ANA First Class With Virgin Atlantic Miles: An Incredible Value

As I wrote about a couple of days ago, the US Amex Membership Rewards program is offering a 30% bonus on points transfers to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club through September 12, 2018.

Earn Amex points with these cards

While Flying Club is far from my favorite loyalty program, they have some incredible niche redemptions that you won’t find through other programs, that can make accruing Flying Club miles with a specific use in mind an excellent idea.

In this post I wanted to share a refresher on what’s arguably the best use of Flying Club miles, which is redeeming for travel on Japan-based 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:

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.

Searching ANA awards using Virgin Atlantic miles

While you can’t search or book ANA awards using Virgin Atlantic miles through Virgin Atlantic’s website, they should generally have access to the same award availability as all of ANA’s other partner airlines. So perhaps the easiest website to use for searching availability is United’s, though if you prefer you can use ANA’s website, Aeroplan’s website, etc.

Booking ANA awards using Virgin Atlantic miles

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 them 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, and expect to pay everything except the base fare.

ANA did recently raise fuel surcharges, though they’re still reasonable.

As a general rule of thumb, you can expect the carrier imposed surcharges for a roundtrip ticket between the US and Japan to run $260, so you’d pay a total of about $350 roundtrip including all taxes and fees. These same surcharges apply in first, business, and economy class.

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 (Amex points transfer to Virgin Atlantic instantly).

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 miles there’s a $50 fee to do so, and you’ll need to make the change at least 24 hours before departure.

How good of a deal is this?

There are frequently transfer bonuses from transferable points currencies to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. For example, they charge 120,000 miles for roundtrip first class from Chicago to Tokyo, which would be 93,000 Membership Rewards points roundtrip under the current promotion. As a point of comparison, here’s how much other programs charge one-way for the same award:

  • Air Canada Aeroplan: 105,000 miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles: 90,000 miles
  • United MileagePlus: 110,000 miles

Redeeming just 120,000 miles roundtrip first class to Asia is an incredible value. Of course it’s not for everyone, like if you’re only looking to fly one-way.

Is ANA first class really that good?

Yes it is. ANA first class really is fantastic — the food, the drinks, the service, and the amenities. The service in particular is flawless.

While their first class suites are nice, they’re not my favorite in the sky, because they’re annoyingly “boxed in” in such a way that you can’t easily talk to the person seated next to you. But it really is a top notch product.

ANA First Class

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has some incredible niche redemptions, and arguably the single best value is redeeming those miles for travel in ANA first class. Flying Club is transfer partners with all major transferable points currencies, so when you add in a transfer bonus, the value proposition becomes even better.

Comments

  1. One way is not an option, only roundtrips. Adding any segment will also be extra (so around 40-50k) if you’re looking to add another city. Booking this could be a challenge since not all VA agents are familiar with it.

    You’d also have to wait for ANA to confirm after you put awards on hold (similar to booking Hawaiian airline using JetBlue Points), and there are many phantom seats that VA can’t book either. According to Flyertalk, changing your dates could be challenging too.

  2. How can you say the program is distance based? The current chart on the VA website is based on regions with a stopover requiring additional miles. If I am correct, you really need to redo this post

  3. I booked this a few weeks back for IAD-NRT round trip and also on ORD-NRT with return HND-ORD… both tickets were 120k plus $86

    They work on the old distance based chart that has long since disappeared.

  4. According to the website, its not cumulative at all:
    “If a journey requires a connecting flight or stopover to reach the destination, miles are charged for each sector.”

  5. Also, the distance-based award chart in this post is, indeed, no more. It is now region-based and any travel beyond Japan will be priced as two separate awards, altho one booking. If you want to do this (probably still cheaper than most other award options, esp with Amex 30% bonus), you should do as two separate tickets to save on taxes, since flights originating or terminating in Japan have much lower fees than, say, JFK-TYO-HKG as one flight. Same number of miles.

  6. How about Air China First class LHR to PEK for 75k return as best use of Virgin miles?

  7. New at this, so apologies if this is a dumb question, regarding the holding of the ticket, so VS will make the request for you even if you don’t have enough miles to cover it and you have up to 48 hours to get the mileage needed? Thanks.

  8. What other points transfer options are available at good transfer rates?

    With this promotion I’m about 30K points short. Might have to do some Amex offers.

  9. So if I want to redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards for a R/T flight on ANA to Tokyo from JFK, is it better to transfer to United or Virgin? Can I transfer to Virgin and then book directly through them? Sorry if this is repetitive at all; I’m still new to this. Thx.

  10. @RSB31 – you want to transfer to Virgin and ticket with them to get the 120,000 RT F/C ticket. United is double the miles.

  11. Hi Lucky – I just called Virgin to put an award on hold and they said for partner awards it’s only a hold of 24 hours.

    Thanks for the post though!

  12. When using united as a base does it have to be a saver award to work when calling virigin or does a standard award work?

  13. Appreciate the write up! Went through this process last night, called in and had ORD-NRT RT in F booked within 15 minutes, the MR transfer was instant so the agent could process it immediately. I believe it was ~130 in taxes for the trip.

    One note is that the VS ticketing systems are having trouble with Thailand tax codes currently, so my J segment of NRT-BKK RT is only on hold while they sort it out – they are unable to charge the taxes and thus issue the e-ticket. To be clear based off another user’s comments though, these holds can (and mine was) be placed for two weeks, there’s no 24 hour limit.

  14. I’m fairly new to all this so forgive me if I’m missing something.

    I would like to cash out my 125,000 MR points and close my card now so I don’t get charged the yearly membership fee. Is it a good idea to get the Virgin Atlantic points with the 30% bonus with the intention of using them for an ANA award trip to Asia in the next 2 years? My other options that seem less valuable are to transfer them directly to ANA at 1:1 or add them to my Delta miles.

  15. Brandon – you run the risk of Virgin Atlantic devaluing their ANA award chart. Given how comparatively ‘cheap’ it is, I’d say there’s a very real chance that could happen, although my guess is that it would still remain a competitive rate.

  16. I found availability using the United site for a roundtrip in a couple months. It matched what they had and was confirmed instantly.

    I called the US number with option 4. They do seem to have day time business hours. I kept trying to call late evening (west coast) and no answer. When I called early morning, around 6:00am (Pacific), they answered within 10 mins.

    The cost was 110,000 miles plus $169.

    One thing to note: I had created a virgin Atlantic account. I transferred some SPG points which took about 12 hours, transferred overnight. Amex points transferred instantly.

    However when I tried to book the next morning, the system wouldn’t let them. She told me it was due to the fact that I had created an account less than 24 hours earlier. She put the award on a 24 hour hold and I called the following morning. She was able to ticket it, but manually, at least it worked.

  17. Just to add a “data point,” I just transferred 22,000 AmEx points to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. I logged out of my account, logged back in and 28,600 miles were already credited to my account. Took less than seven minutes.

  18. I am searching on United for IAD NRT. Most First class tickets require about 220,000 miles. I can not find any for 110,000. Am I missing something here?

  19. @El

    Only use United to search for ANA award availability at the Saver level. The prices you see are booking with United miles.

    Once you find award availability on United, you need to call Virgin Atlantic and book it there. It’s 110,000 roundtrip from the West Coast plus about $169. I think it’s 120,000 roundtrip from Central and East coast.

  20. FYI Called Virgin a couple times, several flights that currently showed as available on ANA partner sites such as United/Aeroplan did not show available for Virgin.

  21. @jpv

    Use expertflyer.com, make sure you indicate how many rewards you are looking to book on the flight. I used the site to first test it’s accuracy for two rewards, and Virgin confirmed availability, and then booked two first class rewards for different dates. Both times availability was confirmed on the phone. So basically I booked $39,000 (USD) in RT tix (JFK-HND) for $337 and 240,000 miles. Expert Flyer offers a 5 day trial and if you’ve exhausted that just pay for the access, it’s worth it.

  22. I was waiting for the dates I needed next spring to finally open up, and made my reservations last week! A couple of notes: you get different information for different Virgin representatives; the first one I spoke with told me this offer was only valid on JFK – Narita routes, but I eventually booked through Haneda. I also found there was a waiting period for ANA approval once I requested tickets, which could last as long as 24 hours. However, it seems like the longer the wait, the better chance your request will be granted, as I was told ANA rejects quickly. Finally, one Virgin representative implied that it was also possible to book Business Class through them, although the difference in points wasn’t that much. Transferring my points from Chase to Virgin only took seconds, as others have posted. In the end, I booked first class R/T (going to Haneda & returning from Narita) from JFK for 120,000 miles and only $169.06 in taxes. Not a bad deal! Thanks again to Lucky for posting this and to everyone who commented with their feedback. Can’t wait for my trip next spring!

  23. Great thread! I hope it’s still monitored, because I have a question.

    I am in Houston and want to take advantage of IAH to NRT on ANA first class the last week of December 2018. Current award availability shows tickets until the end of the of July on the United site.

    So I have several issues. American Express will end Virgin Atlantic point transfers after November 1st, my flights will not be open for award booking until three months later, at least based on the United website search, the impending Alaska loyalty program merger, risk of point devaluation at any time, etc.

    My question is if either of these options are worth taking:

    Option one, at the end of October, confirm space on latest available first class round trip ANA IAH-NRT award , probably for late September, and hold, transfer 240,000 (two of us) Am Ex MR points to Virgin Atlantic, get tickets, then hope to move back the dates 3 months later, when December 2018 award space should open up.

    Option two, transfer 240,000 American Express MR points to Virgin Atlantic October 31st, assuming there are no adverse changes in the program between now and then, then wait three month until the end of January 2018, for award ticket availability, hopefully still bookable for 120,000 per person round trip, without adverse changes to the award structure between November 2017 and late January 2018.

    Neither options seem like home runs. Can I get any other opinions on those option, or any others,

    Sincerely,
    Mark

  24. Mark:
    Amex is not cancelling Virgin Atlantic point transfers– they’re cancelling Virgin America point transfers due to the Alaska merger. But you can still transfer to Virgin Atlantic. Keep the miles in your Amex accounts as MR as long as possible– only transfer to Virgin when you’ve called them and they’ve already confirmed you on the ANA flights on the dates you need. Transfer is instant.

  25. Can you work the system to book the RT flight but cancel it part way through if you only need a OW? The refund terms talk about getting 100% of the miles back if the flight is cancelled more than 24hrs out. Is that from the start of the trip or the flight specifically?

  26. Seems almost too good to be true. But followed instructions exactly as described. VA operators seemed be very familiar with the program. Issue was finding flights that ANA would confirm through the VA operator. Many of my dates worked only out bound and not inbound. But was able to confirm from LAX to Narita return for 110,000 points and with the AMX deal that only cost me 85,000 points. Unbelievable deal, Wow !!!

  27. HI, are they still partner virgin and ana, i called virgin atlantic, i called virgin atlantic they said they could no longer book ana, (from lax to tokyo) please clarify

  28. I just came across this helpful article, but hopefully someone can help me. When I search for award availability on United, does it need to have saver award in order to be able to book it on Ana via Virgin Atlantic? What else only the standard award is available? How about in economy (also only saver)?

  29. @ Question — It does need to be saver award availability, though all ANA award availability you see on united.com is saver availability.

  30. Can anyone confirm if the distance award chart is dead?

    I would like to book IAD-BKK in F. Distance chart above would be 160,000, while region based on chart at Virgin’s website would be 185,000 (120,000 + 65,000)

  31. Are these rates/charts still valid? Looking to book a trip from US to Tokyo for Jan or Feb 2019. If so, is the above process still best practice? If not, any suggestions on best airline/use of miles for a premium cabin (preferable first) RT ticket?

    Ideally, using a combination of AMEX Membership and Chase Rewards points.

  32. Chart may not be accurate. Quoted 127.5k today for IAH-NRT-ITM,NRT-IAH 13,573 miles total. Was 120k for only IAH-NRT, NRT-IAH 13,285 miles, which would match the chart. Not sure if they have a more granular chart, or maybe the NRT-ITM leg is considered a separate leg that they are charging 7.5k for.

  33. @curtis exact same thing happened to me as well. tried to add a leg to osaka and was quoted extra 7.5k miles per person. how much was your taxes and fees for one ticket? i was quoted ~$255 a person which is def higher than the $175 mentioned in this article.

  34. Man – Some of these questions are all over the place.

    1. The taxes are not always the same. But I can almost assure you whatever VS quotes you is the “correct” amount.

    2. It’s not distance based. With the requirement that roundtrip travel is required, consider LAX/SFO to be 55K each way in F. IAH/ORD/IAD/JFK is 60K each way. You can mix and match (i.e., IAH-NRT-LAX would be 55K plus 60K = 115K.

    3. To look up award availability, go to united.com, click “more search options”, then click “more search options” again to finally get to the advanced booking page. Choose one-way. Enter LAX/SFO/IAH/ORD/IAD/JFK as the From, and Tokyo – All as the To. Make sure to only check Nonstop. Choose First class and the number of passengers. Click search. Wait. Expand the calendar to 30 day. Wherever it says 110K is ANA F, since that’s the only *A nonstops in F from those cities (SQ won’t show).

    4. Do the same for the return.

    5. Call VS. Wait on hold for 30-45 mins. Talk to a competent agent (they mostly all are), and just give the exact dates and flights you found on United. They will request the space from ANA, IME it takes 30 seconds. Sometimes I’ve read it takes hours. They will create a booking either way. If it returns quickly, you can ticket it. If not, they will place it on a 48 hour hold with the warning that the space may drop out after 24 hours. Don’t be that guy. Just call back before 24 hours is up.

    6. Wait for a ticket number, go to ana’s website, search for your reservation using the ticket number and your name (not the booking reference number), and choose seats, enter passport info, etc.

    That’s it. It isn’t THAT difficult.

  35. Haha – just noticed all of these comments are from a while ago. But anyways, there’s my quick tutorial lol.

  36. If using United site to search availability, make sure you are not logged in. MPE cardholders will see availability that is not open to any random user. And Virgin Atlantic is only going to have availability based on what you would see if you are NOT logged in.

  37. What is the onward travel to Southeast Asia on ANA like? Is NAR-SIN comparable in ANA to that is SIngapire airlines?

  38. I called VS a few days ago to book any date in November or December. Zero availability. The chances of snagging first or business class availability are very low on ANA. Economy is wide open on Delta

  39. Just booked 1st SFO-NRT-SFO for two in April. It was easy – no hold time, a terrific agent named Ross, and instant transfer from AMEX after he verified the flights. We transferred 85K Amex points from each our accounts to our separate Virgin accounts and Ross merged them. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes (are you listening United and American?).

    What a great deal! Thanks Lucky!

  40. There is phantom space on the ANA website. Tried to book a couple awards by calling Virgin Atlantic in June and they said ANA did not have award availability. After a few unsuccessful tries I gave up and booked a JAL Business Class RT award with 120,000 AAdvantage miles which was a great experience. So whatevs.

  41. So much inconsistency in regard to tax and fee charge on the U.S to Tokyo flight. I was charge $260+ on tax for the LAX-NRT per person in F. Now I saw some people reported they only charge for $165+ on tax . What gives?

  42. use expert flyer to reduce phantom or no availability issues with united. even Virgin rep told me to use it, super worthwhile $10 for amazing J or F r/t. Or you could be cheap and waste your hours cross-checking multiple websites, calling virgin, waiting on hold, then having them go and find availability for you based on the list you made – not fun, don’t do option 2.

  43. Brandon, have you thought about applying for a Amex Everyday card? There is no annual, that’s how I keep my MRs active.

  44. Was just on the phone for 30 minutes and the agent couldn’t even see an ANA flight (never mind that it was bookable or not).

  45. The First seats were not fancy, but still comfortable. I found the low walls to be lacking for privacy, and too shaky for the more turbulent parts of the flight. Other than that for the hard product, I found their soft product (service) to be topnotch, as expected of Japanese service levels. I’d fly with them again, if only for the friendly service and great on-board sake!

  46. This was really, really easy (even for an impatient technophobe like me): opened a VA account, waited 24 hours during which time I surfed the United site to find suitable flights (there is a lot of availability through ORD/IAH/LAX, nothing through SFO and I didn’t look at NY). ORD-NRT-HND-ORD for 120K. I wrote down the dates and flight numbers. Called VA flight club, waited about 10 minutes on hold. Then, I’m pretty sure Harry Potter got on the line. It took about 10 minutes for HP to confirm the flights (magic!). I got onto my Amex account, linked the VA account and transferred miles. It was instantaneous. Called VA again. Waited 10 min and got Ron Weasley on the line. He deducted the miles and charged me $341. Can’t select seats until 72 hours prior to departure. EZPZ. Thanks, Ben: I’ll be sure to raise a glass of Krug and a tumbler of Hibiki 21 in your honor!

  47. @SDExla – Take the ticket number to the ANA website, and you will be able to select seats (and also attain the ANA booking reference number).

  48. @Colin: awesome. thanks.

    I should mention that Harry and Ron were brilliant, fantastic! They really were great.

  49. Can you book to Osaka via Tokyo if the direct Osaka flight is not available and then book the return from Narita?

  50. Are these awards bookable once ANA schedule loads (for example, I can book up to 9/17/2019 on ANA’s website as of today. Is this date also bookable via VA)?

  51. Can I use Chase UR points transferred to VA points to fly out of Boston, connecting to any of ANA flights from IAD, JFK, or ORD?

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