FCF’s Three U-Turn Strategies That Can Net First Class to Asia for Nearly the Cost of Biz


Save up to 59% on round-trip flights in First Class and up to 52% in Business Class when you travel from Asia to the U.S.

Last July we told you about the U-Turn Strategy to Europe. That’s the one where Business Class round-trips starting in Europe can be way more cost-friendly than those that start in the U.S.

Today we’re talking about using that strategy to get to Asia.

But first, the (Asian) elephant in the room: “Matt, I live in the U.S. so this doesn’t work for me.”

Well, yes it can.

If you’re planning to visit Asia more than once in a 12-month period, as many do for business, family travel, or pleasure, then this strategy can save you a trunk load of money.

Setting the Table for an Asian Kick-Off

With round-trip fares up to 59% less in First Class and 52% less in Business Class when you travel from Asia to the U.S. versus from the U.S. to Asia, that’s where a U-turn becomes a U-win.

U Turn, U Win

Below are some sample round-trip fares from the U.S. to Asia. Now compare those prices with U.S. round-trips that originate in Asia. Just look at those with $10,000+ in savings — a staggering difference.

Sample First Class Fares U.S. > Asia vs. Asia > U.S.

U.S. AirportAsia DestinationAirlineU.S. to Asia
First Class
Asia to U.S. First ClassLow-fare AirlineSavings

Los Angeles
New YorkTokyoANA$22,864$10,815ANA$12,04953%
San Francisco$20,671$9,164$11,50756%

Sample Business Class Fares U.S. > Asia vs. Asia > U.S.

U.S. AirportAsia DestinationAirlineU.S. to Asia
Business Class
Asia to U.S. Business ClassAirlineSavings




Los Angeles

New York
Hong KongCathay Pacific$9,433$7,912Cathay Pacific$1,52116%

San Francisco

Washington, DCTokyoANA$8,225$6,030ANA$2,19527%

Have you noticed that there’s only one half-decent Cathay Pacific example? Fans of that airline should note that this strategy typically doesn’t work as their fares from Asia to the U.S. are often higher than their U.S.-Asia fares.

The elephant in the room is that this strategy starts in Asia – but Americans can still save a trunk load.

U Turn, U Win.
Three Ways to Use This Strategy

FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #1:

Start with a one-way ticket to Asia (probably with miles) and then book your round-trip fares originating in Asia.
The Keep-It-Going Strategy

If you want to avoid high Business or First Class fares starting in the U.S., book a lower-fare round-trip from Asia to the U.S. Now, since your fare starts in Asia, you’ll have to get yourself there first. You can start this strategy with a one-way flight (paying in miles is often best for one-ways). We often find free award seat availability to Asia, just keep an eye on your inbox for our Sweet Redeems Alerts.

From there you can keep your trip going by buying another round-trip ticket from Asia to the U.S. as many times as you like if you’re a regular visitor. The savings multiply. And as we’ll cover in a moment, your airline alliance makes no difference with this strategy.

Here’s what it looks like:

Real-Life Example
To start the strategy, here are some sample one-way ticket possibilities.

 Ticket #1: Possibilities Using Miles:

A one-way award ticket using 120,500 Singapore Airline miles to begin the trip in First Class from Los Angeles to Tokyo


A one-way award ticket using 60,000 American miles to begin the trip in Business Class from Los Angeles to Tokyo

Ticket #1: Possibilities Using Money:

Buy a Premium Economy fare one-way from Los Angeles to Tokyo on Singapore Air often for around $1,172


Buy a budget Business Class one-way fare from
Los Angeles to Tokyo on ZIPAIR often for around $1,407

More possible one-way low fare opportunities

AirlineClassU.S. AirportAsia DestinationU.S. to Asia
Business Class



Los Angeles$1,407


Los Angeles

Premium Economy
SingaporeSan FranciscoSingapore$1,340
ANANew YorkTokyo$1,488
SingaporeLos AngelesSingapore$1,675
Cathay PacificNew YorkHong Kong$1,882
JapanLos AngelesOsaka$1,984

So many possibilities we can’t cover them all.

Ticket #2: $8,701 for travel in First Class from Tokyo to Los Angeles round-trip.

Ticket #3: Keep your journey going with another round-trip from Asia to the U.S.

Who is FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #1 for?

Budget Business Class travelers.
This is great if you hate coach but won’t pay rack rates for Business Class (a lot of people are like this). It’s also for those who can be flexible enough to jump on the routes and dates that offer deals.

Travelers who know their dates in advance.
The outbound Asia>U.S. flights are most important because you can typically change the return flight (U.S.>Asia) on a published fare for little or no cost (be sure to check the fare rules!). But if you’re visiting family in Tokyo in August, and then going back for the holidays, or you know your dates in advance, no problem. If your plans are uncertain, consider refundable fares often for just a little more.

FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #2:

The Mixed-Alliance Back-to-Back Published Fares

If you book multiple trips with one airline, and fly the segments out of sequence, many airlines will think you’re trying to do “back-to-back ticketing,” which is the practice of nesting one round-trip ticket inside another to save money. This can cause them to cancel one of your trips without notice because it’s against their rules.

However, you’re fine if you book multiple trips on different airlines. So… consider booking one round-trip starting in the U.S. with airline alliance A airline (perhaps SkyTeam), and another round-trip starting in Asia from alliance B airline (perhaps Star Alliance).

Here’s what it looks like:

Use different airline alliances because there’s no telling how much inter-alliance communication is happening between airlines. If you need a primer on why not to go all in with one airline, read our report on Loyalty Free Agency.

Who is FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #2 for?

The Frequent Traveler to Asia: Since the U.S.>Asia>U.S. fare is much higher, you take multiple trips in the middle of your first and last segment on the U.S.-originating flights to yield big savings.

FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #3:

The Mixed-Alliance:
Bookends with Mileage-Award/s
+ Low-Published-Fare Asia>U.S.>Asia

This is where you bookend the cost-effective Asia>U.S.>Asia flight with two mileage award or low-fare one-way flights at either end. Check out the diagram below for clarity.

Who is FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #3 for?

The Sometimes-Flexible Business Class Budget Traveler: There’s only one way to get a round-trip mileage award ticket to Asia nowadays — and that’s by being flexible. You can use miles for this strategy to get to and from Asia.

On the other hand, your round-trip flight originating from Asia in the middle is a published fare, so you can be much choosier with your dates. So you only need to be flexible on the award ticket portion of your trip.

If there is no low fare to your Asian destination departing from the U.S., use a positioning flight. We wrote about it here. That’s where you take a shorter flight (usually) that gets you to where the better deal is. All in all, you can net some big savings on your trips to Asia.

See you up front.

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