My Amazing ANA First Class Award Redemption

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I just ticketed ANA first class awards for Ford and me to Japan for next year, and this is easily my best award redemption in quite a while, as I paid just 92,500 Amex points per person, plus taxes and fees. I wanted to share my experience with the booking process.

Virgin Atlantic’s award chart sweet spot on ANA

I don’t value Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles that much purely in terms of the value they offer for redemptions on Virgin Atlantic. However, they have some incredible partner redemption opportunities, the best of which is for travel on ANA.

You can redeem just 95,000 miles for roundtrip business class or 120,000 miles for roundtrip first class between the US East Coast and Japan, which is an outstanding value (from the West Coast it’s even cheaper — just 90,000 miles and 110,000 miles, respectively).

Amex & Citi transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic

It gets even better than that. Most of us have access to Virgin Atlantic miles by transferring points from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Citi ThankYou.

At the moment, both Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou are offering 30% bonuses when you transfer points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. The Amex bonus is valid through September 12, while the Citi bonus is valid through October 13.

Earn Amex points with these cards

It was time to act… finally!

This is the worst possible month for me to plan travel since I have so much going on at the moment, so I really didn’t want to book anything further right now. However, ever since I met Ford he has been wanting to go to Japan, and for whatever reason we always push it off.

Years later, he still hasn’t been, so it’s time to go. I have tons of Amex points (a lot more than Citi points), and with the transfer bonus ending in two days, I thought this was the time to book.

This is such an astonishingly good value that I’m not convinced the award won’t be devalued before I’d have a chance to book in the future.

Fortunately the booking process was so easy, and I wanted to share my experience.


ANA first class seat

Redeeming Virgin Atlantic miles for ANA first class

I figured I’d share my experience actually booking this tickets, since I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was.

Step 1: Find award availability

Ford and I didn’t care out of which US gateway we’d depart, so I looked at award availability for next spring out of Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington.

The easiest way to search this is through united.com, and I was surprised there was still a fair bit of space, since a) ANA doesn’t have that much first class award availability in general and b) I figured everyone else had snagged all the space at this point, given the transfer bonuses.

I had no trouble finding space, and we decided on Chicago as a gateway, so I just jotted down the flight numbers and dates.

Step 2: Calling Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t let you book ANA awards online, though Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is the most pleasant frequent flyer program phone line in the world. The difference between calling Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and British Airways Executive Club is night and day.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club’s call center is open 24 hours per day (in the US it can be reached at 800.365.9500), I didn’t even have to wait for a minute on hold, the agents are so polite and friendly, and they’re competent.

The entire process of calling — including phone prompts — took 3min30sec. Yes, that’s how long it took to get through to an agent and put the exact flights I wanted on hold. WOW!

She quoted me a cost of 120,000 Flying Club miles plus $342 per person in taxes and carrier imposed surcharges (while these recently went up, I still consider this to be a great deal).

Step 3: Transferring points to Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic allows 24 hour award holds, so after putting the ticket on hold I transferred over points from Amex. For two tickets I needed just 185,000 points. What a deal.

The points showed up instantly in my Virgin Atlantic account.

Step 4: Call back to ticket reservations

The first agent offered to wait on hold while I transfer points, though I wanted to sleep things over. So this morning I called back and ticketed the reservation. The entire call, including going through the phone prompt, took less than three minutes.

So collectively I spent under five minutes searching for award space, under seven minutes on the phone, and a couple of minutes transferring points. The prize? Tickets that would have cost $20,368.81 per person if paying cash. Gosh do I love miles and points…

ANA First Class
ANA first class seat

Bottom line

I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately when it actually comes to booking future travel, so I’m thrilled to have ticketed this. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of these amazing Virgin Atlantic redemption rates for ANA first and business class, combined with the 30% transfer bonus, I can’t recommend doing so enough.

This is a phenomenal deal, and I can’t imagine it will last for long. While this trip is many months from now, it’s one we’re both already looking forward to.

I was also so impressed by how easy the booking process was, as Flying Club is a joy to deal with by phone.

It has also been over five years since I’ve reviewed ANA first class, so I look forward to experiencing it once again.

Anyone else taking advantage of the opportunity to redeem Virgin Atlantic miles on ANA at the moment?

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Comments

  1. As a first class expert, I can say that ANA is a decent airline with typical Japanese hospitality. I flew their first class cabin a couple of times 2 years ago (never with miles) and it was pleasant. These days I am more into oneworld airlines

  2. Even though there are slightly better seats out there that aren’t a cube, I still love ANA First class. It’s always a treat to fly in ANA First.

  3. 5 days. What will you do?

    Don’t take a tour. Go by yourself. Take a train, a bus, walk.

    Also trump is a scumbag.

  4. 5 days. What will you do?

    Make sure to take a tour. Don’t go by yourself. Take Uber.

    Also Debit, Hillary, Bernie and Obama are scumbags.

  5. At the moment, no…. but I am waiting for ANA to announce when they’ll start flying their A380s to HNL in 2019. Since it is a leisure route, I hope award availability will be good for next spring/summer and using VS, it would be 90k roundtrip from NRT-HNL (with the current transfer bonus it would be roughly 70k amex/citi points).
    I bet we’ll see 2 ANA reviews from you next year (ORD-NRT and HNL-NRT)!

  6. I did this redemption for a bucket-list trip to go snowboarding earlier this year. Virgin Atlantic was awesome. When booking they let my buddy and I pool our points over a conference call to get our seats on the same ticket in case of travel issues. ANA was great as well. On the flight back there was only one other person in first. Since there were only three of us for the six seats we each got a separate dedicated bed for the entire flight. Their soft product was phenomenal. Between that and 21yr old Hibicki whiskey that redemption’s going to be hard to beat.

  7. Funny, I booked this itinerary a year ago based on your erecommendation using this transfer bonus. Not sure when you’re going, but you HAVE to go during the cherry blossom season in early April. Of course you can’t predict when it’ll land, and we were off by a couple of weeks but you can reschedule without incurring any penalty. For the Japanese the cherry blossom season is a national holiday. You’ll see young people picnicking under the trees at night at parks. You’ll see them dressed in traditional wear taking pictures in Kyoto. Also you should hit Yoshinoyama. It’s a mountain where Japanese planted cherry blossom trees hundreds of years ago, and very few Western tourists around.

  8. “This is such an astonishingly good value that I’m not convinced the award won’t be devalued before I’d have a chance to book in the future.”

    We did this trip in March and I have been wondering the same thing. I’ve been to Tokyo three times now. Partly because it is an amazing city but partly because it’s such an incredible value.

    I now 95K Virgin Atlantic miles that I have been earning from rental cars. I’m hoping to get one more trip before they eventually devalue.

    I feel like the 2020 Olympics will be good reason to raise the price.

  9. @Lucky

    If there is going to be a devaluation of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, is there anything to suggest that we wouldn’t get some kind of advance notice? They wouldn’t just kill the ANA deal from one day to the next would they?

    Assuming there is a risk of deval, perhaps it’s a good idea to book my ANA flights in advance and just accept the probability of having to pay a $50 change fee if I have to move the dates in the future, no? Or would a chance after a devaluation probably result in having to re-issue and therefore re-price at whatever the new award price might be?

    Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts on this!

  10. I just wanted to say a belated thank you for this tip. Your prior blog posts told me how to search and book this exact trip. Thanks to you, I am taking myself, my wife, and my daughter in ANA’s first class in early May. Can’t wait!

  11. Great redemption especially at that bonus. Definitely a steal imo. I’ll be in Tokyo 2 weeks prior via Delta One, also booked via Virgin 🙂

  12. As an economy class expert, I can say this is an excellent use of miles. Having flown ANA a few times (always with miles) it is always pleasant.

  13. I forgot if it was Lucky or James or someone else wrote extensively about how you value the points. The points value is not calculated by how much the ticket market price is but instead how much you’d be willing to shell out yourself. For example, for Lucky, he’s willing to pay up to 10,000 round trip for this trip per person, then his points value is 10000/92500 Amex points instead of 20000/92500.

    I just feel like it’s a bit inconsistent coz they one side talk about how you shouldn’t reply on the market price to eval but then in this article he keeps pumping that 20k…..so….I just think this is some discrepancy….

  14. Kudos on correct use of “for Ford and me”.
    Most would feel fancy using the entirely incorrect “for Ford and I”, but not you, nicely done!

  15. They did devalue the (admittedly grossly good deal) of Air China F between London and Beijing, with 1-2 days’ notice. So if they did the same for ANA I would not expect them to give advance notice

  16. ANA First and Business are some of my favorite ways to cross the Pacific. The ONLY gripe I have is with how warm they keep their cabins. It’s a veritable sweat lodge at times.

  17. I used this deal as the basis for two Around the World trips! One in January – out bound from IAD. 2nd in May coming home from NRT to IAD. This 2nd RTW will be 1st going east

    VIrgin Atlantic folks were very good!

    Now if the SPG points would show up in my LH Miles and more account. And my Ultimate Rewards show up in my SQ krismiles I’l Complete the bookings

    Also see my question about Marriott transfers shorting a few miles. #sad!

  18. Can you mix classes, ie. book first on the outbound and business on the return? I know you can when booking directly with ANA, but not sure if that applies with Virgin. Thanks!

  19. I want to go to South Asia (Bali or Ko Samui) next year around the same time frame for my honeymoon. Do you think its a good idea to fly first class to Japan via this route and then get to my final destination another way?

  20. I really hope they don’t devalue. If they choose not to raise the price, I can see VS only allowing this redemption for VS elites. That’s what they did for the Necker Island redemption. As they say, use it or lose it!

  21. Had a near identical experience as @Chauney . Booked for skiing in Japan, had a mostly empty cabin netting me in a bonus seat/bed, and enjoyed the whiskey (and much else).

    Virgin was awesome, too. The agent was shocked that I knew what flights had availability. Only possible hiccup was that he said while he could hold them, he couldn’t guarantee ANA wouldn’t take them back if they needed it. When I called back the next morning (AMEX’s website was acting up and I couldn’t immediately xfer), it was a non issue, however, and I was booked in not time.

  22. I have been an ANA Diamond Member for at least the past 10 years, maybe the past 15. I still find it incredibly hard to book ANA First Class award tickets out of JFK using miles. I generally do paid RTW tickets which are still a very good deal. More than once, I have been the only person in the entire first class cabin, which leads me to suspect that ANA is very stingy with upgrades for their most elite members. I also do not like the fact that no one-way awards are available through the ANA Mileage Club. I do like the free Michelin-starred meals that Diamond members may avail themselves of once a year, though.

  23. @Lucky
    Speaking of ANA, where are the full reviews for your two 2016 ANA business class flights? Did you forget to post them or is it intentional that there isn’t a full review?

  24. If I book Tokyo (NRT or HND) to ATL and shows first class availability on United’s website, (of course it shows it as a connecting flight from either ORD or IAH with the Tokyo to ORD/IAH as ANA flight and the connecting flight to ATL as a United flight). Can I book this connecting flight with VA Flying club with the same miles? Is it even allowed if I connect and not fly directly to the US cities that ANA flies directly too?
    Also, if connecting i.e. ORD, do I get access to their Polaris Lounge while waiting for my connecting flight to ATL?? Thanks for the help

  25. You could have booked further to another city in Japan. ANA provides Limo service (Lexus car) at Haneda from domestic to international terminal for first class passengers. It takes about 15 minutes and it is a nice ride. I do not know if they provide the same service from international to domestic terminal though.

  26. Thanks Lucky! Just booked IAD-NRT using your exact advice. I’ve been wanting to go back to Tokyo ever since I was there in 2004. What a great opportunity. I should add that I pay my quarterly business taxes with my Amex Platinum, so this trip is almost a wash for me point-wise. So excited. Thanks!

  27. Nice! Hopefully this redemption opportunity will stay for next year to book fir 2020 Olympics.
    Btw, Trump stands for “The Racist Under Master Putin”.

  28. Just curious- if one works a regular, salaried job, is there any reasonable way of acquiring the number of Amex points required for such redemptions? Assuming I want to travel in a business/first cabin, how can I collect some 100K points per year?

  29. I’m leaving next week to Japan in first on ANA. This will be my first time flying first class. I booked 11 months ago and finally it’s just round the corner.

  30. Does anyone have any idea what I would end up paying to add a lap child to my ticket? if it’s 10% that’s over $2K….ehh

  31. I booked a roundtrip from Houston to Tokyo (July 2nd-17, 2019) for the same 93k AMEX points deal. Took me 5 minutes to hold and book the reservation

  32. @AOH Amex has Amex offers, like spending $300 at Best Buy for 3,000 Points.

    I just buy $300 worth of gas gift cards.

    If you have an authorized user or two, they usually get the same offer. That’s potentially 9,000K amex points for the offer, plus 2x points on a separate offer when booked online plus shopping portal miles that have posted (though they shouldn’t) and you’re looking at a lot of points for $900 worth of gas spend (assuming you drive a car but other gift cards are available, like Netflix).

    I have gotten Amex offers for Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts….etc.

  33. @Lucky, when you were looking for flights, did you have specific dates or build a trip around dates that were available? I’ve always found ANA availability to be dicey, unless you’re booking far out.

  34. What if I want a stopover in Tokyo, with Jakarta as my final destination? Does the same 110,000 point cost apply?

  35. @AOH- it’s totally doable! The majority of your points are coming from the sizable sign up bonus. Then it’s just a matter of maxamizing your earn potential through spend using your card for anything and everything possible- and paying your balance in full each month. Take advantage of the bonus categories that each product offers as well. Most bonus categories will earn 2x -3x more points for these bonus categories. If you have friends or family that you can refer and get approved for the card, a lot of times will generate 10k MR points as well. I think it’s reasonable to say that you could earn those points in a matter of months, which was the case for me. You just have to see and think of everything as an opportunity to earn miles and points. Essentially, you are paying your bills, buying groceries, or pumping gas (everyday things- and earning points for a sweet redemption). Good luck!

  36. @lucky, I’m based in ATL, do i need to book a separate flight to get to Chicago or can i get it within the same rsvp with the ANA redemption?

  37. I already booked one roundtrip ANA first class for this November. Should be my first flight on ANA first class. Unfortunately have to cancelled due to taken the Hong Kong airline mistake fair. Oh well..

  38. @Lucky Thanks. Booked LAX-NRT for June – just 85,000 MR points with the bonus. I owe you a ginormous hat tip for this one.

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