AMAZING: Fly ANA First Class US-Japan for Just 120,000 Miles Roundtrip

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Three years ago I wrote a post on getting the most value out of Virgin Atlantic miles. It’s surprising one of the more popular and enduring posts I’ve written. I had simply dashed it off one morning, prompted by a reader, while staying at the Hyatt Regency in Danang.

My contention was that Virgin Atlantic’s miles were among the least valuable currencies, but that there are actually some incredible sweet spots that most people don’t consider.

And you should because Chase, American Express, and Citibank all offer transfers to Virgin Atlantic. And some of the best award redemptions are sitting right under your nose with points you already have from your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (or should have!).

Even though Virgin Atlantic Flying Club raised redemption prices for Virgin Atlantic travel and no longer partners with Virgin America the great value persists even to this day.

  • Partner award redemptions are roundtrip
  • The award charts are now hidden off the website (shares of 49% owner Delta)
  • These must be booked by phone, not online, and it usually seems like call center agents have never booked a partner award before
  • But the best ones seem to still be available

I will grant you that getting a Virgin Atlantic agent to find and book otherwise available Air China first class award space (London – Beijing in first class just 75,000 miles roundtrip) is nearly impossible.

Let me share with you my favorite Virgin Atlantic Flying Club redemption: ANA premium cabin awards.

  • In general they seem to have access to the same space that Star Alliance partners have, so search for space on the Aeroplan or United websites then call.

  • The prices are super cheap.

  • Although Virgin Atlantic does pass on fuel surcharges that would be included in a paid fare, ANA awards to Japan (and North Asia generally) are super cheap.

Here’s the award chart I shared three years ago:

For the awards I’ve booked it still seems to be intact although they could change at any time and it’s always a good idea to check that Virgin Atlantic sees availability of the flights you want and what they want to price it at before transferring points.

You will fly only ANA, you cannot combine travel with other airlines, so you need to start and end in a city that ANA serves like New York JFK, Washington Dulles, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, or Seattle. 120,000 miles will buy you Chicago – Tokyo roundtrip in first class.

And those fuel surcharges — between New York and Tokyo? Roundtrip just $4:

ANA first class used to be tough to find, but especially during the fall and winter months and out of Chicago and Houston I find it reasonably easy to get.

United charges 220,000 miles roundtrip between the US and Japan. Virgin Atlantic charges half that from the West Coast, just over half from the East Coast and middle of the country.

That’s a great use of points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Ink Business Preferred.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Looking at SeatGuru I don’t see an ANA equipment with first class seating. So is it 120,000 miles for business class? Not such a good deal?

  2. What’s amazing is that this kind of award is now considered “AMAZING.”

    Until it merged with AA, US Airways charged that same 120,000 miles for first-class awards on Star Alliance partners to “North Asia” (which included Hong Kong and Taiwan). And one could combine any of the Star Alliance carriers.

    Devaluation came fast.

  3. I got burned on this last year.

    My points were coming from Citi and I was concerned about transferring to an otherwise useless-for-me currency so I was happy that they were willing to hold the award for 24 hours. That went so smoothly I was blindsided when I needed to change the award — nothing available on ANA for weeks at a time from every airport in North America to Japan. Availability doesn’t match ExpertFlyer, doesn’t match UA, and the phone agents are a mixed bag at best.

    Caveat emptor.

  4. I’ve done this. Even Brian who says ‘caveat emptor’ did this successfully and complains only about making changes.

    Gary makes two important points, confirm the space before you transfer points, and that Virgin Atlantic’s agents have mixed competency at best. You may have to try multiple agents.

    This is definitely an amazing deal.

  5. @Brian. Thanks for the info. BTW, what was the cost to redeposit the miles?
    I flew ANA FC from Tokyo to Bangkok 2 years ago. It was outstanding! The Japanese dinner was plated like a work of art. They had “Beluga” caviar they farmed in Japan ( but no accompaniments). Great FAs & they put sweaters on the seats.

  6. Are there any good redemptions for NY to China or places in Asia other than Japan? I did Japan last summer and am looking for a different destination. ANA service other parts of Asia at same award level?

  7. Good luck with their agents actually being able to book it. They’re almost Etihad level incompetent.

  8. @ Gary & others – so are there any magic words/terminology we would have to use to explain to agents what needs to be done and how to do this?

  9. Searching on the Virgin Atlantic site I get a message that there are no partner flights between LAX and Tokyo. What am I doing wrong?

  10. Travel from Hawaii seems to be always out of the norm…but does this mean that HNL-NRT (3810 miles) would cost 60,000 in F and HNL-TPE (5057 miles) cost 80,000 and potentially bookable?

  11. Can I book an ANA open-jaw ticket through Virgin Atlantic? For my return leg NRT -> IAD there’s just waitlist so I’d prefer to go to IAH then p[ick up a cheap United award to get from IAH to IAD.

  12. i’m glad i already did thus wit my remaining virgin miles before you posted this! try end of sched for avail.

  13. @Sharon, HNL to NRT is 3800 miles each way, so 7600 RT, and I believe all the planes are 787s with only 2 classes, econ and biz. So by that chart it’d be 75000. I just booked directly on ANA (transfer from amex), I believe it’s 62.5k RT biz (i did mix cabin for 50k). There was no first class option, although biz looks plenty good. Also no one way option, but open jaw and multi city are options.

  14. I am not sure if anyone have experience in this, but if you book a business class ticket and later see first class availability, can you call VA and pay the mile difference to get the upgrade? I know some airlines allow you to do so

  15. @Gary – I just wanted to thank you for this article. I recently booked 2 RT tickets between IAD and NRT using this method. I first searched and found availability in first class on ANA’s site, then called Virgin to book. When they found the same flights I wanted, I then transferred 240,000 ultimate rewards to Virgin (transfer was instant, while on the phone). Other fees were $178 total for 2 tix. Really excited about this trip! Thanks again for the tips.

    The only issue I had with the Virgin rep was when I asked how much out of pocket the fees were going to be. He put me on hold for 15 minutes to find out. Everything else went smoothly.

  16. I just did this as well. Really, a stellar tip from Gary. What is strangest is many other blogger who write about sweet spots completely neglect this. I just booked 2 round trip F tickets on ANA using Virgin from Chicago to Tokyo for 120K each Virgin. Unreal deal considering United would be 220 each!

  17. Is it possible to book this one way LAX – NRT? I have 155K miles I need to spend, this looks to be the most fun way to do it without having to pay £££ taxes for an EX-UK flight.

  18. i am planning to make a trip from lax to japan over easter break march 29 to april7, 2018. for cherry blossom. I have 500k miles on chase reserve, I am not a ff with virgin or ANA, how should i proceed and is it too early to book

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