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Far Out, Far East: Fair Fares to Asia

September 26, 2003 -- Face it: airfares to Asia may never be as low as they were this summer, when it seemed like Asian airlines were willing to pay you to fly to their favorite destinations. But prices are still pretty swell, with several airlines making it pretty easy to get to Asia for under $600 from the West Coast.

Airfare sales right now come from Japan's JAL (, Korea's Korean Air (, Taiwan's China Airlines (, and our very own United ( and Northwest (

We'd pay a little more to fly on JAL or United over China Airlines, which doesn't have the world's greatest safety record. Advertised fares we found compelling included:


From Los Angeles

  • Hong Kong $490 (United)

  • Taipei $491 (China Airlines)
  • Bangkok $540 (China Airlines); $549 (Korean Air)
  • Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya $543 (JAL)
  • Hanoi $617 (Korean Air)

From San Francisco

  • Hong Kong $470 (China Airlines); $480 (United)
  • Taipei $500 (China Airlines)
  • Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya $543 (JAL)
  • Bangkok $549 (Korean Air)
  • Seoul $579 (Korean Air)

From Las Vegas

  • Taipei $558 (JAL)

  • Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya $648 (JAL)

From New York

  • Hong Kong $590 (United)

  • Bangkok $665 (JAL); $669 (Korean Air)
  • Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya $714 (JAL)

From Dallas

  • Bangkok $649 (Korean Air)
  • Hong Kong $658 (United)

For the United fares, you have to buy by October 24, travel outbound in October and return by the end of November. A five-day advance purchase is required. For Northwest fares, buy by Oct. 8 for outbound travel through Nov. 30 and return travel through Dec. 23; a seven-day advance purchase is required. For China Airlines fares, buy by October 21 for outbound travel through Nov. 30. For JAL fares, book by Oct. 8 for departures before Nov. 30 and returns by Dec. 23 with a 7-day advance purchase. For Korean Airlines, purchase by Sept. 30 for outbound flights by Nov. 30; Korean Air also requires 1 4-day advance purchase.


Head to the relevant airline Web sites or to your favorite travel agent to book these fares.

Pleasant Packages and Passes

Two other deals -- one a package, the others passes -- can provide you an even better bang for the buck than the airfare deals above.

Go-Today's "Hong Kong Super Sale" gives you a flight and five nights' hotel for, in many cases, lower than the price of airfare alone. This package is good for flights between Nov. 16 and Dec. 16 or Dec. 26 through March 17, and starts at $499 from San Francisco or Seattle. Where it gets good, though, is in the $549 price from New York, or the $624 price from places like Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston and Salt Lake City. They'll put you up at the Newton Hotel for that low price. The package is available for purchase through Oct. 28. Book it online at (for November and early December departures) or at (for 2004 departures.)


If you want to cover several cities in Asia, Cathay Pacific's "All Asia Pass" costs $999 from New York, San Francisco or LA, and includes 21 days of travel to 17 cities in Asia. This fare is good through Dec. 3, or from Feb. 1 to May 13, 2004. There are a few hoops to jump through: you need to sign up for Cathay's free frequent flier program first at, and then book the pass offline with a travel agent. In the past, we've recommended Tulips Travel (800/882-3383; for booking airpasses, and we've heard good reports about them from readers since.