In this post I wanted to take an in-depth look at what I consider to be the single best sweet spot award redemption in the world, which involves redeeming Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points on All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Lets take a look at how to earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, how Virgin Atlantic redemptions on ANA work, and whether this redemption is even useful anymore, given ANA’s stinginess with award availability.
How to earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points
If you don’t currently have Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, don’t worry, as there are lots of ways to earn them with transferrable points currencies, as all transfer at a 1:1 ratio:
- Convert Amex Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic; best cards for earning Amex points
- Convert Capital One miles to Virgin Atlantic; best cards for earning Capital One miles
- Convert Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic; best cards for earning Chase points
- Convert Citi ThankYou points to Virgin Atlantic; best cards for earning Citi points
If you really want to maximize value, we sometimes see transfer bonuses from these programs to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, which can stretch your points even further. When we do see transfer bonuses, in most cases they’re in the range of 25-30%.
On top of that, the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program sells points directly, and there are often even bonuses.
Redeeming Virgin Atlantic points on All Nippon Airways
While Flying Club is far from my favorite loyalty program, it has some incredible niche redemptions that you won’t find through other programs, that can make accruing Flying Club points with a specific use in mind an excellent idea.
My single favorite use of Flying Club points is redeeming on All Nippon Airways.
Virgin Atlantic redemption rates on ANA
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has a zone based award chart for travel on ANA, and the redemption rates are as follows (these prices are roundtrip, though you can book one-ways for half the cost of a roundtrip):
As you can see, all awards are to & from Japan, so if you plan on connecting beyond Japan, you’ll need to book your ticket as two separate awards. The good news is that since you can book one-ways for half the cost of a roundtrip, you can easily mix-and-match options. For example:
- You could fly one-way in first class and one-way in business class
- You could fly from the US to Japan, and then fly from Japan to Europe
I want to specifically call out that:
- Business class awards between the US mainland or Europe and Japan cost 45,000-47,500 points one-way
- First class awards between the US mainland or Europe and Japan cost 55,000-60,000 points one-way
Searching ANA awards using Virgin Atlantic points
While you can’t search or book ANA awards using Virgin Atlantic points through Virgin Atlantic’s website, the program should generally have access to the same award availability as all of ANA’s other partner airlines.
So you can take your pick of which website you want to use to search availability. I’d recommend aircanada.com or united.com, as both show all Star Alliance award availability online.
Now, the major catch with this redemption option is that ANA is quite stingy with award availability. The airline often releases only one first class award seat per flight, and even that isn’t consistent, as many flights don’t have any first class award availability.
At this moment finding ANA first class award space is like finding a needle in a haystack. In the past we’ve sometimes seen ANA offer better award availability, and I’m sure that will happen again at some point in the future.
But expect that you’ll have to work hard to find ANA award space in first class. On the plus side, business class award space is sometimes more readily available.
Booking ANA awards using Virgin Atlantic points
While it’s annoying that you have to call to book these awards, the good news is that Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club agents are the most competent in the industry. They’re actually awesome. You can phone up Flying Club from the US by calling 800.365.9500.
After you’ve determined which flights are available, call up Virgin Atlantic and give the representative the exact flights and class of service you want. The agent will look up the space, which may take a few minutes.
Often they’ll get back to you after a few minutes and say that the space confirmed. However, often they won’t get an immediate response from ANA (though the space should match what other partners see).
In those instances you’ll be given a confirmation number and will be told to call back in a few hours to see if the space confirmed. If you did your research correctly, you should be good.
Then just call back a short while later and book.
Virgin Atlantic fuel surcharges on ANA
Virgin Atlantic passes on whatever carrier imposed surcharges ANA would have on revenue tickets. The easiest way to look these up is through ITA Matrix — just look up the itinerary there for the cabin you’re traveling in, look at the fare breakdown, and expect to pay everything except the base fare.
At the moment ANA’s fuel surcharges are higher than in the past, reflecting the current state of oil prices. As oil prices decrease, I’d expect ANA’s surcharges to decrease as well. For a one-way ticket from Tokyo to New York in first class, you can expect to pay around $400 at the moment, with $343.60 of that being fuel surcharges.
Virgin Atlantic award holds on ANA
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club can hold ANA awards for up to 48 hours. More accurately, they request the space, and once they do that, it’s 48 hours before the flights drop out of the record. So you do have up to 48 hours, which should be plenty of time to transfer points.
Generally points transfers from Amex, Capital One, Chase, and Citi, to Virgin Atlantic, are all instant.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award change & cancelation fees
If you want to change or cancel an ANA award ticket booked with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points there’s a $50 fee to do so, and you’ll need to make the change at least 24 hours before departure.
Is this really that good of a deal?
Assuming you can find award availability, redeeming Virgin Atlantic points on All Nippon Airways really is that spectacular of a deal. Being able to redeem just 55,000-60,000 points for a one-way first class ticket between the United States and Japan is phenomenal. It only gets better when there’s a transfer bonus Amex or Citi.
As a point of comparison, here’s how much other programs charge one-way for the same award:
- Air Canada Aeroplan: 105,000 points
- Avianca LifeMiles: 90,000 points
- United MileagePlus: 110,000 points
Is ANA first class really that good?
All Nippon Airways has new first class and business class products, which are available on select long haul routes. I reviewed both of these products, and found them to be spectacular:
- My review of ANA’s new first class (“The Suite”), which I rank as the world’s third best first class product
- My review of ANA’s new business class (“The Room”), which I rank as the world’s best business class seat
ANA’s new hard products are truly industry leading, and when you combine it with the exceptional soft product — great service, food, and drinks — ANA is phenomenal.
Even if you end up in ANA’s old first class, you’ll still have a great experience. While the hard product isn’t quite as good, you’ll get the same great food, drinks, and service.
When will Japan’s borders reopen?
The single biggest thing standing in the way of taking advantage of this redemption opportunity is that Japan’s borders continue to be closed to a vast majority of visitors. Even as the rest of the world has largely reopened, there’s no indication that Japan’s borders will reopen on a widespread basis without quarantine. This policy has proven popular with citizens of Japan, which might explain why Japan is in no rush to open.
So here we have the world’s best award redemption opportunity, but there are limited opportunities to actually use it right now.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has some incredible niche redemptions, and unarguably the single best value is redeeming those points for travel in ANA first class. While the award redemption rates are incredibly low, the catch is that award availability can also be tough to come by, so it takes some effort to find availability.
Flying Club is transfer partners with all major transferable points currencies, so if you’re planning a trip to Japan in the future, this is a redemption option that’s worth keeping in mind. ANA’s first and business class products are excellent, which is the icing on the cake.
Is anyone looking forward to redeeming Virgin Atlantic points for travel on ANA?
So I found a much easier way than this. Air Canada allows you to book with partial points. They sell onward journeys as well, whereas Virgin cannot. For example, I booked ANA JFK-HND-ICN, which Air Canada normally sells for 75k points + 89CAD, but they also do a mix of points and money. After selecting the flight, the booking process allowed me to choose different levels, one of which being 45k + 650 CAD, which...
So I found a much easier way than this. Air Canada allows you to book with partial points. They sell onward journeys as well, whereas Virgin cannot. For example, I booked ANA JFK-HND-ICN, which Air Canada normally sells for 75k points + 89CAD, but they also do a mix of points and money. After selecting the flight, the booking process allowed me to choose different levels, one of which being 45k + 650 CAD, which is the same Virgin charged. The best thing about it is that I can book it online, and it still uses transfer points from Amex. Chase, not so much.
Is it possible to have a free stopover in the US on the way to Japan? I live in Miami and need an additional leg (likely FLL-ORD or FLL-LAX w United).
Does anyone know whether or not booking ANA business RT via Virgin Atlantic from LAX to Taiwan is possible? I've read that booking RT from LAX to TPE is possible (while stopping by Japan on the way) via ANA mileage club exists, however I wasn't sure if that was the same as booking with Virgin. I think from what I understand, ANA mileage club booking and Virgin ANA booking is different?
Does anyone know how to access the ANA reservation once you do manage to book through Virgin? I tired the record locator from Virgin and the Ticket number and both did not work on ANAs website. I’d like to log in and pick seats.
With Japan reopening borders, it really is difficult to try to make the case for a point redemption.
I don't know if I want to redeem my hard-earned points if I have to pay nearly $1,000 in fuel surcharges and taxes (as of October 1)
Points out of SFO start at 88K for economy :( and 175K for business class. Insane.
So if i see availability on uniteds website for 88k business and 121k in first, how much points do i need in my virgin atlantic account for both of them? thanks in advance
An incredible value that is almost never available. And now that United borked their award search it's hard to find it.
I was lucky to fly 2 F JFK-HND and back a few months ago but all that availability is now gone.
How did you get into Japan a few months ago given Japan has been closed due to covid? Or do they let you transfer to another airline and leave (presumably to another country) at NRT/HND?
Earning points is easy finding award space is impossible!!!!!! There is no wayward available . I have been looking since 2019!!!!!. Unless you want to travel one week in oct you will never find a seat. If you do find that unicorn hope you like traveling solo because you will never find 2 award seats! These travel blogs are full or crap. Great stories of how you can travel the world in luxury. NOT,
I redeemed for this sweet spot back in November after using the 30% transfer bonus from Amex. I just had the flight on Aug 28, and it was incredible. Had a same-day connecting flight with ANA on a separate Aeroplan booking, and I was able to transit NRT without any issues
Amazing value indeed.
I agree these repeat articles are not helpful, if there are no eats to book.
You can’t even go to Japan without travel agents booking your flights and hotels with few exceptions. Who knows when that will end. On top of this availability for F is scarce, so really let’s not mislead people into thinking this is viable for anytime in the near future.
You can book your own flight. They just came out with new rules starting September 7th. You have to be sponsored by a tour company and get an ERFS. I already got my visa to go in October and I scheduled the flights and hotels myself. A lot of other people have done the same thing. F and J is scarce but it’s available (especially for 1 person) if you’re flexible. We were fortunate enough to get two Fs on the new suites out of JFK before the fuel charge devaluation.
Hey Andrew, can you point me into the direction of the tour operator? Have my ANA flights booked for November since last year and didn’t realise I’d be able to keep them post Sept 7th! What are the costs? Thanks
Can you suggest a tour company to work with? I have tickets and hotel for November but need help finding a company to help with getting ERFS
This is a total joke. Zero award availability.
I swear this thing doesn't f'ing exist. Stop pushing things that do not exist
Availability has been impossible to come by between LAX and Tokyo which is a bummer since I've usually had good luck even during the holidays. I really hope something opens up since I have enough miles sitting in my account for a first class roundtrip from a trip that was cancelled during Covid... :(
Don't be fooled by the brand new first and business class seats, they are unicorns. Those planes only run from the JFK and LAX and that's assuming the plane schedule doesn't spontaneously change. You also will never book those seats if transferring to Virgin as those who have points directly with ANA can book 30+ days before you. On top of all this, the surge of tourists going to Japan since they were closed for 2.5 years.
There is something weird with ANA awards right now, and it may have something to do with Japan's continuing pandemic-related travel restrictions, because searching on the UA website I found no ANA award tickets between TPE and NRT or ICN and NRT, which used to be ubiquitous. The only awards available are for other *A carriers (BR, OZ, even ET!). None for ANA...
That's because there are currently no scheduled ANA flights whatsoever between NRT and ICN/TPE.
...meaning that like China, Japan is still in full pandemic mode...
ICN & TPE resumption still pending per NH press release dated 8/30 - https://www.anahd.co.jp/group/en/pr/202208/20220830-2.html
I believe ANA still operates HND-TSA using A321. NRT-TPE hasn't come back yet.
Booked LAX-HND through Flying Club a few weeks ago, and the agent said ANA was no longer permitting holds. No big deal since the transfer was instant, but might be worth confirming.
I have booked LAX-NRT in F three times since COVID, haven't stepped on the plane yet. Each time I book I tell myself Japan will be open by the flight date. Nope.
RJ - ever consider transmitted to somewhere else in Asia like Korea? Might be worth it if you’ve Ben able to snag a ticket. My wife and I had rebooked 3 times as well, and finally decided to keep the flight and plan around it. We had an excellent time in Seoul.
Alex, yes I've thought about it. Current booked flight in Oct. arrives in NRT at 1645, and Narita closes at 2300, so very limited options to get out of NRT in time. Might check again though!
Alex - can you tell me how that works? Japan is opening Oct 11, but we are looking to go to Korea the week before! We were thinking of flying to Japan, but then transfering to a flight from HND/NRT to ICN. Will we be allowed to do that before Oct 11?
RJ - ever consider transitting through NRT to somewhere else in Asia like Korea? Might be worth it if you’ve Ben able to snag a ticket. My wife and I had rebooked 3 times as well, and finally decided to keep the flight and plan around it. We had an excellent time in Seoul.
Not true. Just yesterday VS agent offered me the option to hold my NH award for 48 hours.
That was also my experience, I tried 2 weeks ago and agent wouldn't hold it. I tried to insist it should be possible, but he said he did it a week ago and got into trouble with a supervisor. So I think its a new policy. He kindly offered to wait on the line while I transferred the miles, but I declined because it would have had to involve family members transferring CC points between...
That was also my experience, I tried 2 weeks ago and agent wouldn't hold it. I tried to insist it should be possible, but he said he did it a week ago and got into trouble with a supervisor. So I think its a new policy. He kindly offered to wait on the line while I transferred the miles, but I declined because it would have had to involve family members transferring CC points between accounts and was just too complicated. In the end I booked the same award (SEA-NRT Business for Dec) with AC, for 55k instead of the 45K with VS. Just as a data point, I think I spoke to someone at the India call center because I called past midnight Central European Time.
There almost completely non existent award availability on ANA for the entire schedule, even using ANA points, so let alone partner award. Hopefully once the passenger cap lifts it will get better.
Exactly, this shouldn't be posted since he's wasting his readers' time. Next time make sure there's 1st class availability. Nobody needs theoretical trips. That's what Travelisfree (Drew) used to excel at.
Gotta disagree. There is single F availability out of ORD on some dates and sporadic J from all the cities. Checking daily is key for 2 seats. If you don’t check consistently, you’ll never get it. You can also do F for one person and J for another sometimes.
Hi Andrew, would you mind sharing any of those dates from ORD that you have found?
Japan is opened for unguided tours finally (September 7th). There are a few tour companies allowing you to book your own flight and will issue you an ERFS. I just got a Visa for October. We'll be flying 2 people in the new first class suites with Virgin Atlantic points from JFK. Award availability has decreased and surcharges have increased a ton so I went through the visa hassle since I probably couldn't find two...
Japan is opened for unguided tours finally (September 7th). There are a few tour companies allowing you to book your own flight and will issue you an ERFS. I just got a Visa for October. We'll be flying 2 people in the new first class suites with Virgin Atlantic points from JFK. Award availability has decreased and surcharges have increased a ton so I went through the visa hassle since I probably couldn't find two seats again and it would probably cost $1400 more in fuel surcharges fees for two people round trip.
Can please let me know the name of the tour companies and the one you use? Thanks
What’s the names of these tour companies? Thanks
lol good luck.
NH just announced their winner schedule (Nov 22 thru Feb 23) with additional flights on some US routes, some of which (NH105/106) are using 777s configured with their new 'Room' biz class seats. The revised equipment hasn't been loaded into their reservation system, which still shows 787s thru the winter to LAX, SFO, etc. I preemptively booked a biz award in Feb 23 on NH 105 in the hope that the new equipment gets loaded...
NH just announced their winner schedule (Nov 22 thru Feb 23) with additional flights on some US routes, some of which (NH105/106) are using 777s configured with their new 'Room' biz class seats. The revised equipment hasn't been loaded into their reservation system, which still shows 787s thru the winter to LAX, SFO, etc. I preemptively booked a biz award in Feb 23 on NH 105 in the hope that the new equipment gets loaded soon. VS allows free changes when upgrading class of service - otherwise they charge a $50 change fee.
It's 10/3022 to 03/25/23, not Feb.
Does ANA ever release 4 business class seats? Award availability has become sooo much harder with 2 kids.
Good luck finding available space
Even looking out close to the end of the schedule, has anyone been able to fine decent business or first class award availability on ANA recently? They used to be reliable about making seats available, but now there's almost nothing. I had been able to book my family of three on ANA using Virgin points (1 first, 2 business) for 2020, and then 2021, and then 2022, but recently when trying to rebook for 2023,...
Even looking out close to the end of the schedule, has anyone been able to fine decent business or first class award availability on ANA recently? They used to be reliable about making seats available, but now there's almost nothing. I had been able to book my family of three on ANA using Virgin points (1 first, 2 business) for 2020, and then 2021, and then 2022, but recently when trying to rebook for 2023, I'm finding nothing. Instead, JAL has opened space on pretty much every flight, so I booked awards for next year with them.
Yep been looking for months and don't see any availability for 2023. NH got stingy prob.
Is this really avalable?
NH now tightens award spaces due to passenger cap.