On Wednesday I wrote about the rare opportunity to book award tickets on Japanese Star Alliance airline ANA in first class between San Francisco and Tokyo. They haven’t made much award space available in three years. But then once they updated their San Francisco – Tokyo Haneda flight to a Boeing 777 (from a 787 with no first class) the floodgates opened.
That was true for April, May and the first part of June. But they were still showing the old plane in the schedule beyond that. ANA did a further update last night. I got a reader tip in the middle of the night about some first class award space available in fall. But since then availability has broadened substantially.
You can now book ANA first class awards from June through end of schedule in and out of San Francisco. Details on how to do this are below. While at least three seats are most common, I’m seeing as many as five award seats open on some flights which is almost unprecedented.
Here’s a current availability search for (2) or more first class award seats in October between San Francisco and Tokyo Haneda (not Narita) airport:
Original January 25, 2023 post follows:
Reader Chris Willers points out that ANA first class awards are available in both directions between San Francisco and Tokyo (Haneda and Narita airports) through April, May, and in the first third of June.
Act quickly, I do not expect this availability to last. Seeing three seats – not just one or two – is very common and sometimes more. In general ANA has not been releasing first class seats at all for redemption.
Here’s a search for 2 or more first class seats in April:
You can, of course, book onward connecting flights and travel not just to Japan but elsewhere in Asia using these flights as a starting point.
Book With A Variety Of Miles
The best way to book these seats is via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club / Virgin Red. They charge just 55,000 miles each way plus surcharges but the points savings makes the extra ~ $300 worthwhile. Note that this pricing is for the non-stop ANA flights only, connections involve separate awards.
Call to book, and when the agent sets up the reservation you can transfer points instantly from American Express, Capital One, Chase, Citi or Bilt. (You used to be able to put ANA awards on 24 hour hold with Virgin but I have not been able to get them to do these award holds recently.)
Most other programs are going to charge about twice as many miles. For instance,
- Air Canada Aeroplan charges 110,000 points each way without fuel surcharges. Points transfer instantly from American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Bilt. If there are saver award seats available on United you should be able to add those to your itinerary to connect to and from San Francisco from another U.S. city.
- United MileagePlus charges 121,000 miles each way and points usually transfer instantly from Chase, but sometimes do delay, and also transfer from Bilt. There are no fuel surcharges. United may offer more connecting space to/from San Francisco than other Star programs, and more still for elite and co-brand credit card customers.
- Avianca LifeMiles charges 120,000 miles each way with no fuel surcharges. Points transfer from American Express, Citibank, and Capital One. If there are saver award seats available on United you should be able to add those to your itinerary to connect to and from San Francisco from another U.S. city. LifeMiles is great as long as there are no itinerary changes.
Check Your Flight For ANA’s New “The Suite” First Class
Generally speaking San Francisco hasn’t see ANA’s Boeing 777-300ERs that offer the new “The Suite” seat. It was mostly on Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. But now I am seeing it on the San Francisco – Tokyo Haneda (not Narita) route.
A simple way to tell is to look at the business class seat map. If it has 64 business class seats, it’s a converted plane. In planes that have the new product, business class ends at row 20 (not, say, row 21).
Still, the old seat is a private flat first class product.
Either way you get outstanding service and food – one of my favorite soft products in the sky.
Thank you Chris!