Sweet Spot Sunday: West Coast to Japan in ANA business class for 45,000 points one-way
After years of limited tourism, Japan is expected to open to all travelers on Oct 11, 2022. No quarantine or tour guide required.
So, if you've been itching to get back to the country, now's a good time to start planning your flights.
ANA business class is one of the best ways to travel between the U.S. and Asia. And although you can fly round-trip in business class to Asia for 75,000 ANA miles on off-peak dates, today I’ll discuss a different sweet spot.
Here, I’ll tell you how (and why) to redeem 45,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points to fly one-way between the U.S. west coast and Japan in ANA business class.
Why it’s special
This Virgin Atlantic Flying Club sweet spot is noteworthy for several reasons. First off, here’s Virgin Atlantic’s round-trip award chart for ANA-operated flights:
|Route (between Japan and this region)||Economy||Business||First|
|China, Guam, Hong Kong, Philippines and Taiwan||23,000||45,000||60,000|
|Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam||40,000||65,000||80,000|
|Hawaii, India and Indonesia||45,000||70,000||90,000|
|Australia, Canada and Western U.S.||60,000||90,000||110,000|
|Europe, Mexico and Central and Eastern U.S.||65,000||95,000||120,000|
However, you can book one-way awards for half the points required for a round-trip. So, you could fly business class one way and first class the other — which is extremely useful since first-class award availability can be slim. You could also use a different program to book your return or even continue to a different destination before returning home.
Second, you can use a Star Alliance partner’s website to find award availability. My favorite is United MileagePlus due to its calendar search function.
Third, Virgin Atlantic charges a modest $50 fee if you need to change or cancel your award. Just be sure to cancel your award at least 24 hours before departure if you don’t plan to use it. Just note that ANA recently started adding fuel surcharges to award tickets, so you'll pay between $350 and $400 for most award tickets. Call Virgin Atlantic or check the fare breakdown with the ITA Matrix to determine the taxes and fees for a specific award.
And finally, this sweet spot is special because you can convert multiple transferable rewards currencies into Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points. So, as I’ll discuss in a later section, it’s easy to accrue enough Virgin points for this redemption.
Related: The 5 best business-class seats for traveling solo
To get the award pricing discussed above, you’ll need to fly on a nonstop ANA-operated flight. After all, Virgin Atlantic’s website notes, “If a journey requires a connecting flight or stopover to reach the destination, points are charged for each sector,” before listing the award rates for booking ANA flights with Virgin points.
Here are the U.S. cities that have (or will soon have) nonstop ANA-operated flights to and from major airports in Japan:
- Tokyo Haneda International Airport (HND): Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Jose's Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) (ending March 26, 2023) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).
- Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT): Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco, Seattle (starting March 25, 2023) and Washington D.C.
Virgin doesn’t specify which U.S. airports are in the Western U.S. award pricing band. However, since you’ll only need to redeem 2,500 additional Virgin points each way for Central and Eastern U.S. airports, this won’t be a significant stumbling block for most travelers.
Related: The best ways to travel to Japan with points and miles
How to book this award
Unfortunately, you can’t redeem Virgin points to book ANA-operated flights directly on Virgin Atlantic’s website. Instead, you’ll need to call to book your award. But before you call, I recommend using one of the best websites for searching Star Alliance award availability to ensure there’s availability on your preferred travel dates.
One website you can use to search for Star Alliance award availability is United MileagePlus. In this section, I’ll show you how I’d search for award availability for two from San Francisco to Tokyo next August.
First, go to United’s website and enter your desired flight information. Be sure to check “Book with miles” and “Flexible dates.” Additionally, select the month you'd like to travel and select business class as your desired class of service.
Once you click “Find flights,” a box will load asking you to log in. Close the box without signing in, and then you’ll see a calendar of award availability on the next page. Click the "Sort and filter" button and unselect the "mixed cabins" and "1+ stops" boxes.
Finally, click on any dates you’d want to travel that show 70,000 or 88,000 point prices to view available flights.
Note that ANA-operated flights generally cost 88,000 miles with United MileagePlus. If you click on a date that shows awards available for 70,000 miles, you may not find ANA-operated flights. In turn, you might have to dig to find flights you can book with Virgin points.
When you click on a date, scroll down to check the flight details. Look for flights that are operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA) as these are bookable with Virgin points.
Once you find availability, you can call Virgin Atlantic from the U.S. at 800-862-8621. The line is staffed from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time, but wait times have been extensive recently. If you’re looking to book an award with limited availability, realize that the availability may be gone by the time you get through to an agent.
Related: How to book a $20,000 ANA first-class ticket for just $34
How to earn points for this award
You can instantly transfer rewards at a 1:1 ratio from American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards to Virgin Atlantic. So, wait for a Virgin Atlantic phone representative to confirm award space and then transfer points from one or more of these programs to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Since the transfer should be instant, you won’t need to put your award on hold or call back to book.
If you’re looking to earn rewards in one of the three transferable points programs, consider the following cards and their current bonuses:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership.
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening (see rates and fees).
You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio. However, Marriott points typically take less than 48 hours to transfer. So, especially if award availability is limited, it’s best to transfer rewards from other programs.
Related: 3 great ways to redeem Virgin Atlantic points now that Delta awards are devalued
ANA business class is an excellent product, especially if you snag an aircraft featuring ANA’s The Room. And redeeming Virgin points is an excellent way to experience ANA business class for a modest amount of points. Plus, since you can book one-way awards for half the cost of round-trip awards, you have the flexibility to try a different airline — or ANA first class — for your transpacific flight home.