How to book an ANA first class ticket to Japan for under $2,000 round-trip
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Virgin Atlantic is running an excellent buy points promotion through Aug. 14, 2021. U.S.-based Virgin Atlantic Flying Club members can buy Virgin points with a 70% bonus when purchasing at least 100,000 points. This brings the cost down to just under 1.6 cents per point.
At face value, this might not look like the best deal. TPG values Virgin points at 1.5 cents per point, and you can transfer points in from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou. But things get more interesting when you consider that you can use this sale to purchase partner flights at a discount.
Virgin Atlantic's most intriguing partner is All Nippon Airways (ANA). You can use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book ANA flights at excellent rates, with first-class award tickets from the U.S. to Japan starting at just 110,000 points round-trip. So, you can buy Virgin points through this promotion and effectively purchase an ANA first-class ticket for under $2,000. This is a stark contrast to the $17,000+ ANA charges for revenue fares.
Here, we'll take a look at how to maximize this buy points promotion to fly one of the best first-class products in the sky at a steep discount.
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The risk of 'buying' an ANA award ticket right now
While this is an excellent way to save money on ANA first and business-class tickets, it isn't without its risks. Japan's borders are still closed to tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic. You may need to change or cancel your ANA tickets if the country doesn't reopen by the time you're set to travel.
There's also no guarantee that Virgin Atlantic won't devalue ANA awards in the future. You could be left paying a higher mileage cost in the future if Virgin Atlantic chooses to devalue its program after you cancel your tickets. If this happens, you'd have to either buy more Virgin points or transfer them in from another program.
Keep these risks in mind before you buy Virgin points to book an ANA award ticket. Personally, I'd only book tickets departing in mid-2022 and have a backup plan in place if you can't use the points to fly ANA. For example, you can use Virgin points to book Delta One Suites to Europe for 50,000 points one-way with minimal taxes and fees.
Related: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?
How to book ANA first class for under $2,000
Before you buy miles, it's important to understand Virgin Atlantic's ANA award chart and how to find award space. As discussed, Virgin Atlantic has an excellent award chart. You can book first-class tickets from the West Coast to Japan for 110,000 points and the East Coast for 120,000.
Business-class flights can also be a great deal and start at just 90,000 points round-trip from the West Coast.
Here's a look at the full award chart. All prices listed are for round-trip tickets, though you can book a one-way ticket for half the price.
You're liable for paying minor taxes and fees on your ANA award ticket. Thankfully, ANA eliminated most fuel surcharges last year, so this won't be a huge bill. Expect to pay roughly $195 in taxes and fees on a round-trip award ticket on top of the miles you purchase from Virgin Atlantic.
Related: How to avoid fuel surcharges on award travel
How to find ANA award space
One downside to booking ANA tickets with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is that you cannot book tickets online. Instead, you have to find award space using a Star Alliance search tool. You can then call Virgin Atlantic to book the award ticket with your points. It's important that you find award space before purchasing Virgin points so you're not stuck with points you can't use.
I recently started using Air Canada's website to find Star Alliance award space. I used United in the past, but its website recently stopped showing some Lufthansa award space. This shouldn't directly impact ANA searches, but it's best not to take any chances when you're considering spending thousands of dollars to buy points.
You can search for an award ticket from Air Canada's home page. Be sure to select "Points" as your payment currency. At the time of writing, you can only book nonstop ANA flights with Virgin points. So, you'll need to search from one of ANA's U.S. gateway cities to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) or Tokyo-Narita (NRT). You can enter "TYO" as your destination to search award space into both airports at once.
Look through the list of available flights and scan for non-stop flights operated by ANA. Award space is available if there's a points price underneath your requested class of service. Write down the dates and flight numbers when you flight applicable flights. At this point, it's in your best interest to call Virgin Atlantic to verify that the open award space before you buy points.
Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines
Leveraging Virgin Atlantic's points sale for a cheap ANA first-class ticket
As discussed, U.S.-based Flying Club members can buy Virgin points with a 70% bonus through Aug. 14, 2021. You'll need to buy 100,000 points (before the bonus) to score the full 70% bonus, with lower quantities resulting in a lower bonus.
The bonus structure is as follows:
- Buy 5,000 to 24,000 points, get a 20% bonus
- Buy 25,000 to 69,000 points, get a 30% bonus
- Buy 70,000 to 99,000 points, get a 50% bonus
- Buy 100,000 to 150,000 points, get a 70% bonus
If you want to purchase two ANA first-class tickets from the U.S. West Coast to Tokyo, you need 220,000 Virgin points. With the promotion, you can buy 130,000 Virgin points and receive an additional 91,000 bonus points. This gives you a total of 221,000 Virgin points for $3,535. Again, this is just 1.6 cents per point.
If you're departing from San Francisco (SFO) next April, the same two tickets cost a whopping $39,698.90. You're saving $35,773 using this method, assuming taxes of $195 per passenger. The total cost per passenger is just $1,962.50 after taxes and fees.
Alternatively, you can book two passengers round-trip from New York-JFK to Tokyo in ANA business class for 95,000 points per person. You can buy the required 190,000 points for $3,049. Assuming the same $195 in taxes and fees, you'll pay $1,719.50 per person. The same two tickets cost $19,292.90 next May, giving you nearly $16,000 in savings.
Unfortunately, you won't earn frequent flyer miles or elite status credit when you book ANA tickets with Virgin points. At the same time, the cost savings massively outweighs any points you would otherwise earn and makes an otherwise unattainable ticket possible for many travelers.
Related: Unlock incredible value with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Earn Virgin points with a credit card
Alternatively, you can earn transferable points and transfer them to Virgin Atlantic to book these ANA award tickets. Many of the major transferable points currencies transfer to Virgin Atlantic, but my favorite is American Express Membership Rewards.
A number of Amex cards earn these points and each has different bonus spend categories, welcome offers and fees. Consider opening one of these Amex cards if you don't want to shell out nearly $2,000 for an ANA first-class ticket.
- American Express® Green Card: Earn 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 3x points on dining at restaurants, travel and transit (including flights, hotels, cruises, taxis, tours and more), and 1x points on other purchases ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year, then 1x points), 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel, and 1x points on other eligible purchases ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first six months of card membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5x points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts, and 1x points on other purchases ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).
The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Related: Redeeming Membership Rewards points for maximum value
Here, I showed you how to leverage Virgin Atlantic's buy points promotion to buy ANA first-class tickets to Japan for under $2,000 round-trip. This deal has the potential to save you thousands of dollars on premium airfare, so it's worth considering if you're planning a trip to Japan in 2022. That said, you should only buy points for this redemption if you're comfortable with the risks involved.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.