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.
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.
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.