Edited 3 April 2019 after our experience with Thai Airways
It’s been two weeks since we returned from a ski trip in Hokkaido at the Hoshino Tomamu resort, although it feels a lot longer now that we’ve all returned to school and normal programming. This was our second time in Hokkaido, the first time we stayed at Club Med Sahoro. We have been thinking about returning either in March or December this year, or March next year, so I have been back to checking air fares and resorts. You might think it’s early, but prices can move VERY fast, and for both 2016 and 2017, we started booking in January and February!
Here is some information that you might find useful in planning on how to get from Singapore to Hokkaido’s Sapporo New Chitose Airport in the shortest time.
1. Fly direct – Singapore Airlines
I had heard that SQ flies seasonal direct flights to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, but it was rumored that these flights were chartered for exclusive use by travel agents. According to this SQ press release in 2014, the flights have been available for purchase online since 2014. However the press release is dated mid August 2014, and if you are a planner and want to book your flights early to snag the best deals, both for flights and hotels and ski resorts, August might be a little bit too late to wait to purchase flights.
Last year (2017), I was able to find the direct SQ SIN-CTS flights on their website in early March 2017. At that point in time we had already booked the resort (although it was cancellable), but not our flights yet. I was just checking up on SIN-CTS prices, when lo and behold, I discovered the direct flights!
The ANA flight that we took in 2016, departed at 0630 in the morning and arrived at 1930 in the evening, and was really rather torturous. The return flight’s departure was something like 1300hours and because of the bus schedule we had to leave the resort at 0830. We didn’t reach home until after midnight so that was almost 18 hours door to door. So I was super excited, relieved, thankful, etc. to book the direct SQ SIN-CTS flights!
For 2017/18 the flights were operational from 4 Dec 2017 to 6 January 2018. I know this because I checked on almost EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. for that period. Just because I am kaypoh like that 😀 And just today I tried to Google up information from this past season (the last flight just landed this morning on 7 Jan 2018!) but unlike the 2014 press release, there was nothing released in 2017. YES, I checked the ENTIRE list of press releases for 2017 on the SQ website (VERY kaypoh right?) but it is possible that my eyes might have missed something. All I managed to find was this website, which doesn’t even state the information source. And this post is dated 18 August 2017, which is more than 5 months after I booked my flight.
Both our outgoing and incoming flights were not full. A day before our flight I checked the SQ website again and there were still seats available for purchase. I don’t know why SQ doesn’t want to publicse this route at all? Does it cost money to send out an eDM? Or list it on their app as a promo? I don’t really understand why they trying to cut costs and introduce all kinds of fees (and then retracting it, hello?!) and not selling their seats. I am rolling my eyes right now.
If you are preparing for the 2017-2018 winter season, I would suggest you stalk the SQ website from early March or even late February. A direct flight is 7 hours SIN-CTS.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 4 2018: SQ has released their direct SIN-CTS flights on their website for bookings!!! It looks like they’re flying around 24 Nov to 6 January, but the website is giving me some inconsistent schedules.
UPDATE APRIL 4 2019: Earlier in 2019 when I checked on the fares, they were around $1.6k per pax and then went up to $2k. Then for a brief period in March 2019 (maybe a few days.) it went as low as $1.2k. I delayed booking and the prices went up to $1.3k the next day! So if you see a good price, grab it!
2. Fly direct – Scoot
I just found out today from this Scoot press release dated 9 September 2017 that Scoot also operates seasonal direct flights to Chitose. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice this in my Scoot searches last year, but by September I was already all booked and ready to go and less attentive to their flight timings. But there you go, another website for you to stalk! A direct flight is 7 hours SIN-CTS.
UPDATE 24 JANUARY 2018:
Looks like Scoot will be flying direct from 2 November 2018 and probably through to early February 2019.
3. Fly SIN-TPE-CTS by Scoot
Scoot flies from SIN to CTS with a 1-hour stopover in Taipei. You do not have to change planes and I’ve not taken this route but I hear you will need to get off the plane and bring all your handcarry with you while you’re at it, during that 1hour stopover. But for sure you won’t need to collect your large luggages from the luggage belt and re-check it in. Flight time from SIN-TPE-CTS is 9 hours which is really the quickest way to get to Hokkaido from Singapore not counting the direct flights.
That is, provided you don’t mind the 05:55 departure time – but the upside is you get into Chitose by 15:55, which still gives you some time to get to your final destination and squeeze in a meal or two.
4. ANA or JAL with stopovers in Tokyo
These flights are the second shortest options. You will need to change to a domestic flight once you reach Tokyo, and that could be at either Narita or Haneda airports. Please do check carefully as I have seen flight options where the international flight arrives in Narita and the domestic flight leaves from Haneda or vice versa, and these 2 airports are at least an hour apart.
Upon reaching Tokyo, you also have to collect your luggage from the International arrival and re-deposit them at the Domestic departure, which isn’t difficult, but do make sure you have ample time to do so.
Depending on the schedule you could also do SQ (or another airline) from Singapore to Tokyo; or from Singapore to another Japanese destination (e.g. SQ flies direct to Osaka, Nagoya, etc.) and then a domestic flight from that city to Chitose. However, domestic flights have a reputation to be very expensive, and it’s usually cheaper if you book the international flight together with the domestic flight. SQ and ANA code share flights, so if you are on the SQ website and select SIN to CTS, if you look closely you’ll see these are not direct flights (one very excited friend made this mistake), and you will see SQ flight options for Singapore to Tokyo, and ANA options for Tokyo to CTS. This option might be good if you want to spend a few days in Tokyo or another Japanese city.
ANA FB ad from January 2018
5. Stopovers in other international destinations.
When planning, I also checked several other airlines with stopovers in the airline’s hub. An international stopover means you won’t have to re-check-in luggage even if you have to take a different plane. For example, I checked Cathay Pacific for SIN-HKG-CTS flights, Eva Air for SIN-TPE-CTS, Thai Airways for SIN-BKK-CTS, etc. You can also consider stopovers in Shanghai, Seoul, etc. You might need to check flights separately, eg. flights from SIN to Seoul Incheon; then Korean Air and Asiana Air from Incheon to Chitose. Oh and I haven’t even included the budget airlines yet! Do remember that some airports are fairly large and a 1 hour window might not be enough time for you to get from one plane to another, especially your incoming flight is delayed. And don’t forget your luggage needs to go along with you too, you don’t want to be stuck without your warm clothes!
Most of these journeys which I researched are a lot longer, that the other options above, which is ok if you want to spend a few hours or days in another city. We almost booked Thai for 2017, but it would have included a long (18 hours?) stopover in Bangkok. Which would not have been a major problem as they have. Hotel at the airport and hotels with shuttles nearby. But nothing beats a direct flight, especially when you have quite a number of bags full of winter gear.
Edit: In March 2019 we did Thai Airways, which is a decent airline to fly with. However I found the transit in Bkk rather troublesome. In a total of 4 flights (2 outbound and 2 inbound), 3 flights were delayed and 3 times in BKK we had to take a bus to the aeroplane. The Bkk airport is also rather meh and not particularly exciting. The advantage to this route is that both flights are international flights so you don’t have to bother with your luggage, and are operated with larger planes as compared to a domestic route. You also fly from the international wing of the airport which might be less crowded than the domestic (depending on timing).
I hope you found this post useful! Hokkaido is beautiful any time of year and I hope you enjoy your trip there!!
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Took a route 66 yesterday – I thought that it’s cute that the gate is 66 and the flight was SQ661. I like the small and cozy international wing of New Chitose Airport, and it’s nice and warm inside too. Even on the aero bridge it doesn’t feel too cold when it’s like -10 degrees outside.