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ANA Award Chart Changes: Good News and Better Redemptions

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Japan-based carrier ANA recently announced a major change to its frequent flyer program, shifting from a distance-based chart to a region-based one. I asked TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen to take a look at the change and what it means for award travelers.

ANA has one of the best mileage programs out there.
ANA has one of the best mileage programs out there.

ANA has long been ranked one of the top foreign frequent flyer programs thanks to a distance-based award chart with some amazing redemption values (such as only 63,000 miles round-trip in business class from New York to London!). However, the airline surreptitiously updated the mileage redemption page on its Japanese site to say that starting April 12, 2015, its award chart would change to a zone-based formula like the traditional ones used by US legacy carriers such as American Airlines.

Details are still scant, and the information comes from ANA’s Japanese site. However, the enterprising posters at FlyerTalk have created a thread outlining the changes, and Travel Is Free provided some more details over the weekend.

Why It Matters?

You might be thinking that changes to a Japanese airline’s frequent flyer program won’t impact many flyers here in North America, but you would be wrong. ANA has a few features that make it a great program to consider in your mileage strategy. Its award search engine is one of the best for finding Star Alliance award availability, and as I mentioned, the current chart has some amazing redemption values.

ANA pulls most Star Alliance award availability in the online search engine
ANA pulls most Star Alliance award availability into its online search engine.

Furthermore, ANA allows passengers up to three stopovers on each round-trip award ticket (with a few restrictions). You’re only allowed to stopover once in Japan if you originate overseas, and cannot stopover in Japan if you originate there (so no flying from Japan to somewhere else, then back to Japan and on to another destination). You can also have an open jaw either at your destination or by returning to a city other than your origin, but the two cities in your open jaw must be within the same region. This page explains it all.

On the downside, the airline does impose fuel surcharges and levies taxes (sometimes quite high ones) on its own awards and certain partner airlines.

In addition to Star Alliance carriers, ANA has several other non-alliance airline partners including Virgin Atlantic, Etihad, Garuda and Hawaiian Airlines, among others.

ANA has a lot of great non-alliance partners.
ANA has a lot of great non-alliance partners.

ANA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (transfers usually take about 48 hours), which you can earn with cards like the EveryDay Preferred, Premier Rewards Gold, and the The Platinum Card from American Express. ANA is also a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest (transfers can take up to a few weeks). However, if you transfer 20,000 Starpoints at a time, you get a 5,000-point bonus, giving you a potential transfer ratio of 1:1.25.

The final big positive of ANA is that the airline doesn’t charge close-in booking fees or last-minute award booking fees; that can potentially save you hundreds of dollars when booking award travel late in the game.

All this makes ANA’s mileage program a versatile tool for frequent flyers to maximize awards on Star Alliance carriers and its other airline partners.

The Current Chart

You can find the current ANA partner award chart here, though I’ve copied the chart below for reference.

ANA's current award chart is distance-based.
The current ANA award chart is distance-based.

The distances listed are for your entire itinerary, and the mileage requirements listed for each class of service are those for a round-trip award. Right now, there are a few sweet spots to point out.

Under 2,000 miles – Cheap(er) Short-Haul Redemptions

An economy ticket under 2,000 miles only costs you 20,000 miles in economy and 38,000 miles in business class. That means short-haul domestic flights on a partner like United could be slightly less expensive with ANA than with United MileagePlus (which would cost 25,000 miles in economy and 50,000 in business class).

4,001-7,000 miles – East Coast to London

This range gets a lot of attention, because flights from New York and Boston to London Heathrow fall just within the round-trip window here, meaning you can fly round-trip on Virgin Atlantic for just 38,000 miles in economy and 63,000 miles in business class.

You need just 63,000 ANA miles to fly Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class roundtrip from JFK-LHR.
You need just 63,000 ANA miles to fly Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class roundtrip from JFK-LHR.

That is practically a steal considering award flights on Delta (Virgin Atlantic’s main US partner) would cost you 60,000/125,000 miles, and Virgin Atlantic would charge you 35,000/80,000 miles for the same trip. Again, just beware of the fuel surcharges on ANA awards.

7,001-9,000 miles – North America to Europe

Though a bit higher, this mileage range is still a gem in the award chart, since you can get from much of North America to Western Europe for just 43,000 miles in economy (generally the only way to beat this is with AA’s Off-Peak SAAver awards for 40,000 round-trip), 68,000 miles in business class, or 100,000 miles in first class.

To put that in perspective, let’s say you wanted to fly from Chicago O’Hare to Frankfurt on Lufthansa.

United would charge you the following number of miles round-trip on its own aircraft.

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Business: 115,000 miles
  • First: 160,000 miles

And on its partners like Lufthansa, United would charge you the following.

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Business: 140,000 miles
  • First: 220,000 miles
67,500 Ultimate Rewards points transferred to United and I got the new Lufthansa 747 upper deck First Class on Frankfurt-Miami.
Want to fly Lufthansa first class? ANA miles are the way to go.

Aeroplan (of Air Canada), the other major North American Star Alliance mileage program, would charge you:

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Business: 90,000 miles
  • First: 125,000 miles
Aeroplan's award chart has some great redemptions like from North America to Europe.
Aeroplan’s award chart has some good values, but ANA’s still beats it.

Again, keep in mind that unlike ANA, United won’t add fuel surcharges or huge taxes, while Aeroplan will, depending on the partner. So even though you’re using tens of thousands more miles through United MileagePlus, you will likely save hundreds or thousands of dollars.

9,001-11,000 miles –West Coast to Tokyo

This distance band can get you from the West Coast to Japan, and comes at the following mileage levels with ANA.

  • Economy: 55,000 miles
  • Business: 85,000 miles
  • First: 120,000 miles

By contrast, United would charge you the following on its own metal.

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Business: 115,000/150,000 miles
  • First: 160,000/220,000 miles

So once you hit Business and First class, you’re looking at potentially huge savings in mileage (but not in taxes/surcharges, so be sure to look into those before transferring miles and/or booking).

The Changes

There are a lot of changes to consider, especially given that the ANA award chart is changing from distance-based to zone-based, and ANA has one chart for its own flights and another for partner flights. Here’s what is known so far according to the FlyerTalk thread mentioned above.

ANA's new zones.
ANA’s new zones.

Here (in Japanese) is the ANA chart, and here (also in Japanese) is the partner chart.

According to FlyerTalk, here’s how the zones break down.

ANA Chart

  • Zone 1: Japan
  • Zone 2: South Korea
  • Zone 3: Asia 1 (North Asia)
  • Zone 4: Asia 2 (Southeast Asia)
  • Zone 5: Hawaii
  • Zone 6: North America
  • Zone 7: Europe

Partner Chart

  • Zone 1A: Japan international
  • Zone 1B: Japan domestic
  • Zone 2: South Korea
  • Zone 3: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Manila, Guam
  • Zone 4: Southeast Asia and India (other in Asia)
  • Zone 5: Hawaii
  • Zone 6: Continental US, Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico, Canada
  • Zone 7: Europe and Russia
  • Zone 8: Africa, Middle East
  • Zone 9: Central and South America
  • Zone 10: Oceania, Micronesia
Here is the new full award chart...in Japanese.
Here is the new full award chart…in Japanese.

Here’s what the new numbers will look like coming from North America now (all values in thousands of miles).

New Partner Chart

North America Hawaii Central/ South America Europe Africa/MidEast Japan South Korea North Asia South Asia Oceania
Economy 25 40 40 45 60 50 60 65 70 65
Business 48 68 68 72 90 85 95 105 110 105
First 80 100 100 110 140 150 170 180 185 160

It looks like you’ll be able to include one stopover each way and two connections each way.

Changes and New Sweet Spots

The new chart makes it a bit easier to calculate how many miles you need for a specific award, since you don’t have to know the mileage of your entire route (which can get complicated if you have stopovers or multiple segments).

While some folks will feel more of a pinch – for instance, it will now cost you a bit more to get from New York to London (45,000 instead of 38,000 in economy and 72,000 instead of 63,000 in business) – others will find tremendous savings.

Most of the increases are marginal. For instance, the new numbers within North America bring the program in line with other award charts at 25,000/48,000/80,000 miles for economy/business/first (in fact, first class is a bit higher than what you’d would need using other miles).

But flyers will be able to find better values with the new chart in long-haul flights that were previously priced much higher with the distance-based chart. The main sweet spots I want to call attention to are Europe, South America and Africa.

Let’s say you want to fly from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. The roundtrip is about 11,600 miles non-stop (not taking into account any layovers). Under ANA’s current mileage chart, you would need the following number of miles.

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Business: 90,000 miles
  • First: 140,000 miles

Those awards aren’t bad. However, once the new award chart goes into effect, you’ll need the following number of miles.

  • Economy: 45,000 miles
  • Business: 72,000 miles
  • First: 110,000 miles

That’s a downright bargain – especially considering that ANA requires the same number of miles for a round-trip first class redemption on partners like Lufthansa as United charges for just a one-way flight under its new award chart, So you’re saving half the miles!

For that same flight, Aeroplan would charge you the following number of miles.

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Business: 90,000 miles
  • First: 125,000 miles

You still come out way ahead using ANA over Aeroplan miles, especially since the two programs charge you comparable taxes and fees.

For another distance-based example, let’s say you want to fly from Seattle to Cape Town via New York JFK and Johannesburg with a long-haul flight and South African domestic flight on South African Airways. That totals about 22,400 miles round-trip.

US Airways is often criticized for flying old planes.
Africa is one of the best new award chart sweet spots: get from the US to South Africa on SAA for just 90,000 miles round-trip!

Under the current ANA chart that would mean spending

  • Economy: 100,000 miles
  • Business: 145,000 miles

With the new zone-based chart, however, you’re spending just

  • Economy: 60,000 miles
  • Business: 90,000 miles

That’s an incredible deal! It even beats US Airways’ classic award chart sweet spot of 110,000 miles round-trip in business class on this route. It also handily beats United, which would charge you the following to fly SAA:

  • Economy: 80,000 miles
  • Business: 160,000 miles

Some other sweet spots to look out for from North America include:

Economy

  • South America: 40,000 miles (this ties AA’s Off-Peak awards)
  • Japan: 50,000 miles
  • Australia/New Zealand: 65,000 miles
  • Middle East: 60,000 miles

Business

  • South America: 68,000 miles (by far the best mileage out there)
  • Japan: 85,000 miles
  • South Korea: 95,000 miles
  • Australia/New Zealand: 105,000 miles
  • Middle East: 90,000 miles
  • Southeast Asia: 110,000 miles

First

  • South America: 100,000 miles (blows everything else out of the water)
  • Europe: 110,000 miles

Conclusion

Over the past two years, we’ve seen devaluation after devaluation of airline frequent flyer programs, so every time a change is announced, you can practically hear award travelers cringing. While some prices will go up when ANA’s new zone-based chart is implemented in April, and the stopover rules will certainly tighten, the majority of news here is positive, especially if you were planning to use ANA miles to fly long-hauls that might previously have cost a lot more.

As always with ANA miles, the one caveat is that you should calculate what the taxes and fees on your award are likely to be. TPG did the legwork for you with his series on ANA award taxes/fees last year, but it never hurts to call the airline directly and price it out on the routes and carriers you’re most interested in flying.

I also suggest comparing current mileage levels to future ones on the specific awards you’re interested in and booking before April 12 if you find that the cost is going up for you after that date.

If you were planning to use your Amex Membership Rewards points for ANA redemptions, these changes might affect your calculations somewhat, but you can also transfer those points to Aeroplan if you find a better redemption value there. It’s nice to have choices!

How will the new ANA award chart affect your points and miles strategy? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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