This is a tradition we have kept for many years. We usually fly Japan Airlines (JAL) overnight to Haneda for this annual trip. Before COVID, this flight would reliably cost us about S$800-900 per person.
But in 2023, after Japan finally opened up from its COVID lockdown, there was a record-level renewed interest in visiting Japan – especially from Singapore. This high demand drove the price of flights to Japan by multiple folds and we could no longer justify flying our usual flights.
That’s when I learned about ZIPAIR and decided to give it a try. For comparison sake, if we had flown our usual flight with JAL, it would have cost us SG $5,000 for 2 adults and a 4-year-old child for a roundtrip from Singapore to Tokyo.
With ZIPAIR, we only paid SG $1,500 for the three of us! This includes paid amenities of two checked-in bags at 30 kg each, three meals on the Japan – Singapore leg, and extra legroom seats for all three of us, making it a nearly identical experience to flying the full-service carriers.
Let’s go more into detail about what it was like to fly the ZIPAIR flight from Singapore to Tokyo!
What is ZIPAIR?
ZIPAIR is a relatively new airline, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines (JAL). First launched in 2020, ZIPAIR offers similar Japanese hospitality you can expect on full service JAL flights but at a much lower cost, because you only pay what you want. At an additional cost, you could still enjoy the same amenities as when you fly full-service economy class – such as inflight meals, snack, drinks, blanket, check-in bags.
Lastly, I want to note that ZIPAIR currently only flies to Narita Airport, which is a bummer as Narita is much further away from Tokyo than Haneda. We had to order a private car transfer to reach Tokyo which cost us an extra SG $150 one way. But, it’s still much cheaper than flying full-service carriers.
My experience on the ZIPAIR flight from Singapore to Tokyo
Having flown ZIPAIR on my most recent flight to Tokyo (and then back to Singapore), here are things I noticed on the flight:
1. Booking ZIPAIR
Flight Schedule – ZIPAIR currently only flies one flight daily between Singapore and Narita Airport. This is a bummer as it gives no flexibility in terms of the timing of the flight. As of Winter 2023, the flight schedule is as follows:
|SIN to NRT
|01:20 AM – 09:05 AM
|NRT to SIN
|5:20 PM – 11:50 PM
Parents with small children will immediately notice that none of these timings are ideal, but we sucked it up and took it anyways. We were quite tired when we arrived in Narita at 9 AM since we could not sleep on the plane until around 3 AM!
Schedule Release – When does ZIPAIR release its flight schedule? Well, speaking from experience, ZIPAIR releases its schedule per season for each of its routes. There is no specific time for this, so if you’re booking for next season then all you can do is pay attention to the notification page and see when they have released the next season’s schedule. And again from experience, it is usually released in bulk about 1.5-2 months before the start of the new season.
Here is an example of the announcement when they released the schedule for the Singapore route Winter 2023 schedule.
Flight Package and Optional Services (Amenities) – While booking your flight, you will be asked to select the flight package:
If you are keen on all the benefits included in the package, then you can go ahead and add the package. However, you will also be able to add them separately later on as Optional Services. Here are the prices:
- ZIPAIR Express Services (S$29.05) – Priority Check-in at the airport
- Amenity Set (S$24.20) – Includes blanket, slippers, eye mask, neck pillow, ear plug
- Inflight Meal – Ranges from S$13-28 depending on the dish you chose
Here are the fees for selecting seats:
- Extra legroom: SGD 48.00
- Window or aisle near the front: SGD 18.00
- Middle seat: SGD 13.00
- Window or aisle near the back: SGD 16.00
- Not able to recline: SGD 4.00
And here is the baggage fees:
- Baggage Check-in (30KG): SGD 51.00/piece
- Sports Equipment: SGD 72.00 – 109.00 per piece depending on the size
Given the fees, the price of the packages is justified. However, if you’re traveling as a family with small children, you might not want to select the package for everyone since your children might not need their own check-in baggage.
2. Flight Check-in
The check-in experience at Changi Airport was very smooth. ZIPAIR Check-in desk at Changi is located at Terminal 1. We arrived 2 hours before our flight and though there was a queue forming, we only spent about 15 minutes in the queue.
As we have prepaid our check-in baggage, the luggage processing was immediate. We also brought 3 check-in bags (one per person) but they did not check or weigh our bags.
On the way back to Singapore from Narita Airport, the check in was equally smooth. There is a machine that will print your boarding pass, but we ran into issues with the baggage self check in. They also weighed our carry on this time.
3. Inflight Experiences and Amenities
Being a low-cost carrier, there were no free amenities on the flight unless you had paid for it when you booked the flight. However, there was FREE Wifi (!!) and limited entertainment.
Let’s dig more into them!
Free Wifi – YES! A budget airline that comes with inflight wifi at no additional cost? I am in heaven. In my experience though, the wifi was spotty. It is good for messaging and light browsing. Sometimes, I can’t load anything at all. However, I don’t think this was specific experience to ZIPAIR. It was consistent with my experience with inflight wifi on Singapore Airlines. Inflight Wifi relies on satellites, so the connectivity highly depends on the location of the plane when you’re trying to access wifi.
Inflight Food and Drinks Menu – Yes, ZIPAIR does offer meals, snacks, and drinks for purchase during the flight. Everything can be either ordered when you book your ticket, or inflight through the web app that you can access by scanning a QR code on board. The inflight menu is available about 1-1.5 hours after take-off. I have to say, I was quite impressed with the menu. It was very sensibly priced. A 500ml bottle of water costs ¥250 or SG $2, which is comparable to the price in convenience stores in Singapore and Japan.
I do have to warn you that the meals are limited in quantity and some of them sold out halfway through the flight.
Inflight Shopping – There are a few items available onboard that you can purchase, such as neck pillow, blanket, sanitary napkins, etc.
Inflight Entertainment – Similar to the inflight menu, entertainment can be accessed through the web app. You do need to access them from your own device though, so bring an iPad or tablet if you want an extra screen to watch the movies. You will also need to bring your own earphones or headphones for sound.
Charging Port / Power Outlet – YES, there is a charging port on the plane! I did not notice them until the end of my return leg back to Singapore because I had booked the extra legroom seats. For these seats, the charging port is located below the seat and I did not see it. Anyway, the charging port consist of one USB charge and one universal plug.
4. Pre-booked hot meals
On my way back to Singapore, I pre-booked some meals for us since we were flying from 5 PM to midnight. I booked the Pork Katsudon, Beef Gyudon, and Soba meal. The meals are… let’s just say, all of them left much to be desired. They were all still edible, but if I fly ZIPAIR again next time, I’ll pack my own meal from the konbini or eat before the flight at Narita Airport.
5. Types of Seating on ZIPAIR
Extra Legroom Seats – Since the flight was already cheap, I decided to “splurge” by getting extra legroom seats. My husband is tall and he suffers in low-cost carriers, so I figured it was worth it.
Overall, we were happy with the seat, but it’s worth noting that the armrests on most of these seats are fixed. It was not ideal for my son, since he would want to lie his head on my lap to sleep.
However, the first two of the extra legroom seats in the middle (seats D and E) do have armrests that you can lift. I had booked these on the flight back to Singapore and it helped my son sleep.
ZIP Full-flat seat – This is what truly separates ZIPAIR from other low-cost carriers! They don’t have a business class, but they have seats that can lie flat just like a business class seat would. And they cost the same or even less than flying economy at a full-service airline. If you are not flying with a child, I highly suggest the full-flat seats. The fully reclining seat will allow you full comfort on the overnight leg to Tokyo! I was keen to book this, but we couldn’t since my son is too young. Only children 7 years old and above can enjoy the ZIP Full-flat seat.
Tips for flying with ZIPAIR and what to pack
Here are some items that I would do and bring on the next flight with ZIPAIR:
- Snacks for my son – Yes, there is an inflight service where you can order snacks, and it was reasonably priced, but there was not much that my son would like from the menu. Also, it takes about 1-1.5 hours after take off for the inflight services to become available. On the overnight flight, this means the inflight service wasn’t available until about 2 AM.
- A tablet and headphones – There is no dedicated screen for inflight entertainment, but there are a few movies you can watch on your device.
- Bring your own entertainment – The inflight entertainment option was quite scarce, so I would recommend downloading your favorite shows through Netflix or Disney+.
- Extra blanket or scarf – It gets pretty chilly in the plane, so dress appropriately and bring extra layers if you aren’t planning to buy the amenities set.
Conclusion: Is ZIPAIR worth it?
Yes, absolutely! If you’re cost-conscious, ZIPAIR is one of the best ways to travel to Tokyo at the moment.
Of course, it has its pros and cons:
- Pros: Cost-effective, comfortable seats, reasonable inflight amenities pricing, reasonable luggage fees, free wifi, charging port
- Cons: Flies only to Narita Airport, inflight meals left a lot to be desired, only one time per day on the Singapore <> Tokyo flights
But all things considered, for me, the pros outweighs the cons.
And that’s all my experience and thoughts about flying ZIPAIR! Overall, I was quite happy with the cost paid and the experience on the flight.
See you next time! 👋
Note: I paid for my family’s tickets for the ZIPAIR flight referenced in this post. All thoughts and opinions are honest and remain my own.