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Maximizing the New ANA Award Charts

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ANA’s frequent flyer program is just one of many to be the target of a recent devaluation. Today, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr takes a deep dive into ANA’s new award charts, uncovering a few hidden gems.

Over the last two years we have seen devaluation after devaluation of points and miles programs. Last November, when ANA announced that it would be joining the ranks of the award chart changers, my heart skipped a beat. It really had a great program. Today, I’ll explain why not all of ANA’s changes are bad and how you can still use the program to fly great itineraries.

New Program Basics

There are now two zone-based award charts: one for flights operated by ANA and one for ANA’s partner airlines, both Star Alliance members and non-members.

Award chart for round trip flights operated by ANA departing Japan.
Award chart for round-trip ANA flights departing Japan.

ANA’s old, distance-based award chart allowed multiple stopovers at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, along with the switch from distance-based to zone-based redemption tables, ANA changed these formerly generous routing rules. Here is a brief rundown of rules to note when using ANA’s new program:

  • One-way redemptions are not allowed.
  • You can redeem points for other family members (up to 10) but must first register them on ANA’s website.
  • Redeeming miles on ANA-operated flights is zone- and season-based (low, regular or high season). There are also blackout dates for award flights to Hawaii on ANA.
  • One stopover, other than your destination, may be made on flights departing from overseas. No stopovers can be made for flights departing from Japan.
  • Up to two transfers may be made on the outbound and inbound trips each in Japan. (Your destination is not included in the number of transfers.)
  • One open jaw is allowed.
  • International award tickets must be requested 96 hours in advance.
  • Mixed class itineraries are allowed, but you will be charged the highest-class mileage price for the whole itinerary.
  • Multiple Star Alliance partners can be combined on one ticket. If using other partners, your itinerary must be entirely on a single partner.
The rules of ANA's new program depend largely on if your trip begins in Japan or not.
The rules of ANA’s new program change a large amount depending on if your trip begins in Japan or not.

Chart Sweet Spots 

Let’s first look at the best redemptions offered by the new program when flying ANA operated flights only:

  1. North America to Japan round trip in business class for 85,000 (regular season) or 75,000 (low season). Round-trip in economy for as few as 40,000 miles in low season (for 2016, that’s January, February, and April).
  2. Europe to Japan round-trip in business class for 90,000 (regular season) or 80,000 (low season).
  3. Europe to Asia 1 round-trip in business class for 95,000 (regular season) or 85,000 (low season). That means you could fly London to Manila round-trip in business for 85,000 miles.
ANA charges only 50,000 miles roundtrip from North American to Japan but also charges $260 in fees.
ANA charges only 50,000 miles roundtrip from North American to Japan in regular season, but also charges $260 in fees.

Now let’s look at how to maximize the award chart for partner airlines (which includes if you are flying ANA and any partner segment). There are no different seasons for partner award flights, and all prices are for round-trip flights:

  1. North America to Europe in business class for 88,000 miles.
  2. North America to Africa/Middle East (e.g., Los Angeles to Johannesburg) for 65,000 miles in economy.
  3. Japan to North America in economy for 50,000 miles.
  4. Intra Africa/Middle East in economy for 30,000 miles. (South African, Ethiopian and EgyptAir provide great ways to maximize this price.)
  5. Europe to Africa/Middle East for 68,000 miles in business (example: Iceland to Johannesburg round-trip with a stopover).

The pitfall with ANA is the taxes, fees and fuel surcharges it places on some partner flights. The following partners do limit this: United, Turkish, Air New Zealand and Air Canada depending on the routes. Even with considerable fuel surcharges, the mileage redemption rates for long-haul, premium-cabin flights make some of these routes a good deal.

ANA charges $632 to fly Lufthansa roundtrip to Europe in Economy - that is a bad deal.
ANA charges $632 to fly Lufthansa round-trip to Europe in economy — not a good deal.

I may be inclined to use ANA over, say, AAdvantage, to fly to Europe due to the fact one stopover is allowed.

ANA only charges $195 and 88,000 miles to fly on United in business to Europe in peak season. One stopover is also allowed.

ANA’s new award charts don’t always make sense. For example, parts of Oceania are closer to Japan than Hawaii but still cost more miles. There is an around-the-world option, which is priced based on the distance of the entire itinerary (it costs 20,000 miles for a trip of less than 2,000 miles in economy, and 300,000 for a journey of 50,000-plus miles in business class. The around-the-world ticket allows eight stopovers, with a maximum of three in Europe and four in Japan.

Bottom Line

I’ve flown ANA several times over my last 26 months of living in Japan. I flew ANA’s short-haul Dreamliner in business and economy from Haneda to Beijing, the 767 business from Narita to New Delhi, ANA’s last 747 from Haneda to Okinawa and ANA’s new “cube” first class from Chicago to Narita. My wife and mother have flown ANA’s long-haul Dreamliner from Tokyo to Seattle. It is a fantastic airline with impeccable cabin staff, great lounges and a comfortable onboard product. I am happy the new program did not completely destroy the value of ANA miles, as I still have the chance to fly ANA long haul at fantastic mileage costs.

On the other hand, one part of this change that really stings is the loss of the ANA search tool. It was the best online resource for finding Star Alliance partner award space. While losing the old ANA program and online search tool hurts, I believe it could have been much, much worse. As evidenced by the above examples, there are still some outstanding redemptions to be had.

ANA’s zones for partner award flights.

The easiest way to get ANA miles is to transfer at a 1:1 ratio from your American Express Membership Rewards points. I have heard rumors this week of a 100,000 and 150,000 sign up bonus for The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN (this link is for the standard 40,000 point offer after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of account opening) by spending $10,000 or $15,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. You need an RSVP code to be eligible for the offer.

Otherwise, I recommend the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express, which is offering 15,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. The ability to earn bonus points with the card can really make your Membership Rewards account balance increase quickly. 

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