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A Schedule Trick to Book First Class — Reader Success Story

July 31, 2019
5 min read
A Schedule Trick to Book First Class — Reader Success Story
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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Sarah, who found a workaround to ANA's lack of one-way awards:

I've seen a few TPG articles highlighting the great value you can get from Virgin Atlantic miles, so when I saw the 90,000-mile bonus available on the Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Mastercard earlier this year, I jumped on it. My boyfriend and I each also got the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card with 80,000-point sign-up bonuses [after meeting minimum spend requirements], and by pooling all those miles, we were able to book round-trip flights from the US to Japan in ANA first class for next year — our first trip in first class!

Because ANA seems to only make two first class seats available on points, I wanted to snag our flights as soon as the calendar opened. Of course, the thing about a trip is that the inbound flight is days or weeks after the outbound, so I couldn't book our whole trip on the day that our outbound flight became available. Virgin Atlantic can only book round-trip award flights on ANA, so to secure our outbound flight, I booked a round-trip from Japan to the US using a random date with availability for the flight to the US, and the start date of our trip for the "return" flight to Japan. Once the calendar opened up, I changed the Japan-US leg to the date of our actual flight home.

It meant having to pay a $100 change fee, but it was well worth the money for me to not be worrying about losing my perfect schedule while I waited. We'll be using points and free hotel nights from credit cards to cover our lodging while wandering around Japan — we've got a solid stockpile of all the major points that will allow us to stay in much nicer places than if we were paying cash. I hope this story is useful, and thanks for all the help in getting there. We're really excited about this trip!

The ability to book one-way awards seems elementary, but even some major domestic carriers (namely, Delta and US Airways) didn't allow them as recently 2014. ANA mostly remains a holdout, offering one-way awards only on flights within Japan. That makes it harder to work the airline into complex itineraries and to book at the end of the award calendar. If Sarah and her boyfriend had opted to fly in economy, they could have simply waited until availability opened up for both legs of their trip. That approach might not work in first class, since premium award space is more limited and in higher demand.

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To improve their chances of getting the seats they wanted, Sarah booked their trip in reverse, and then accepted the change fees as the cost of doing business. It's a clever solution to the lack of one-way awards; the downside is that there's no guarantee you'll find availability on your preferred flights home. If not, you'll have to be flexible about when you return, or be willing to accept a lower class of service. I'm also not convinced this approach is necessary, since ANA tends to offer relatively abundant premium availability. Still, it may come in handy if you have a rigid travel schedule and want to get first crack at premium award space.

Award travelers usually equate sweet spots with low mileage requirements or advantageous routing rules, but I think any facet of a loyalty program that offers exceptional value or opportunity qualifies. Low change and cancellation fees fit that description — see Southwest Rapid Rewards as exhibit A — and while Virgin Atlantic does charge some fees, they're lower than most. Sarah's maneuver would have been less viable if she booked through Avianca, for example, since changing the date of a LifeMiles award incurs a change fee of $150 per person. The ability to change or cancel awards inexpensively is one feature of Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club that shouldn't be overlooked.

Related: Is It Better to Book a Round-Trip or Two One-Way Award Flights?

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Sarah a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can't respond to each story individually, but we'll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by (Photo by Yoshikazo Tsuno / Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards

2 - 10X points
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Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023