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Reduced Fuel Surcharges on ANA Award Tickets

March 15, 2016
9 min read
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Reduced Fuel Surcharges on ANA Award Tickets
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Japanese carrier ANA's loyalty program is a great option for redemptions, especially for premium award travel, but its fuel surcharges have long limited Mileage Club's appeal. Fortunately, as TPG Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr explains, those fees are about to get much more manageable.

Thanks to new planes, tremendous Japanese service, great food and fantastic premium-cabin travel, Japan-based All Nippon Airways (ANA) is one of the best rides in the sky. However, one thing's prevented ANA's Mileage Club program from being a solid miles redemption option: hefty carrier-imposed surcharges added to many Mileage Club award tickets.

Recently, ANA announced a planned reduction in those charges based on the declining price of oil. The ANA announcement states that fuel surcharges would not be adjusted until April, but after keeping an eye on the prices for the past few months, it seems ANA has already made positive changes. Today, I'll review how ANA is discounting these often-significant charges and see just how much an ANA award ticket will cost you out of pocket.

ANA's First Class Cube is the most comfortable sleep I've had in the sky.
ANA's First Class Cube is the most comfortable sleep I've had in the sky.

Flights on ANA Metal

The region in which your trip originates greatly impacts the current carrier-imposed surcharges from ANA — for example, North America to Japan round-trip incurs half the carrier-imposed surcharge of Japan to North American round-trip. Charges will also vary depending on whether you redeem miles for flights on ANA or for a seat on a partner airline.

The below series of charts takes these factors into account and gives examples of the amount of cash required for ANA award flights as of March 6. All prices are for round-trip flights, with the origin listed first in each row.

Origin-DestinationTaxes and Fees
Japan-North America$209.64
North America-Japan$86.60

Based on my searches, it's always cheaper to originate your round-trip from outside of Japan when flying ANA. Look at the below examples of flying ANA first class using miles between Tokyo and Chicago, first originating in Tokyo:

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 8.29.33 PM
ANA charges $129.04 in fuel surcharges when originating a round-trip to the US from Tokyo.

Now look at the same flights, just originating the round-trip in Chicago:

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Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 8.31.06 PM
When originating a round-trip in Chicago, the fuel surcharge is only $6.

Flying the same aircraft in the same class but originating in the US means you pay $123.04 less in fuel surcharges. This should be great for most TPG readers, as the vast majority of us will begin our round-trips outside of Japan.

Overall, the current surcharges aren't too terrible, though they get a bit expensive flying to Europe. The surcharges in the chart are the same even when flying ANA business and first class, which is nice. Low-season round-trip economy flights (April 1-26 this year) from North America to Japan are only 40,000 miles and $86. That's a heck of a deal.

Flights on Star Alliance Partners

Origin-DestinationTaxes and Fees
Japan-North America$151.52
North America-Japan$45.00
Japan-Asia 1/2$156.38
Asia 1/2-Japan$70.24
North America-Africa/Middle East$430.68
Africa/Middle East-North America$430.68
North America-Europe$50.22~$629
Europe-North America$113.65~$482.19
North America-South America$74.56
South America-North America$74.56
Intra-North America$11.20
Intra-Asia 1$44.00
Intra-Africa/Middle East$208.00

It's a different game when you look at redeeming ANA miles on Star Alliance partners. While United doesn't add fuel surcharges to award tickets, trying to book flights with most other partners still yields significant charges. For example, flying United from North America to Europe will only cost you $50 in taxes and fees, whereas flying Lufthansa — even in economy — will cost you $600+ in surcharges on an award ticket. If you want to fly Lufthansa first class using ANA miles, it will cost you a cool $929 in taxes and fees round-trip.

The pattern holds true for almost all Star Alliance partners I searched, with Copa Airlines being the only other carrier I found without any significant fuel surcharges. Changing where the round-trip originates makes a difference some of the time, but the best option is still to use United miles to fly Star Alliance partners, as the MileagePlus program adds no fuel surcharges. Plus, in addition to adding much higher fuel surcharges, ANA charges more miles to fly partner airlines than its own metal.

Flights on Other Partners

PartnerFuel Surcharge?
Virgin AtlanticYes
Garuda IndonesiaYes

I looked at what I believe are ANA's best non-Star Alliance partners to see what charges you can expect. A phone call with a helpful agent provided the above information, none of which is a huge surprise. As far as these partners go, one standout deal is round-trip from the US to Abu Dhabi on Etihad with no fuel surcharges for 65,000 miles in economy or 104,000 in business class.

Along with the above surcharges, there are a few important rules you'll need to take note of when redeeming ANA miles:

  • One-way redemptions are not allowed.
  • You can redeem points for your 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 are allowed 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 redeeming miles for an ANA non-Star Alliance partner, your itinerary must be entirely on that single partner.

Is This Enough Progress?

Even before the announced April 1 adjustment, it's refreshing to see that ANA has decreased the once-absurd charges on its own flights, though I believe Europe could still be cheaper. If I had not just come back to the US from three years in Japan, I would definitely try and take advantage of the great deal flying transpacific using ANA's program.

If you don't think you have any use or interest in ANA's program, remember that the carrier is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. That means with the current sign-up bonus of 35,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, you'd have enough points to score a free round-trip economy ticket on ANA from the US to Japan in low season.

ANA's Star Wars jets are a huge hit, with the "BB-8" taking off on March 28.

Also note that ANA's announcement doesn't say anything specifically about reducing the charges for partner-operated flights. I imagine that's largely due to inter-airline politics that prevent ANA from dropping some of the $500+ taxes and fees.

The official April 1 date is quickly approaching. Based on the price of oil for December to January (ANA's set monitoring timeframe), we should see the above numbers drop even further. It's definitely worth keeping your eye on the Mileage Club program over the next few months.

Will you transfer SPG Starpoints or Amex Membership Rewards to ANA to take advantage of the new lower fuel surcharges?

[card card-name='Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express' card-id='22035076' type='javascript' bullet-id='1']

Featured image by ANA will operate a Dreamliner on its flights between NRT and MEX.