Zipair plane

Flying the New Low-Cost Airline Zipair to Japan

Carissa Rawson

Carissa Rawson

November 6, 2023

7 min read

Table of Contents

Interested in traveling to Japan? While there are plenty of different airlines that make the trip between the US and Japan, ZIPAIR is the first low-cost carrier to provide service between the two continents. Although it maintains just a handful of routes to and from Tokyo, including San Jose (SJC), Los Angeles (LAX), and Honolulu (HNL), Zipair allows its customers to hop across the Pacific for relatively cheap—even in business class.

What’s ZIPAIR?

ZIPAIR is the low-cost arm of Japanese carrier Japan Airlines, and it offers a very unique product. Rather than sticking with the tried-and-true method of stripped-away economy seats, ZIPAIR also maintains its own version of business class. While these lie-flat products may be comfortable, they aren’t fancy. You’ll still need to purchase your own food and pay to check your luggage. 

What we love about ZIPAIR: 

  • Flights to Japan are cheap
  • Multiple route options within the U.S.
  • Lie-flat for under $2,000 roundtrip

What we don’t love about it:

  • There are ancillary fees for nearly everything
  • Limited route network 
  • Difficult to redeem miles

Previous cheap flights we've found for Going members on ZIPAIR: 

  • San Francisco to Tokyo nonstop in business class for $1,668 roundtrip
  • San Francisco to Tokyo nonstop in economy for $668 roundtrip
  • Honolulu to Tokyo nonstop in economy for $598 roundtrip
  • LA to Tokyo nonstop in business class for $1,645 roundtrip


A brief history of ZIPAIR 

One of the newest airlines around, ZIPAIR was initially founded in 2018 as a subsidiary of Japan Airlines (JAL). However, it didn’t begin providing passenger flights until December 2020. Since then, it has grown its route network to include seven international destinations, four of which are located in the United States. 

Where ZIPAIR flies/Route map

ZIPAIR route map.

Narita International Airport, Tokyo (NRT) to:

  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Honolulu (HNL)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - beginning June 2, 2023
  • San Jose International Airport (SJC)
  • Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand (BKK)
  • Incheon International Airport, South Korea (ICN)
  • Changi Airport, Singapore (SIN)
  • Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines (MNL) - future

As it stands, ZIPAIR’s route network is fairly limited. Of the eight planned or operating routes, half are to the US, with California enjoying three stops all on its own. It’s possible to book connecting flights; for example, if you’d like to fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to Bangkok (BKK), you can do so. Be aware that all connecting flights require a stopover on Tokyo (NRT). 

ZIPAIR’s hubs

  • Narita International Airport (NRT)

Tips for booking a ZIPAIR flight

Book direct

Like airlines such as Southwest, ZIPAIR’s flights aren’t bookable via online travel agencies (OTAs). This means that if you’re looking to fly, you’ll need to navigate directly to ZIPAIR’s website and book from there. However, it is possible to search for flights using websites such as Google Flights; you’ll just be directed to Zipair’s site to book. 

Book early

ZIPAIR’s fleet is small and its routes are limited, which increases the possibility of selling out. If you’re interested in a specific flight, book as early as you can to avoid disappointment. 

Pick segments wisely

ZIPAIR prices its flights per segment, which can be helpful if you’re trying to save money on a connecting flight. You can, for example, choose to fly the long-haul segment in a lie-flat seat and the short-haul segment in standard economy. 

However, ZIPAIR also charges travelers per segment for amenities such as meals, checked bags, and seat selection, which can become costly if you have a connecting flight. 

Save money with bundling 

ZIPAIR will charge you additional money for nearly everything it offers, but like other low-cost carriers, you can choose to bundle your ancillary purchases together to save money.

The most expensive Premium option will include seat selection, a meal, carry-on luggage, checked luggage, and an amenity kit. Purchasing Premium will save you 30% over buying these items individually. 

The Value option includes checked luggage, seat selection, and a meal, and saves 20% when bundled, while the Biz option includes only seat selection and carry-on luggage. 

booking flights on zipair.

ZIPAIR fare types

ZIPAIR only has two types of fares. The first includes a seat in the regular economy section This is called a Standard fare and essentially gets you from point A to point B with no frills attached. 

The other fare type ZIPAIR sells is ZIP Full-Flat. As we mentioned above, this is a stripped-down business class offering. You’ll get the lie-flat seat wherever you’re going, but it’ll cost extra for food, luggage, and an amenity kit. 

  • Standard: Includes economy class seat
  • ZIP Full-Flat: Includes lie-flat seat

Baggage fees on ZIPAIR

ZIPAIR is more generous than other low-cost carriers when it comes to baggage. All passengers are entitled to bring up to two carry-on bags free of charge:

  • The first bag can be 16 inches by 10 inches 21 inches
  • The second bag can be 14 inches by 10 inches by 18 inches

Together, the two bags must not weigh more than 15.4 pounds. Overweight bags of up to 26 pounds combined can be brought by paying a carry-on bag fee. On flights from the US to Tokyo the cost is $41. 

All checked luggage is subject to charges, though the price range will differ based on where you’re flying and the weight of your bag. On flights from the US to Tokyo, a 50-pound bag will cost you $59. 

Seat selection fees on ZIPAIR 

Seat selection fees will vary depending on where you’re flying and the seat you’re choosing. It’s possible to choose seats up to 24 hours prior to the flight, though exit row seats and seats in the first row can only be booked up to 48 hours before takeoff. 

If you don’t opt to pay for seat selection, one will be automatically assigned to you at check-in. These seats cannot be changed. It’s possible to pick your seats online or via ZIPAIR’s contact center, but there is an additional charge to do so. Book online to save money. 

Here are some examples of seat selection fees on flights from the U.S. to Tokyo:

  • ZIP Full-Flat: $18 
  • Exit row seat: $73
  • Preferred aisle or window: $32
  • Regular aisle or window: $25
  • Limited recline seat: $6

Fees on ZIPAIR: 

  • Carryon bag: 15.4lbs free of charge, otherwise $18 to $41
  • Checked bag: $18 to $68
  • Seat selection: $3 to $20
  • Food: $9 to $20
  • Wifi: Free
food on ZIPAIR.

What it’s like flying on ZIPAIR 

Checking in

ZIPAIR checkin

ZIPAIR’s website notes that all customers who qualify will be automatically checked into their flight 24 hours before departure. However, currently, ZIPAIR isn’t completing any online check-in process. Instead, all customers need to go to the airport to have their documents verified and receive their boarding passes.

Lounge access

ZIPAIR doesn’t operate any airport lounges, but it does offer paid lounge access if you’re flying from Tokyo. The Narita TraveLounge is located in Terminal 1 and provides complimentary Wifi, power plugs, tea, coffee, and soft drinks. ZIPAIR charges $12 for a lounge pass and those who’ve purchased one are entitled to either a free alcoholic beverage or dessert in the lounge.  


Because ZIPAIR doesn’t cater to those with elite status, the boarding structure is simple. They board by row; those who are sitting in the front rows board first. In practice, this means that those sitting in ZIP Full-Flat seats board first since they constitute the front of the plane. 

Flying ZIPAIR in economy class

ZIPAIR economy class cabin.

ZIPAIR’s economy class cabin flies in a 3x3x3 configuration. Seats offer 17 inches of width and 31 inches of pitch, which is fairly standard for economy. 

Although the cabin is a little worn looking (especially for a newer airline), it doesn’t feel overly cramped. There are a couple of reasons for this: First, the seats overall are much thinner as they don’t feature in-flight entertainment. Second, the 3x3x3 configuration isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it does feel less crowded than you’d find with airlines operating 3x4x3 seating in economy.

The seats aren’t overly plush and maybe be a little uncomfortable for longer flights. Think Frontier, EasyJet, or Spirit levels of padding. 

There is no regular service provided for customers, though those who have pre-ordered food will have it handed to them during the flight. Otherwise, it’s possible to order snacks and drinks onboard via the inflight Wifi service. 

Flying ZIPAIR in business class

ZIPAIR business class.

ZIP Full-Flat seats are arranged in a 1x2x1 configuration and provide direct aisle access for all customers. They’re a little on the narrower side at just 20 inches in width, and they provide 42 inches of pitch before needing to switch to a flat position. 

Like economy class, business class seats lack an onboard entertainment system. Instead, guests can use the free Wifi to watch movies and shows as well as order any food or drinks that they’d like to consume. 

It can be a little cold flying in ZIPAIR’s business class, especially if you’re trying to sleep, as the airline doesn’t provide complimentary blankets. However, they are available for purchase or you can bring your own. Overall, they provide an excellent value for money spent when crossing the Pacific, since these comfortable seats will allow you to arrive refreshed and ready without spending many thousands of dollars on your flights. 

ZIPAIR lie flat business class seat.

Tips for flying ZIPAIR

How to use a credit/voucher on ZIPAIR

ZIPAIR’s flights are non-refundable in most cases, so you won’t receive a travel voucher. If there are some issues for which they’re liable, or you choose to cancel a flight, ZIPAIR may choose to process refunds. 

How to change your flight on ZIPAIR

Once booked, ZIPAIR flights cannot be changed.

How to get a refund on ZIPAIR? 

If you opt to cancel your flight before taking off, you can request a refund for a portion of the taxes and fees that you’ve paid. Flights to and from Seoul can receive refunds subject to cancellation fees. 

What if ZIPAIR changes your flight day or time?

If ZIPAIR changes your flight day or time they will refund you the fare. 

What if ZIPAIR cancels your flight?

If ZIPAIR cancels your flight, they will give you a full refund. 

How can I contact ZIPAIR? 

You can contact ZIPAIR online via its contact form or its chatbot. Otherwise, email the airline at: [email protected] or call them at: +1-888-820-6002

Read more about some of the lesser-known airlines we find great cheap flights on: 

Frequently asked questions about Zipair

Is ZIPAIR a good airline?
ZIPAIR is a no-frills airline with the unique experience of being able to book a lie-flat seat. This makes it a great way to cross the Pacific and arrive refreshed while saving money.
Is ZIPAIR a safe airline?
ZIPAIR is a small and new airline, so there aren’t a lot of statistics about its safety. However, it has had no major incidents since its inception. It’s parent airline, JAL, has a 7/7 safety rating.
Is ZIPAIR air still flying?
ZIPAIR continues to operate its routes and is expanding. Currently, it flies to six international destinations, with routes to San Francisco and the Philippines expected in the near future.
How strict is ZIPAIR with carry-on sizes?
ZIPAIR allows customers to bring up to two carry-on bags for free. However, the bags that you bring must comply with its restrictions and your second bag must be smaller than the first.
Can you change a ZIPAIR flight for free?
It’s not possible to change or to refund a ZIPAIR flight.
What’s the average legroom on ZIPAIR?
Although it’s a low-cost carrier, ZIPAIR operates a fairly roomy economy class cabin. Expect to have legroom on par with other full-service carriers. The 31 inches of pitch you’ll find in economy is about equivalent to what you’d find on United, Delta, and American Airlines.
How can I contact ZIPAIR?
There are three different ways to contact ZIPAIR, including their chatbot, their email: [email protected], or their phone number: 1-888-820-6002.
Carissa Rawson

Carissa Rawson

Freelance Writer

Carissa Rawson has been traveling the world for over a decade, using a combination of points, miles, and discounted travel tricks to make her way. To date, she's got 60 countries and 7 continents under her belt, but as a native Californian she prefers 'tropical' to 'chilly.' Her work primarily focuses on award travel and travel. You can find her in Forbes, Business Insider, NerdWallet, and more.

Published November 6, 2023

Last updated December 21, 2023

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