Update at 9:31 AM ET on 3/8/13. Disregard most of this post. Commentor Angel pointed out trouble getting ANA to price this, and I found the problem. ANA rule: “The departure airport and the final destination on the itinerary may differ, but must be in the same country.” I’ll try to figure out a way to salvage some of this idea.

Yesterday I was effusive about the fact that ANA–a Japanese airlines most of us have never flown–stopped charging fuel surcharges on United and US Airways flights booked with ANA miles. I called it the deal of the month on twitter.

The value comes from ANA’s awesome distance based chart and the fact that it is a Membership Rewards transfer partner.

But I wanted to give some tips to get insane value out of ANA awards using free oneway principles.

The key principle of all free oneways is a stopover at your home airport. By stopping over at your home airport, you can get 1.5 trips out of what the airline thinks is only one trip. (And if the airline thinks it’s one trip, it only charges you for one trip.)

ANA has stopover rules that are liberal and strict at once. The liberal part is that you can have four stopovers on one award! But you can’t have any stopovers in your country of origin, you can only have two in Europe, and holes in your itinerary count as a stopover at both cities!

(The example ANA’s site gives is Tokyo to Frankfurt to Munich, returning after an open jaw from Frankfurt to Tokyo. The open jaw between Frankfurt and Munich counts as a stop in both, so you can’t get a stopover in Frankfurt en route from Tokyo to Munich.)

So how can we apply the free oneway principle of a stopover at our home airport when ANA prohibits stopovers in the country of origin? Easy. Add half of a trip on to the beginning of our main award, thus changing our country of origin.

Let me give an easy example. If you live in Newark and want to fly roundtrip in business class to Paris on United with ANA miles, you’d already get a great deal. The roundtrip is 7,298 miles, so the award would cost 68,000 ANA miles.

This is of course, a steep discount on how many miles United or US Airways would charge–100,000.

But here’s where my trick of adding a prior leg comes in. Add in a oneway from Lima to Newark four months before, and you’ve got the return half of a second trip on the same award. (How do you get to Lima? One way award, cash ticket, walk.)

Now the distance of the award increases substantially to 10,929 miles.

But that’s only one band higher up on the chart, so the mileage price only increases to 85,000. This is remarkable since Lima to Newark–in flat bed business class–is only adding 17,000 miles!

Of course, I can hardly say I’ve maximized the itinerary. You can take two stops in Europe after all.

Here’s a possibility: add Lima to Newark onto an award from Newark to London to Istanbul to Newark with stops in London and Istanbul.

This award traverses 13,690 miles, which is another band higher up. It would cost only 90,000 ANA miles total in business class! (Note that London to Istanbul would be on Turkish Airlines, so you would be on the hook for a modest fuel surcharge for flying a carrier other than United and US Airways intra-Europe.)

There’s nothing special about living in Newark or having every section of the trip be direct. Imagine you want to add the return half of trip to Santiago onto a trip to Tokyo, and you live in Los Angeles. Let’s even throw in a free stopover in Hawaii on the way to Japan.

That 17,850 mile trip would cost only 105,000 ANA miles in business class, which is spectacular since LAX to Tokyo roundtrip is 120,000 United miles and Santiago to LAX would be another 50,000 miles.

That means using Membership Rewards transferred to ANA miles saves 65,000 points!

So far all my examples presuppose a major international hub for United as your home airport. We’re not all so lucky. Living at a hub helps because it means fewer flights, and every flight adds to the cost of an ANA award.

But you don’t have to live at a United or US Airways hub to maximize ANA awards. I’ll give an example for the home airport of Medford, Oregon, which only features two United flights–to Denver and San Francisco.

This award has a return from Sydney to Medford, then a roundtrip to London.

Normally in business class Sydney to Medford would be 67,500, and a roundtrip from Medford to Londond would be 100,000 more. But instead of 167,500 United miles, this itinerary would cost 115,000 ANA miles.

Can you put the oneway after the roundtrip?

No. Imagine reversing the first example. Newark to Paris roundtrip then Newark to Lima. You’ve stopped over in Newark, which is in the origin country. ANA prohibits stopovers in the origin country.

Are these free oneways?

No, the oneways are all adding a bit to the miles price since they are increasing the number of miles flown on the award. There are probably free oneway opportunities to Mexico or the Caribbean. Post them in the comments.

Is this a big deal?

Yes! I already had Membership Rewards worth more than United miles. Now they may be worth more than Ultimate Rewards! If that sounds crazy, let me explain.

United has a great business class bed and releases a great amount of award space. It has a route map that covers most of the places I want to go. Using the techniques in this post, you can use about 1/3 fewer Membership Rewards to book United business itineraries than the number of Ultimate Rewards it would take.

My Plan

I’m going to open the The Business Platinum Card with a 25,000 Membership Rewards sign up bonus to pad my Membership Rewards balance.

I’ve already had the Mercedes-Benz personal Platinum, and the “regular” personal Platinum has a sign up bonus that’s below where I’ve often seen it in the past.

Recap

Booking 1.5 trips with the half trip first unlocks incredible savings on ANA awards that fly United or US Airways.

Full ANA Award Rules

38 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for a lot of great posts.
    As a traveler based in Portland, Oregon (PDX), perhaps I can try:
    NRT-SFO-PDX(stop)-SFO(stop)-PDX (total = 6774 miles; NRT-SFO is 5124 miles, need 63,000 miles in business). Does that means I can stop at PDX and score a free ride to bay area?

  2. As someone that is pretty advanced at this stuff (currently over 3 million miles) – this is one of the best all time posts!

  3. Proving once again that I’m correct to put you at the end of my blog reading in the morning, because I like to save the best for last.

    Once again, masterful!

    Anita

    • That’s funny Anita! I have him firs on my “Travel Blogs” bookmarks even though I don’t agree with his valuation of the Avios companion certificate ;)
      Anyhow, this blog is an invaluable source of information. Thanks a lot!

  4. Interesting stuff. So, I checked an easy trip from Philadelphia (PHL) to Montego Bay Jamaica (MBJ) Non-Stop which usually has good Business Class availability on US Air. Picking out sample dates in January 2014, and using Great Circle Mapper and United.com, I find that there’s Saver Availability in Business Class. United wants 30,000 each way (60,000 R/T) for the award which Great Circle Mapper assesses as 2,961 miles. I then log in on ANA, and see that they assess the mileage as 3356 (over a 10% discrepancy) and treats the Business Class seats as “First Class” and therefore wants 70,000 miles for the first class seats (which are truly mediocre Business Class seats). (In this scenerio, the increase in mileage does not affect the pricing of the ticket, since it’s still under 4,000 miles, but I’d like to know how come their miles differ so drastically). Therefore, booking this flight on ANA is worse than United/USAir, since it treats the Business Class seats as First Class. So, this ANA find (which I think Dans Deals was the first to talk about) is great, but far from Nirvana. The community has some more research to do as to issues between two and three cabin planes, etc.
    Also, I agree with Anita’s comments. I save this blog for last, because it’s the best to focus on the incredibly great in-depth analysis at using the systems to our best advantage. Thanks Scott !!!

    • Sorry, but Strike my comments above about the mileage discrepancy. I mis-read the results. Still, an issue that they allocate what we consider as Business Class as First Class in a two-cabin plane.

      • Thanks for that info. That’s similar to BA charging first class prices for AA domestic first. I think the value of this comes from the much higher mileage bands. This is not a good deal for shorter hops. (PS–I know I saw that ANA was not charging surcharges on United and US on Dan’s Deals first, so I made sure to Hat Tip that post yesterday.)

  5. Scott, I may be wrong, but I think (based on testing ANA’s website) your country of departure and destination should be the same. Here is the actual error: The airports of departure and final destination in the itinerary must be in the same country.(A_RULES_5A_004A)

    I tried YYZ-JFK-IST-JFK and it didn’t work. Added YYZ again at the end (less that 24 hrs after arriving in JFK) and it priced out. The connecting flight within 24 hrs at the end is required since you can only stop over at each city once. Not sure what happens if you do JFK one way and EWR. I also tried your LIM-EWR-CDG-EWR without success. Nonetheless, adding the last segment (and actually never flying it) only added 370 miles and still kept my award under 11,000 miles pricing at 85,000 miles. A real bargain!! Hope this helps, and again, sorry if I’m mistaken.

    • Well, I overlooked one major ANA routing rule. Thanks for catching me. I’ve updated the post, and I will look into whether there is any way to salvage value from my idea.

      • Scott: If you are close to Canada or Mexico, you can add a dummy leg at the end like I did back to YYZ from JFK or IAD. MIA-CUN works as well. Not ideal, but for certain people, might be still worth it. I guess for West coast people you can do SEA-YVR or SFO-SJD……just some ideas :)

  6. Scott, your examples aren’t really round-trips since you never return to Sydney or Lima. So that makes me wonder, what exactly are the limits of what ANA would consider a valid round-trip award?

    Can’t we do LIM-EWR stop EWR-FRA stop FRA-EWR stop EWR-NRT?

    That’s just over 18k miles, so should be 115k miles in business. EWR would count as two stopovers, and LIM and NRT would count as two others since they’re the “hole” in the itinerary.

  7. Great info in this post. Makes using your award booking service, which we will be doing so later this month, even more worthwhile !!!

    Very creative Scott – don’t know how you have time for such research.
    Best blog for us!!

  8. Update: I was able to put together the following itinerary, which I’m not sure is really valuable but it might give some ideas for others and open up more possibilities:

    9/11 YYZ-IAD
    9/11 IAD-DXB
    OPEN JAW (Surface travel)
    10/1 IAD-PTY
    10/1 PTY-EZE

    10/29 EZE-PTY
    10/29 PTY-IAD
    10/29 IAD-YYZ (throw away segment)

    This prices out at 75,000 miles in coach since is a little over 18,000 miles, but I think is not bad. The only problem is that you have to start in Canada since you can not travel through the same country of origin to get to your destination (my idea was IAD-DXB and then later on IAD-EZE-IAD but it didn’t work). Now, you can replace DXB with IST and you’ll be around 16,700 miles so it should price at 65,000 miles is coach. Considering UA charges you 60,000 miles for a round trip to South America, you are getting a one way from Canada to the US and half a trip to Istanbul for only 5,000 additional miles. Or you can go to Dubai and pay the 75,000 which is only 15,000 more miles that a regular roundtrip to Buenos Aires. In any event, I think there is potential here. My next step: try co-terminals and see what happens! Cheers!

  9. The only way I could find this useful is to start in a country that is not your hometown that you may want to visit twice like Mexico or Canada with stopovers in Europe and your homtown. CUN-FRA-DFW-SJD. I don’t know if mileage works out in your favor with this though.

  10. I’m back:
    I was able to do this:

    9/1 YYZ-LGA
    STOP
    9/11 IAD-DXB
    STOP
    10/22 BWI-EWR-EZE
    10/29 EZE-PTY-IAD-YYZ

    This came back also at 75,000 miles in coach. I guess it work because BWI is not considered co-terminal with DCA or IAD…..I’ll keep experimenting…

  11. Success! At least this is useful for my personal situation (sorry for being selfish :) )
    75,000 miles for the following:

    9/1 YYZ-DCA
    STOP
    9/11 IAD-DXB
    STOP
    10/22 BWI-EWR-EZE
    10/29 EZE-PTY-IAD-YYZ

    To make this useful, you’ll need the following

    Any day before 9/1 DCA-YYZ (one way) – use 4,500 Avios points

    9/17 DXB-LHR (BA)
    9/17 LHR-IAD (BA)
    in business using 67,500 AA points and $638. Not too shabby….but wait, there is more (like in a bad infomercial), you can add a IAD-LAX-HNL for free on 1/29/2014!

    I’m sure you can be more creative and lower the taxes if you fly LHR-IAD on AA….but you get the point…. :)

  12. WOW! This is amazing. Opens up a lot of interesting possibilities. Your blog is my favorite, most informative reading. What is the history of bonus transfers from MR to ANA? I have 500K+ family BA avios which I am pretty much only using for domestic AA flights or short international hops. Do you think it would make sense to transfer to ANA prior to cancellation of Amex gold card? As you know, with cancellation, it’s a use it or lose it proposition. Keep up the great info!!!!

  13. Definitely a good idea–one I tried to make work since I have more ANA miles than I know what to do with at the moment–but the only thing I found is to overlap trips with a short haul segment near the border & Avois. Hardly worth the trouble since the Avios cost of a short trip is low anyway.

    • I’ll leave it. Maybe it will spur someone’s creativity, and we’ll get a new way to get value from the ANA chart or another chart.

      • If nothing else, 4 stopovers by itself is a really good value. Could come in handy in South America or for travel between Europe and Middle East / Africa. It appears the rules are a lot stricter for Asia but maybe there’s a way to make it work.

    • ANA doesn’t allow one way awards… and they charge out the butt in fuel surcharges on EY. I was prepared to pay it to do IAD-AUH-stopover-MLE-AUH-IAD in EY F, but they blacked out Dec 1 – Jan 15.

      • I realize you can’t do a one way with ANA but there is a little work around to make it possible, so basically you can do JFK-AUH or YYZ-AUH in Business for 63k. It might be useful in certain situations and I believe is the cheapest way to fly Emirates to Dubai.

        • Are you talking about redeeming ANA miles for EY or other miles?

          Given that they require that you start and end in the same country, and also require that all EY redemptions be on entirely EY metal (no mixing carriers), I don’t see how any type of workaround is even possible.

          Even if you were able to trick the website, EY redemptions need to be booked over the phone, so it would have to pass the “smell test” to the agent ticketing the award.

          • Justin: I wasn’t aware of that rule on partner awards :( I double checked and it seems like you can use ANA + 1 of the partners…. What works is this: JFK-FRA-AUH and then you add YYZ-SEA on US. That comes right under 7,000 miles and is valid online with Star Alliance carriers. I thought it would work on EY using the same concept but based on the rule you cited it won’t.

          • AFAIK that rule only applies for non-alliance redemptions. I’d heard you can mix ANA with non-*A partners, but over the phone multiple ANA agents told me that’s not possible. And unlike their US counterparts, ANA agents are very capable and tend to know the rules very well.

            If the website will ticket it, you could still do JFK-FRA-AUH, YYZ-SEA, but JFK-FRA-AUH would have to be on LH metal for FRA-AUH, at least. LH is no slouch itself in F, but hardly a deal at 90k one way.

            If that does work, though, and I’m assuming you mean YVR-SEA?, that’s a neat trick to basically allow you to do one ways with ANA miles. It’s not often going to be a good deal, since you can often double the mileage and not [even close to] double the cost, but at least it’s an option.

          • YVR, correct. Those short runs might be a nice workaround to do some “one ways”. Like JFK-LHR in Business for 43,000…..granted, not the best deal but if someone has ANA points to burn and they are not enough to book a round trip, then this is an alternative. Now, back to search for other good deals….

  14. Can anyone with access to the ANA partner award search engine tell me what the fees/surcharges are on a R/T Air New Zealand (NZ) flight from Sydney (SYD) – Auckland (AKL)?

    • No idea. I found space and initially thought it was $0, then the fine print said:

      The total price (my note: this is where the taxes and fees cash price is usually listed) is displayed as “***” due to the fact that taxes and fees, including Fuel surcharge and airport tax, for this itinerary cannot be calculated.

  15. I just checked the total distance we traveled on July: EWR-FRA-FCO, LHR-MUC-GDN-MUC-EWR and it looks like we could have spent 5K miles less than with United, provided such trip had been allowed by ANA.

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