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Jetstar review: Sydney to Tokyo

Discover the highs and lows of booking with the budget airline to Tokyo and back.

I'm a stickler for a good Jetstar deal, and one of the airline's best and most popular deals is its Japan return-for-free sale.

The sale occurs a few times per year and sees you pay for your outbound flight and then pay nothing to return. That's right, nix.

So when the opportunity arose to jump ship for a week to Tokyo, Japan, for under $527 return, including 15 kilograms of baggage, I couldn't resist.

Flight Details:

Flight Numbers: JQ952 and JQ025 (outbound), JQ026 and JQ957 (inbound)
Aircraft Type: Airbus 321 (domestic) and Boeing 787 (international)
Route: Sydney to Tokyo via Cairns, return
Class: Economy
Dates travelled: 24 February - 2 March 2018
Frequent Flyer: Qantas Frequent Flyer

Jetstar: What I liked

  • Cheap fares. For $527 return out of Sydney, including limited luggage, it's difficult to find anything cheaper. I had to sacrifice in-flight meals to keep the fare this low, but unlike other budget airlines, Jetstar doesn't ban you from bringing your own food on board, so you can pack a meal to save your dosh. I also sacrificed the in-flight entertainment; however, it only costs $10 per flight and includes the latest blockbusters, making it a steal for those who need TV time to fall asleep or are unable to sleep on planes.
  • Comfortable seats. I'm not a tall person by any means, though I have been in cramped quarters in planes, and Jetstar is one of the few budget airlines that provides me with enough leg room to allow for a relatively comfortable sleep. This was true for both my domestic and international flights.
  • Solo traveller perks. I experienced both perks and disadvantages of travelling alone on my flights. When travelling from Sydney to Cairns I was lucky enough to have a row of three to myself and from Cairns back to Sydney, I was bumped up to seat 1C (the exit row), right at the front and again with a row of three to myself. I've had this occur before due to the flight being empty and the airline needing to "balance" the plane by upgrading single passengers to the front of the plane where you'd otherwise have to pay more for the privilege. Needless to say, both were comfortable flights.
  • Online and self check-in. Jetstar emails you when online check-in is available enabling you to check-in and receive your boarding pass before you arrive at the airport. This cuts your time spent in line as you can head straight to the bag drop counter or through to screening and security if you've only opted for carry-on luggage. Unfortunately, for this flight, I could only self check-in my domestic leg and not the international portion of my flight (see below).

Hello exit row/legroom!

Jetstar: What I didn’t like

  • Having to check-in twice for my flight. Jetstar doesn't fly direct from Sydney to Tokyo, so all flights are via Cairns or the Gold Coast. While this breaks up the flight, it meant I was travelling one domestic leg and one international, so I had to collect my luggage at Cairns Airport, walk from the domestic to the international terminal (not far) and line up to check in again at Cairns for my international flight. For my outgoing flight, this was seamless as the check-in counter was already open, but for my return journey, I had a four-hour wait from 5am, which meant milling around in the wee hours of the morning waiting for the counter to open. Not the most desirable experience.
  • Solo traveller disadvantages. When checking into my return flight from Tokyo to Cairns, I was left stressed and confused. The lady at the counter said that since I hadn't paid to reserve a seat, I would have to wait until all passengers in line had checked in before they could determine where to place me on the plane. This is something I've never experienced before; however, she was lovely and gave me a seat from behind the counter to sit on as I waited, hoping Jetstar hadn't overbooked the flight and were bumping me off. She called me up immediately after the line cleared and found me a seat between two other solo travellers. While it all worked out, I had to run to the gate since I wound up checking in just one hour before my flight due to the delay.
  • Strict luggage weight limit. Refusing to allow you to check your bag in if it's over your purchased weight is fairly true of budget airlines, but Jetstar follows this rule to a "T". It will either charge you for the excess kilograms or insist you pull every piece of clothing out of your bag until it meets your purchased checked-luggage weight. Luckily, I weighed myself both ways so I didn't have a problem with my bag; however, I saw passengers who were forced to open up and take out their stuff at the counter next to me.

Would I travel with Jetstar again?

As a budget traveller, I'm content with any seat on a plane to get me from A to B, and for the price I paid, I wouldn't hesitate in returning back to Jetstar for another sojourn through Japan.

The booking process was easy, the check-in was smooth and the service was friendly. Just be prepared to walk between terminals if you're travelling between Sydney and Japan and weigh your luggage well before hitting the check-in.

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