Airlines are making it easier for Australian skiers and snowboarders to get to Niseko, with additional flights and easier transfers among changes made by two of the four major commercial carriers operating direct flights between Australia and Japan.
ANA announced earlier this month that it would resume flights from Sydney to Tokyo after a 16 year hiatus, giving Qantas, Jetstar and Qantas' Oneworld partner JAL stiff competition in the increasingly competitive winter travel market.
The soon-to-be added ANA flight will head for Tokyo's downtown Haneda Airport rather than the larger Narita International Airport, which is located 60km east of Tokyo. Haneda Airport, Tokyo's primary domestic travel hub, serves as a more convenient destination for those transferring to Sapporo, and eventually Niseko.
Qantas has also upped its efforts, doubling the number of flights between Australia and Japan. It does so with a new daily service between between Brisbane and Tokyo (Narita), while its daily overnight Sydney to Tokyo flight shifts to the preferred Haneda Airport.
Niseko holidaymakers looking for direct flights departing from other Australian cities may wish to consider low-cost carrier Jetstar, which operates flights to Tokyo (Narita) from Melbourne, Cairns and the Gold Coast. Return flights for winter 15/16 between the Cairns and Tokyo are currently being offered on the company's website from as little as AUD393.35.
Transfers to its domestic service, Jetstar Japan, involve a relatively pain-free walk to Narita Airport's newly-built Terminal 3, however there are fewer flights to Sapporo to choose from than there are out of Haneda.
With that said, the absence of direct flights between Australia and Sapporo means that the best route to Niseko often involves a layover in another country, so don't worry if the direct flight to Tokyo is booked out.
Niseko Central blog readers noted that China Airlines offers a cost effective option from Brisbane to Sapporo with a layover in Taipei. Cathay Pacific and Korean Air also operate flights to Sapporo departing from major Australian airports, with layovers in Hong Kong and Seoul respectively. There are various other routes to choose from.
Niseko remains popular with Australian travellers
Niseko remains hugely popular with the Australian crowds, with the 2014/15 winter season seeing some of the highest numbers on record. According to a report released by the Niseko Promotion Board, Australians accounted for more than 148,000 bed nights between November 2014 and April 2015, a slight increase on the previous season. An astonishing 77,219 were in January, which has developed a reputation as the most consistent month for snowfall.
Direct flights from Australia to Japan for winter 2015/16
|Departure City||Airline||Destination||Flight Number|
|ANA||Tokyo (Haneda)||NH880 (From December 2015)|
|JAL||Tokyo (Narita)||JAL 772|
|Gold Coast||Jetstar||Tokyo (Narita)||JQ11|
|Cairns||Jetstar||Tokyo (Narita)||JQ25, JQ33|