On my first flight to Japan, I read an entire book and watched two movies only to find there were still four hours left in the flight. Crossing the Pacific Ocean takes a long time.
A direct flight from the continental US to Japan can take between 10 to 15 hours. The variety is due to many factors like geography and weather. To determine the specific flight time, find your specific route on the list. Also, take the outside variables into account that may increase the time of your trip.
First, learn all the ways flight times can vary, then look up your route on our handy list.
What affects flight times?
Flight routes for example, New York to Tokyo, normally have specific estimated times. Many factors can affect these times, though, causing a flight to be shorter or longer than specified.
Outbound vs return
You’ll usually notice that flights have different times going and returning. You may wonder how this is possible since it’s the exact same route going the exact same distance in the exact same plane.
The answer is wind currents. Planes flying at several miles above sea level encounter strong and consistent winds. These can help a plane if it’s going with the wind, but they can really slow the plane down if it’s flying into it. When it comes to trans-Pacific flights to Japan, the wind can make as much as two hours’ difference in flight times between outbound and return.
In this article we’ve listed the times between major cities. However, many large metro areas have more than one international airport. For example, New York has JFK and LaGuardia in the city and Newark in New Jersey while Tokyo has Haneda in the city and Narita on the outskirts. That means there are potentially six different routes between the two cities.
You wouldn’t think that this would make much difference when you’re talking about 14-hour flights across the ocean, but for various reasons, you may find that different airports can cause flights to last 15-30 minutes longer.
It makes sense that the weather will affect your flight time. Besides potentially causing delays for takeoff and landing, bad winds or storms can force planes to travel more slowly and cautiously.
Of course, the ultimate factor in your flight time is going to be how fast the plane goes. Commercial jets can fly at within a large range of speeds, typically from 400-500 knots, which is about 460-575 mph ground speed. While the speed of the aircraft may depend on the whims of the pilot and his assessment of the weather, it’s mostly a result of the wind.
Other things to calculate into your flight time
Veteran travelers know that your flight time is the least of it when it comes to making an itinerary. Many other things affect how long you’ll be traveling, so your trip will ultimately be several hours longer than the flight time suggests.
Airport location and travel
You have to get to and from the airport somehow. With a few exceptions, major international airports aren’t usually located conveniently within the city. In the case of Tokyo, for instance, Narita is nearly an hour’s train ride from the center. Haneda is much closer but still takes time to get to.
Normally, you have several options for reaching the airport, too. Taxis are almost always the fastest because they pick you up right where you are and drop you off right in front of the airport. They’re usually faster as well, but they’re much more expensive.
Trains and buses are the cheaper option, but they take longer and require more scheduling. Sometimes, your hotel may have a dedicated airport shuttle that leaves at specific times, too. Either way, you’ll need to calculate in the time it takes to get to the airport when planning your trip.
Security and customs
Airport security has become increasingly strict these days. Add that to international customs, and you can expect a lot of bureaucracy at the airport.
You should usually plan to be at the airport two hours before your flight leaves. The standard security controls can get backed up at peak flight times, and you may be subjected to random extra screenings. Customs are not as intricate when leaving your home country, but there can still be lines.
When you arrive, you won’t have to deal with security checks, but you have to go through extensive customs procedures. If you’re traveling to Japan as a tourist, you’ll have to get your passport stamped with a tourist visa. You’ll also have to turn in forms and declare anything required by the Japanese government.
All of this can take a lot of time, especially depending on the lines at the airport. If you’re going to catch a train or bus from the airport, calculate in at least an hour to go through the process.
Lastly, delays are an unfortunately common aspect of air travel. They can be divided into two types, those that are the airline’s fault, and those that are “acts of God.”
Mistakes by the airline include overbooking, mechanical problems with the plane and staff issues. “Acts of God” are the weather and other natural events that the airline could not have foreseen.
In many jurisdictions, like the EU and Canada, airlines must compensate you if there’s a long delay that’s their fault. That usually means several hours, though, and planes leaving 15 or 20 minutes late is almost as common as planes leaving on time. When planning, try to leave a cushion just in case there’s a small delay.
Direct Routes from North America
|New York-Tokyo||14 hours 20 min||13 hours|
|Los Angeles-Tokyo||12 hours||10 hours|
|Chicago-Tokyo||13 hours||12 hours|
|Toronto-Tokyo||13 hours||12 hours|
|San Francisco-Tokyo||11 hours 10 min||9 hours 30 min|
|Seattle-Tokyo||10 hours 30 min||9 hours 10 min|
|Vancouver-Tokyo||10 hours||9 hours|
|Minneapolis-Tokyo||12 hours 30 min||11 hours 10 minutes|
|Detroit-Tokyo||13 hours||12 hours|
|Atlanta-Tokyo||14 hours 10 minutes||12 hours 30 min|
|Dallas-Tokyo||13 hours 30 min||12 hours|
|Houston-Tokyo||14 hours||12 hours 20 min|
|Hawaii-Tokyo||9 hours||7 hours 20 min|
|Mexico City-Tokyo||14 hours 30 min||12 hours 45 min|
Direct Routes from Europe
|Paris-Tokyo||12 hours||12 hours 30 min|
|London-Tokyo||11 hours 45 min||12 hours 30 min|
|Frankfurt-Tokyo||11 hours 30 min||12 hours 10 min|
|Munich-Tokyo||11 hours 20 min||12 hours|
|Rome-Tokyo||12 hours 20 min||13 hours|
|Moscow-Tokyo||10 hours||10 hours 30 min|
Direct Routes from Asia
|Seoul-Tokyo||2 hours 20 min||2 hours 30 min|
|Beijing-Tokyo||3 hours 45 min||3 hours 30 min|
|Shanghai-Tokyo||3 hours||3 hours 30 min|
|Taipei-Tokyo||3 hours||3 hours 30 min|
|Hong Kong-Tokyo||4 hours||5 hours|
|Bangkok-Tokyo||6 hours||6 hours 45 min|
|9 hours 30 min||11 hours 15 min|
|Seoul-Osaka||2 hours||2 hours|
|Beijing-Osaka||3 hours 15 min||3 hours 30 min|
|Shanghai-Osaka||2 hours 15 min||2 hours 30 min|
|Hong Kong-Osaka||4 hours||4 hours|
|Seoul-Nagoya||2 hours||2 hours|
|Beijing-Nagoya||3 hours||3 hours 30 min|
|Shanghai-Nagoya||2 hours 30 min||3 hours|
|Hong Kong-Nagoya||4 hours||4 hours 15 min|
The above lists only concern direct flights. If you’re making a connection, things get more complicated. For one thing, you will have to add together the multiple flight times plus the layovers you spend in the airports in between.
Make sure your layovers give you enough time to change planes. If your layover is in a foreign country, you may have to go through customs even though you won’t be remaining in that country. This will add a lot of time, and your layover should account for this.