Sweet Spot Sunday: West Coast to Japan in ANA business class for 45,000 points one-way

Oct 17, 2021

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Japan still isn’t open to U.S. tourists. But, the country will presumably reopen to U.S. tourists without quarantine eventually. So you may be interested in speculatively booking a 2022 trip to Japan now. Or you may be looking into the best rewards to earn now if you plan to book a trip in a few months.

In either case, ANA business class is an excellent way to travel between the U.S. and Japan. 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. In particular, 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.

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In This Post

Why it’s special

ANA's The Room business class seat
ANA’s The Room business-class seat. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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
Japan 15,000 N/A N/A
South Korea 18,000 35,000 50,000
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.

Searching for Star Alliance business awards on United's website
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

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. Additionally, most transpacific ANA flights carry reasonable taxes and fees. Call Virgin Atlantic or check the fare breakdown with the ITA Matrix to determine the taxes and fees for a specific award.

Check the taxes and fees you'll need to pay through ITA Matrix
If I booked this flight using Virgin points, I’d expect to pay $127.20 in taxes and fees. (Screenshot courtesy of matrix.itasoftware.com)

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


ANA's The Room business class seat
ANA’s The Room business-class seat. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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 (HND): Chicago (ORD), Honolulu (HNL), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York-JFK, San Francisco (SFO), San Jose, California (SJC), Seattle and Washington, D.C. (IAD).
  • Tokyo Narita (NRT): Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York-JFK, San Francisco and Washington.
  • Osaka (KIX): Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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 Seattle 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.”

Searching for ANA awards through United MileagePlus
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

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. Check the “Show only nonstop flight availability” box and then click on any dates you’d want to travel that show the dots for “Saver Award premium cabin” availability.

Searching for ANA awards through United MileagePlus
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

When you click on a date, scroll down to check the flight details. As you can see, there are two business-class saver seats available on an ANA-operated flight on Aug. 7, 2022, from Seattle to Tokyo Haneda.

Searching for ANA awards through United MileagePlus
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

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 around two hours recently. So, if you’re looking to book an award with limited availability — perhaps because you received an ExpertFlyer award availability alert — realize that the availability may be gone by the time you get through to an agent (ExpertFlyer is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures).

Related: How to book a $20,000 ANA first-class ticket for just $34

How to earn points for this award

ANA's The Room business class seat
ANA’s The Room business-class seat. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

One reason award travelers love Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is because it’s easy to earn Virgin points. One way to earn Virgin points is the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®, which currently offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus Virgin points after spending $2,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Plus, you’ll earn 3x points on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5x points on all other purchases.

The information for the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

You can also instantly transfer rewards at a 1:1 ratio from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. 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 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your 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.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 80,000 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.

You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio and Bilt Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. However, Marriott points typically take less than 48 hours to transfer and we don’t know how long Bilt Rewards points take 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

Bottom line

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 other transpacific flight.

Featured photo by TungCheung/Shutterstock.

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CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
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  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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