Asia,  Destinations,  Japan,  Trains, Planes & Rideshares

From Los Angeles to Tokyo (Narita) with ZipAir

Journal date: February 20, 2024

In January, I snagged ticket from Los Angeles to Narita (Tokyo) with ZipAir, Japan Airline’s discount branch, for only $207.

Normally, one way tickets with ZipAir are closer to $300-400 USD, so I wanted to take a chance for such a good price. My ticket didn’t come with anything except a 7kg carryon allowance, so I bought a “service package” upgrade which included a checked bag up to 30kg, one meal, and a seat of my choice.

Check-in at LAX was fast and easy, since I had pre-purchased my checked bag. Everyone had to check in at the counter, as ZipAir doesn’t do electronic boarding passes or check in. They DID weigh bags, both checked and carryon. My carryon was just slightly over 7kg but they let me through (thank goodness!) and I didn’t have to weigh my purse with it– though technically the 7kg weight is for both your carryon AND your personal item.

As for onward flights: I was asked when my return flight was but I didn’t have to show it or specify which airline.

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At the Airport (LAX)

Security at LAX was the normal (horrible) one where you pull everything out and take off your shoes– after flying through so many airports that don’t even require you to take out your laptop, this backtracking was a shock.

Once through, I got some coffee and found a place to sit and wait for my flight. While I have Priority Pass through my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, LAX doesn’t have any Priority Pass lounges. Ugh! I love spending time in lounges before flights, mostly because they’re a) quiet, b) have comfy seats and c) have decent food.

LAX doesn’t really have cozy public seating areas to sit in, but I did find some seats with working plugs near a Starbucks, and I was able to get a bit of work done.

One thing I forgot about American airports is how danged expensive everything is. $13 for a cold basic sandwich from Pret a Manger? $4 for a tiny bag of chips?? It was actually cheaper to just buy snacks on the plane, so that’s what I did.

I DID remember to refill my water bottles at the bottle stations before boarding. ZipAir doesn’t provide free water on the flight, though a 200mL bottle is like $2 USD (cheaper than buying one in the airport).

ZipAir flight experience

Boarding went fast; the airline staff went through the waiting area and checked boarding passes/passports pre-boarding time, which shortened the boarding time considerably.

I’d picked an aisle seat in the middle row so I could get up as much as I wanted during the flight. The flight was scheduled for 9:35am PST to ~2:30pm Japan time (one day later). A nice thing about this flight time is that we basically flew through a whole day, so I didn’t “need” to sleep. I just stayed up the whole time and read books/listened to podcasts, and when I got to Japan I only had to stay up about 6 more hours to go to bed at a mostly-normal time. Take that, jetlag!

Food and snacks

People who ordered meals got them delivered 1.5 hours after we left LAX, which seemed weirdly early. Apparently, you can choose to get your meal later on in the flight, but you have to select that option at least 24 hours beforehand. I didn’t realize that, and neither did anybody else on the plane.

I ordered a beef thing with saffron rice. It was…pretty salty, and the rice was undercooked, but at least it was filling. Meals cost $11 USD or so and you can only get them if you pre-order them before the flight.

You can order food and amenities through the ZipAir inflight website, which you can access using the free wifi. This is the ONLY way to order food, so be sure to have a device that can get wifi with you on the plane.

Food available during the flight is more on the snack side. They have some chips (Pringles), candy, cookies, cup noodles (two or three kinds), ice cream and water/soda/alcohol/coffee/tea. I ended up spending about $11 USD on additional food during the flight, for a total of $22 USD.

Entertainment

There are no video screens on the seatbacks, so you’re on your own for entertainment. Technically, you’re supposed to be able to access movies from the ZipAir in-flight entertainment website, but I didn’t bother trying because the wifi was so spotty. It wasn’t strong enough to stream Youtube videos (or maybe they had that blocked?) but I could get emails at least.

I ended up reading books on my Kindle Paperwhite, so I was plenty entertained.

Crew and Misc.

The flight crew were friendly and all spoke at least a little English, though fluency varied. The crew at the gate back at the airport were all native English speakers, and I’m pretty sure they were hired only to do gate stuff since none of them came onto the plane. The plane crew came through frequently to get trash, and delivered food orders super fast.

Plane announcements were in Japanese, English, and one time Chinese.

We left on time and arrived on time. Yay!

Overall, I had a decent flight with ZipAir and I’d fly with them again. My total cost for the flight including the upgrade and the additional food ended up being $303 USD for a one-way ticket. That’s a few hundred cheaper than other airlines!


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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal.

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