As I mentioned back in the beginning of March, ANA was changing their award structure as of April, which I thought wouldn’t change the value their awards provide too drastically. Unfortunately when I was making that assumption I was referring to the ANA award chart, meaning awards on ANA metal only, and NOT partner awards. The partner awards have been devalued significantly, as I found out the hard way.
So on Monday, March 31 I called ANA and wanted to book an award ticket for two people in First Class JFK-ZRH-DXB-FRA-JFK on Swiss and Lufthansa, an award that’s a great value at 120,000 miles per person. ANA bases their awards on the distance flown and not regions like other carriers do, so this itinerary being 13,766 miles on an award with a maximum mileage of 14,000 was a good way to maximize miles. The agent wasn’t professional at all and beyond that totally clueless (“How do you spell Dubai?”). Furthermore she repeatedly told me there was F availability, then put me on hold, and came back to say it either wasn’t available or say “That portion will be in Business Class, that’s fine, right?” Overall just a VERY frustrating experience, and of course this was an American agent without the slightest hint of Japanese in her.
Once we have an itinerary finally sorted out she puts me on hold and says “OK, that award will be 140,000 miles per person, you’re 40,000 short.” Obviously I was shocked since I really did my research on this, but as it turned out ANA implemented the new rules starting March 25, despite all of the public information stating April. This really annoyed the heck out of me, especially since I was very excited about a potential trip to Dubai and had hotels and destinations all planned out, not to mention I spent over an hour on the phone before she mentioned the new rules were already implemented! There was nothing I could do about it, so I just totally gave up and promised myself never to transfer miles to ANA again. If only their phone service were as good as their inflight service…
If it’s any consolation I did manage to get my mom an F award TPA-CLT(US F)-MUC(LH F)-BLQ(LH C)-FRA(LH C)-MCO(LH F) for May, which was 120,000 miles. The thing that sucks about awards booked with non-US airlines is the “taxes” (what a crock of crap!), which added up to $315!!! Of course it’s not a bad deal considering it’s an F award, but still not nearly as good as UA, where I would have certainly paid less than $100. I wish that they would at least not lie to us and call these stupid fees “taxes,” because I’m pretty darn sure the US airlines don’t get any special exemptions in this regard. Ultimately I guess the outcome was fine− my mom is really excited about the trip she gets to make to Italy with her sister (who lives in Germany), and I get the satisfaction of knowing she’ll get there in style.
That being said I guess the moral of the story is not to earn miles with AMEX which go to the Membership Rewards program. While they do allow for flexibility, their US air partners aren’t very attractive as far as mileage redemption goes and all of their international partners charge ridiculous surcharges. I think AA miles are the way to go, where miles not only count towards lifetime status but are also actually worth something.