BOOKED: ANA First Class for Just 120,000 Miles Roundtrip, Here are Some Tips How to Do It

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I wrote about the fantastic value redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for ANA awards three years ago. There’s a distance-based chart and it’s reasonably priced. And flights to North Asia have extremely low fuel surcharges.

I highlighted this again back in February. Since then I’ve seen it covered on several blogs. Some readers were skeptical that Virgin Atlantic awards for 120,000 miles roundtrip in first class on ANA between the US and Japan were really possible, though a few chimed in that they had done it (and subsequent to my posting about it many more have shared their experience).

How Much ANA Awards Cost

Virgin Atlantic has removed their award chart, but I archived it and it appears to still be intact.

Using this chart you’ll see that first class awards cost:

  • San Francisco or Los Angeles – Tokyo Narita, 110,000 miles roundtrip
  • Chicago, Houston, New York, Washington Dulles – Narita, 120,000 miles roundtrip

Compare that to United’s pricing of 220,000 miles roundtrip. Aeroplan is 210,000 miles roundtrip. Avianca LifeMiles is 204,000 miles roundtrip. ANA itself charges 150,000 miles roundtrip.

At these prices I’d book first class if possible, but if business is all that’s available (or you want to take a flight that offers only business), then business class awards cost:

  • San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle or Los Angeles – Tokyo Narita, 90,000 miles roundtrip
  • Chicago, Houston, New York, Washington Dulles – Narita, 95,000 miles roundtrip

Booking ANA First Class Using Virgin Atlantic Miles

I rang up Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. It took them about 12 minutes to answer the line. I explained to the very nice Irish-sounding agent that I wanted to book a partner award ticket flying ANA from Houston to Tokyo she was happy to help, although she wasn’t the most clued in about how to do it.

  • She put me on hold for a few minutes and came back letting me know she had learned the airline and airport codes she needed.

  • She plugged in my date and told me that ANA did not fly from Houston to Tokyo Haneda. I corrected her that I was looking for Tokyo Narita. She plugged that in and confirmed availability for me.

  • Then she let me know she’d have to transfer me to the Upper Class Desk. She’s not part of that desk and isn’t permitted to make premium cabin bookings. She warm-transferred me after a few minutes on hold.

  • The next agent, who identified himself as being in London, was totally competent. He confirmed availability, took passenger names, and verified that the award space came back confirmed.

(Paid Ticket, Not My Travel Dates)

The cost per passenger for Houston – Tokyo Narita in first class is 120,000 miles and I was quoted taxes of $169.26 apiece which I think is actually $4.50 lower than it should be (also the exact amount of the US Passenger Facility Charge for Houston, so they may have just left that out).

I then placed the award on a 24 hour hold. The agent was happy to do it, warning me that since it wasn’t Virgin Atlantic space they weren’t guaranteeing the hold.

So prepare to be put on hold. If the agent tells you nothing is available make sure they’re searching for the correct airport code. This really is very straightforward.

Getting Virgin Atlantic Miles

I had about 144,000 Virgin Atlantic miles saved up. I don’t usually purposely collect Virgin Atlantic miles, since it’s so easy to transfer points in front a bank program. For instance,

I had drained almost my full Citi balance already, so I moved 37,000 points from my Prestige card to Virgin Atlantic. And I moved 42,000 Membership Rewards points over to Virgin (there’s a 30% transfer bonus on currently). That gave me the points needed. Both transferred happened instantly.

In my recent experience Citi transfers to Virgin Atlantic are now instantaneous (they used to take up to 2 days). You won’t see the points reflected in your total on the website right away, although the transaction will show up and agents will see your full total balance. If you use Award Wallet to track your miles, they’ll see your ‘true’ balance. The website updated my total in under an hour.

Important Rules to Know

ANA awards require roundtrip travel. You cannot book these awards online.

Virgin Atlantic awards have a $50 per passenger change fee, and a cancel/redeposit fee of $50 as well. That’s low by US program standards, but there are no changes at all within 24 hours of departure (you can cancel for $50 but you won’t get your miles back, just the taxes paid).

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. Awesome!
    2 questions:
    1. Where did you find the most accurate availability?
    2. Since you have to book RT, does it have to be the same class too? Can I fly a combo of “saver” Biz and First?


  2. Good deal particularly for those with credit card miles as I don’t know anyone who actually pays for a ticket on Virgin Atlantic.
    However a review or link to the ANA product is conspicuously missing, and perhaps a bit telling. I was less that impressed with the angled-seat business class product for inter-Asia travel, but I gather the C/F TPAC products are much better.

  3. Does RT include return from different airport e.g. Tokyo Haneda? How about a different Japanese airport e.g. KIX?

  4. @Boraxo ANA first class is spectacular, very very good food and service. I have flown it many times, although my last first class trip report was some time ago. What should be telling is that I’m booking it for myself and my wife..

  5. Is it true that you can’t have a connection stateside when booking ANA via VS? For example, flying from Cincinnati through ORD to Tokyo round-trip (same stop on the way back)?

  6. You mention ANA as an example. The chart you archive is for “International Travel”.
    I noticed on Virgin Atlantic’s website that Delta is also a partner. Israel is between 5000-6000 miles away from NY.
    According to the chart a round trip Business Class ticket for that mileage is 65,000 points. Does that mean I can book a Virgin Atlantic reward for a roundtrip Delta flight JFK-TLV in Business Class for 65,000?

    I am sure I cannot, but if it works with ANA based on the chart, why shouldn’t the same apply to Delta??

  7. Only RT? I am looking for a business or first class from Singapore o Tokyo to the US but only one way

  8. “ANA awards require roundtrip travel.” Did you mean with VA awards? I just flew ANA business from BKK-NRT-IAD-YOW for 75K with AP.

  9. @Gary:
    Same question as Uri: can you combine different classes of service (i.e., business class outbound, first class return, or vice versa, or any other combination)?

  10. @Rob you can ONLY fly ANA on an ANA award, you can’t combine for instance Delta which is a Virgin Atlantic partner with ANA which is another partner. So to use the ANA award chart for travel to/from the US it’s going to mean starting in an ANA gateway city.

  11. Yep, thanks to your posts earlier this year Gary I used this method to get SEA-NRT this fall on ANA in Business. Super excited! I used to find availability, which is painful, but does work once you wrap your head around how bad the UI is.

  12. Hi Gary,
    A VERY timely article, as I am planning a trip from LAX-NRT for my family. One two-part question, though: You said you’d transferred Membership Reward points to Virgin Atlantic for a 30% bonus. As a newbie, did you mean Chase Ultimate Rewards, or another card, and once those points are transferred does ANA take those points directly from Virgin Atlantic, or is there another step involved? Many thanks!

  13. @atm we booked ORD-NRT HND-ORD round trip so at least same city different airport is an option.

    Do not know whether you can return from KIX

  14. @Cathy K

    1) I transferred from American Express Membership Rewards (which currently has a 30% transfer bonus) and from Citi ThankYou Rewards. You *can* transfer from Chase, I did not.

    2) You call up Virgin Atlantic and have them book available ANA award space

    Note that you can also transfer Amex to ANA directly, but it requires more miles.

  15. Hey Gary,
    Looking at the map, would it be correct that from ORD to SIN on ANA 1st would need 160 000 ANA points? Thanks!

  16. Gary, you noted that ANA awards require round trip travel. So the award mileage requirements is determined by distance, but the distance has to be round trip distance then? If it does, can the round trip be an open jaw itinerary, say leaving from point A in country x, but coming back to point B in the same country x?

  17. If you book roundtrip on something like NYC-SIN and it runs through NRT can you build in a layover in Tokyo?

  18. It’s fairly well known how to research and book oneworld tickets using AA miles. You should do a comprehensive post about star alliance.

  19. Gary, I know it’s distance based but can you connect to other regions like Southeast Asia?

  20. I have the same question as ATM.. Does Virgin Atlantic consider a roundtrip ticket to include JFK-KIX and NRT-JFK?

  21. Why don’t you mention the taxes and fees Virgin wants you to pay for award tickets by selling your kidneys.

  22. Gary, thanks to your February post, I scored two F tickets ORD-NRT @ 120,000 each plus $171 total taxes. I used United to search for space and transferred UR points (just missed the Amex 30% bonus). Virgin Atlantic reps sometimes get a bad rap for these award bookings, but the one I dealt with was competent and efficient.

  23. Stvr – the way I read it, the Virgin ANA award would essentially price like a US-TYO and a TYO-OKA flight would as separate awards. So ANA Miles might be a better option, unless you’re transferring MR to Virgin.

    Also, make sure to price flights to OKA separately. There’s a ton of competition on the route, so fares are low. While your overall redemption rate would still be great, the OKA segments might end up under 1 cpp

  24. If I’m searching UA for space, does it have to be Saver to book these awards?

  25. @Branson IS A THIEF – if you read the post you will notice that I cited the exact taxes and fees for this award. ANA to Tokyo involves far lower fees than you think.

  26. @Branson IS A THIEF,

    $169 doesn’t sound so bad to me. Nothing like BA to LHR, now that’s truly disgusting. But I wouldn’t flinch to pay $160 to fly up front. Flew them in February, ORD-HAN in Business and loved it. Fees at this level are just the cost of doing business.

  27. Gary, are you allowed to fly open jaw on ANA? For example, SFO-TPE (via NRT) and return HKG-SFO (via NRT)? Or the r/t must be exact routing?

  28. Please answer all these questions as I have a few of the same ones. Stopover in Tokyo allowed? Can I fly to Bangkok and return from Saigon?

  29. Each flight segment is charged separately. Stopovers are allowed but you pay for the flight to Tokyo and the flight beyond to Bangkok..

  30. On United and ANA’s site, award availability is shown for economy, business and first class seats but when I tried to book with Virgin Atlantic, it came back as waitlisted, “Neither confirmed or denied” and to call back in about 6 hours. Is this the same as ANA’s waitlist? Do I have a good chance here? What gives? I transferred over 500k points from Amex! Thanks for any insight!

  31. i booked as well, showing up as an O fare.
    is that how they code first class award tickets??

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