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“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg.

If you were to ask me to name my top airline award sweet spot, I would say “using Virgin Atlantic miles to book ANA premium cabin awards” before you even finished the question. ANA award space isn’t the easiest to come by but it isn’t impossible either. As with many high-value award redemptions, a little bit of flexibility goes a long way here. TPG reader John wants to know how flexible he can get with Virgin Atlantic’s routing rules …

If I’m booking an ANA award with Virgin Atlantic miles, can I include an open jaw or stopover?

TPG READER JOHN

Virgin Atlantic has separate award charts for each of its partner airlines, but its chart for ANA is almost too good to believe. You can only book round-trip awards, but the pricing is incredibly generous:

Unfortunately when I flew ANA first class late last year, I couldn’t find round-trip award space on dates that worked for me, so I wound up using 105,000 Aeroplan miles for a one-way ticket instead of 120,000 Flying Club miles for a round-trip.

Let’s look at the two parts of John’s question, starting with an open jaw award. If you’re not familiar with the term, it essentially means that you fly into one city or airport and then return home out of another on a single ticket. An easy example would be flying from New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) and then flying home from San Diego (SAN) back to JFK. The open jaw is thus formed between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Fortunately, this should be possible on ANA using Virgin Atlantic miles. In fact, you could even wind up with a technical double open jaw if you leverage Tokyo’s two airports. I spoke to a Virgin Atlantic agent who confirmed that the following routing would be a valid itinerary.

You could fly from Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and back from Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to New York-JFK for only 120,000 miles in first class or 95,000 miles in business class. With round-trip ANA first class tickets from the US to Tokyo selling for $20,000 and up, this gives you an almost unheard of redemption value of about 18 cents per point.

When it comes to stopovers or connecting flights, Virgin Atlantic is much stricter:

If your final destination is somewhere other than Tokyo, you’ll need to redeem additional miles for each segment. You could technically have a stopover; you’d just be charged for the privilege. You should thus explore all of your options to see whether Virgin Atlantic still offers the best value on that route. You might want to consider ending your Virgin Atlantic-booked ANA flight in Tokyo and then switching to Japan Airlines, the other main Japanese carrier. It partners with British Airways (ironically the other main UK carrier), and you can leverage the program’s distance-based award chart to book short-haul flights starting at 4,500 Avios each way.

Bottom Line

Flexibility is absolutely crucial to maximizing the value of your travel rewards points, and thankfully Virgin Atlantic gives you plenty of options to build your ANA itinerary. Using cheap domestic positioning flights to depart from cities with better award availability is a great strategy, so even if Washington or New York isn’t your home city, you can search for flights out of all the US airports ANA serves. Adding a stopover or connection will raise the cost of your award ticket and might not be the best value redemption here, but it is certainly a possibility.

Thanks for the question, John, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

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Regular APR
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