(Video) Sunday Reader Question: What Exactly Does the ANA Search Tool Show?
One of today's questions came from TPG reader Yun, and is about the kinds of awards that come up when searching for Star Alliance availability using the ANA tool:
"When you are searching for Star Alliance availability with the ANA search tool, how do you know what level award it is. I see the availability on the flights but I'm not sure how I know what level the awards are pricing at?"
In my opinion, the ANA search tool is the single most accurate online award search tool available to you when looking to find Star Alliance award availability. The general rule is that if you stick with availability you see on ANA, it'll be at the lowest or saver level because those are the awards that Star Alliance carriers release to their partners. So if you see a seat on Thai Airways that's available on ANA, but you plan to use United miles, you will be getting that seat at United's saver level for whatever point to point redemption it is.
In terms of figuring out how many miles you'll actually need to redeem for the awards you find on there, unless you're actually planning on using ANA miles, you don't need to look at their redemption chart. As with all awards, the mileage chart you need to be looking at is the one of the airline whose miles you plan to use to book your ticket, not the operating carrier.
So for instance, if you are actually searching for an award seat on ANA between San Francisco and Tokyo, but you're using US Airways miles to book it you'll need to look at the US Airways partner award chart to see how many US Airways miles that redemption would require. In this case, it would be 60,000, 90,000 or 120,000 miles roundtrip in economy, business or first class respectively.
If you were to look at ANA's award chart, though, you'd see it's distance-based and would require 60,000, 110,000 or 180,000 miles for economy, business or first roundtrip. But you don't need to look at that unless you're actually using ANA miles. However, you're booking your awards through the program whose miles you have, and not through ANA's, so it's your airline's award chart that you have to look at - you're basically just using ANA to validate availability.
So if we looked at that same SFO-NRT itinerary using United's award chart, we'd see Saver level is 65,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 120,000 miles in business, or 135,000 in first.
However, if you mix in peak award segments with your saver segments - for example if you needed to redeem miles for a peak award ticket from Phoenix to San Francisco on US Airways to catch that ANA flight to Tokyo - that will drastically throw off the mileage requirement that you see and possibly price out your whole itinerary at a peak level when you call US Airways to book it. Always look at availability segment by segment, and if a segment is coming up on the ANA search tool, it will be at the low level.
You can also use United.com and Aeroplan.com to search for Star Alliance awards, and all the results that show up in the Saver column should be available to book using miles from other Star Alliance partners.
For link of award charts, see this post.