver award redemption…

American Airlines AAdvantage LAX to HND
Flight options from LAX to HND from

… and to return home from HND to LAX, it will cost at least 62,500 AAdvantage miles.  You’re looking at 95,000 miles if you book your entire trip using American miles.

American Airlines AAdvantage HND to LAX
Flight options from HND to LAX from

The taxes owed for this redemption would be $48.76.  Based on the high point redeption on the return, I would definitely consider other options since those 62,500 miles could be better used on a one-way Business Class ticket to Europe off-peak!

Flying to Tokyo using Delta Airlines SkyMiles miles

Although many people refer to Delta SkyMiles by the name “SkyPesos” don’t discount them.  They can be valuable when other airlines don’t have options or when their price is too high.

When flying on Delta, prices can be dynamically priced, so your mileage may vary when looking for redemptions, but I was able to find options for 35,000 miles in each direction, for a total of 70,000 SkyMiles for the redemption.

Delta SkyMiles LAX to HND
Flight options for LAX to HND at

In this example, the taxes would be $94.16 for the round-trip redemption.

Just like American AAdvantage miles, Delta SkyMiles can be redeemed for one-way flights.  I saw that Delta did have options for 35,000 miles on one-way redemptions coming back from Tokyo.  This would be a great situation where you pair American for the LAX to HND and Delta for the return flight.  Or, since there is only a 2,500 mile difference on the LAX to HND leg, maybe you save your AA miles for another trip and book this whole itinerary on Delta.

Flying to Tokyo using United Airlines SkyMiles miles

United also offers one-way based pricing on awards, so you can easily mix-and-match their flights with any of these other options to maximize your itinerary.

I found Economy Saver level flights for 35,000 miles each way, for a total of 70,000, just like the Delta SkyMiles option.  With United, the taxes for the round-trip flight would be $47.76.  Ignore their reference to a 30,000 mile credit card offer… that offer is really low, so you’re better off waiting for a more lucrative 50,000 (or more) point offer that should return at some point on the Chase United Visa.

United Airlines MileagePlus LAX to HND
Flight options from LAX to HND on

Always great to have options, especially when they’re non-stop flights!

Flying to Tokyo using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan points

One of the wild cards is the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program.  Alaska is not part of any alliance, but they do partner with both American and Delta (amond others) when redeeming their points.  And, you can still book stopovers with their points, even on one-way tickets, so there is opportunity to really plan some cool side-trips when redeeeming.

Alaska doesn’t fly to Japan, but many of its partner airlines do.  Your options are going to vary widely based on which of Alaska’s partners are offering award space on the days that you want to fly.  Cathay Pacific and Hainan charge 30,000 miles each way.  American charges 32,500, Delta is 40,000, Emirates is 52,500, and Korean Air is 70,000.  On the dates I selected, the options were Delta and Emirates.

Alaska Airlines MileagePlan LAX to HND
Flight options from LAX to HND at

For the flights I chose, the cash portion for taxes is $85.  And the miles required would be 92,500.  If you are able to be flexible with your dates, you may be able to save a lot of miles since the amount of miles that Alaska’s partners charge can vary widely.

Flying to Tokyo using British Airways Avios points

British Airways also doesn’t fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo, but their partners do.  British Airways Executive Club is a distance-based program, so you want to search for direct flights because you will be charged for each leg of your journey.  If you can find direct flights, your award redemption can be as little as 25,000 each way!

For the dates I searched, direct flights were not available.  On the flight to Japan, I would actually be going the opposite direction with a flight from LAX to London Heathrow before arriving in Japan!  On the return, I would be flying from Tokyo to Osaka before flying to Los Angeles.  From LAX to Heathrow, I’d be flying British Airways, but the three other flights would be on Japan Airlines.

British Airways Avios LAX to HND
Flight options for LAX to HND on

Because of the round-about journey that my flights would take, instead of the 25,000 points each way (50,000 Avios total), the redemption would actually cost 89,500 Avios and $401.  The increased taxes is most likely due to the stopover in London Heathrow, which has notoriously high taxes and fuel surcharges.

This is the worst of the options described above.  However, taking the one-way from Japan via Osaka to Los Angeles, might be a decent option to pair with another flight from above.  In that option, the flight would only be 34,500 Avios and $70, which is in line with many of the options already described.

British Airways Avios HND to LAX one-way
Flight options from HND to LAX at

If you’re flexible with your dates, you may be able to find other options since award redemption availability will vary with British Airways’ partner airlines.

How to get the miles and points you need

There are so many options for credit cards these days.  And everyone has their favorite airlines… and some definitely despise certain airlines.  Because flying internationally requires so many miles and points that flying domestic, especially if you’ll be flying with multiple people, you need to start building your miles and points balances now!

Rewards Credit Cards

  • Earn rewards with your everyday spend, and get a little closer to your next vacation.
  • Use rewards to book hotels, air travel, gift cards, or to cover travel expenses like Uber.
  • Loyalty pays off — earn double rewards when you use your card to book a trip with your favorite hotel or airline.
  • Enjoy additional travel perks like travel insurance, waived foreign transaction fees, and airport lounge access.
  • Terms vary by partner offer. Please see each bank’s application for terms and conditions.

Apply Now!

If you need help figuring out how to build your miles and points balances, or knowing which card is right for you, please drop us a line for free travel advice.  Once you complete the form, we’ll schedule a complimentary 30-minute phone call to develop a plan for you.

On top of getting new cards, you need to maximize the miles and points you earn on a daily basis.  Check out these two articles below to help ensure you’re getting all the miles and points you can:

With a little bit of effort, you will have the miles and points needed to save some serious cash when booking your tickets to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games.

The Bottom Line

For many people, going to the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  With the 2020 Olympic Games being held in Tokyo, Japan, the 3rd largest economy in the world, I’m confident that it will be a great experience without many of the infrastructure and crime problems that have plagued other recent Olympics.  There are plenty of options that will be available using miles and points to get to Tokyo without breaking your wallet.  I’m working on building the required points so that I can book my plane tickets in the Summer of 2019.  Will you join me in Tokyo to witness more Olympic history being made?


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  1. Great article! I’m in the same boat, saving skymiles to fly to Japan in 2020, hopefully business class! I have 375k miles so far. Any further tips for getting the flights? Do you think hotel points will work during Olympics? Thanks a lot!

    • Thanks for writing Chris. Business class would be epic across the Pacific! We’re going to have to wait awhile for inventory to open up for both the hotels and flights. Some hotels have their booking window open up to 2 years in advance, while others are about 1 year. And most airlines open space 11 months out. I’ve already set my Google calendar alerts to start looking at space!

      Most hotels claim to have no blackout dates, so it will be interesting to see how it works with a high-demand event like the Olympics in a notoriously expensive place like Japan. I’m sure it will help to have status, so pick one brand and build your status to give yourself the best chance to secure those rooms using points!

  2. I’ve been saving for the last year just to go big in Japan. Even though all of the tickets are sold out the viewing parties and events all around the country will be amazing


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