Fantastic First Class Award Availability to Asia With Great Service and Food

I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. Citibank is an advertising partner of this site, as is American Express, Chase, Barclays and Capital One. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.

The winter months aren’t peak time for visiting Japan, but first class award space on ANA gets pretty darned good. For major cities I’m not as concerned with the weather as I am for a beach destination, many of the things I want to do and see are more inside than outside.

More importantly award space is fantastic for connecting through Tokyo to other destinations in Asia as well. And people often want to leave the U.S. and go to Asia in those winter months.

I’m just back from flying ANA roundtrip first class Houston – Tokyo which I booked for 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles per person.

Food and service was amazing. The seat gave me a good night’s sleep, even if there were no doors and it wasn’t the large living space of an Etihad First Apartment or new Singapore A380 Suite. I consider ANA to have a top 10 first class product overall (but not top 5). And love the opportunity for Hibiki 21 Year Suntory whiskey as well.

Since I’m writing now about my ANA first class experience and overall trip to Tokyo and Shanghai it seemed to make sense to write about just how easy it is to book the seats currently — especially for January through March.

Here’s Chicago O’Hare – Tokyo for two passengers roundtrip in first class in January.

Here’s Washington Dulles – Tokyo for two passengers roundtrip in first class in January.

Here’s Houston – Tokyo for two passengers roundtrip in first class in January, this is the flight I took.

Los Angeles flights are fairly available too. The toughest route appears to be San Francisco where January appears to have ‘only’ 8 days where San Francisco – Tokyo or Tokyo – San Francisco first class awards are available for two passengers as of this writing.

In Chicago and shortly in Houston ANA first (and business) class customers will have access to United’s Polaris lounges.

Booking ANA first class awards:

  • Roundtrip first class between the US and Japan on ANA for 110,000 – 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles From the West Coast it’s just 110,000 miles for first class (90,000 in business class). I’ve booked a Houston – Tokyo Narita first class roundtrip for 120,000 miles and $169.26 in taxes (no fuel surcharges).

    You can put the award on hold for 24 hours. Points transfer from partners instantly. Roundtrip travel is required, Virgin Atlantic awards have a $50 per passenger change fee, and a cancel/redeposit fee of $50 as well. No changes are permitted within 24 hours of travel.

  • United on the other hand charges 110,000 miles each way.

  • Aeroplan charges 105,000 miles each way.

  • Avianca LifeMiles charges 90,000 miles each way.

With United, Aeroplan, or LifeMiles you can easily add ANA connecting flights beyond Japan to destinations throughout much of Asia albeit for additional miles if your destination is in South Asia.

Notably Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United — or to Virgin Atlantic. Several Chase cards you can apply for whose points transfer to airline miles and hotel points, for instance:

  • Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has the best signup bonus — 80,000 point signup bonus after $5000 spend within 3 months. That can even be enough for a roundtrip business class award ticket between the US and Europe.

    It earns 3 points per dollar on travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and 3 points per dollar on shipping and advertising on social media and search engines, so great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google. It also comes with $600 protection against theft or damage when you use it to pay your cell phone.

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    The card earns two points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The card has an introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95. I suggest it as the number on card to get started with in miles and points. Get Sapphire Reserve later, perhaps, the card’s annual fee makes this the one to get first.

American Express points transfer to Aeroplan or to Virgin Atlantic. And Citibank points transfer to Virgin Atlantic as well.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. Looks like the tax and fees has gone up now. It cost me $251.20 and 110K miles for a round trip flight out from LAX-NRT.

  2. Hmm, on the Virgin Atlantic sight, I try a booking and it doesn’t even list AKL, so I guess that’s the answer to that question about NZ awards.

  3. Agreed, such great ride to Asia Gary. The food and service in first is more consistent than Cathay nowadays- Truly 5* and sincere.


  4. Why not ANA miles?
    1) would be easier to find as they offer better availability
    2) but the trip would require more miles 150-165k
    3) Amex once in a while had a transfer bonus of 35% to Virgin Atlantic
    4) Bank of America has Virgin Atlantic Credit Cards for easy earnings

  5. Any restrictions on Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer member tenure before booking partner awards? Can I just open an account and immediately transfer in miles and book ana awards?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.