ANA

This is a post I am writing to illuminate how my friend can get from Denver to Tel Aviv with Amex Membership Rewards. I highly recommend you read it even if:

  • you don’t live in Denver
  • you don’t want to go to Israel
  • you don’t have Membership Rewards

Why? This post explains how I figure out how to get from anywhere to anywhere with any type of miles.

My friend emailed me:

Who has the best economy award redemption chart to middle east? Trying to get three of us to Tel Aviv this winter, and have ~125k amex points to transfer. Assuming that won’t cover all 3 of us, but if I could cover 2 that’s a good start. I also have some amount of United, delta, and American miles already.

First Step: Look at Award Charts

American Express Membership Rewards transfer to more than a dozen airline partners. Instead of looking up all of their charts individually, I headed to milez.biz to search pretty much every award chart at once.

The two deals that caught my eye were:

  • Air France Flying Blue for 25,000 miles each way from Denver to Tel Aviv. It is so cheap because Israel and parts of Northern Africa are inexplicably in Flying Blue’s Europe region as I always mention in Promo Awards posts. Unfortunately Flying Blue awards will have fuel surcharges, but maybe they won’t be so bad.
  • ANA for 65,000 miles roundtrip from Denver to Tel Aviv. ANA awards will have fuel surcharges unless they fly United, which does fly from Newark and San Francisco to Tel Aviv.

Second Step: Creativity

Europe tends to be a much cheaper award that Israel, so how about flying one award to Europe and then getting to Israel with Avios or a low-cost carrier. I wrote up this idea fully three years ago, and the only thing that has really changed is that American Airlines charges 22,500 miles one way during a shorter off peak window to Europe (compared to 20,000 miles and a longer window when the post was written.)

So he could perhaps use 45,000 American Airlines miles plus taxes and no fuel surcharges to fly Denver to Europe roundtrip and then book a separate Avios or low-cost carrier flights on to Israel. The disadvantage is the complexity of multiple tickets. The advantage–if he has the time–is he can see two European cities for as long as he’d like, one on the way there and one on the way back.

If he went this route, I’d recommend booking his awards from Denver to Cologne or Berlin to take advantage of 10,000 Avios awards to Tel Aviv on airberlin. (What are Avios?) That would be 45,000 American Airlines miles and 20,000 Avios roundtrip to Israel per person.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.00.15 PM

Or he could book the American Airlines awards to/from one of these cities with low-cost carrier flights to Tel Aviv (which I found on Wikipedia.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.30.35 PM Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.31.18 PM

I’m going to drop this creative plan for the rest of the post, since I fleshed it out so fully in a previous post, and since I think the other options in the next step look really good.

Third Step: Look at Award Space

The prices of 50k Flying Blue miles and 65k ANA miles roundtrip are just theoretical if there is no award space.

Searching Flying Blue Award Space

Sign in to airfrance.us and search. You’ll find that winter 2017 has amazing award space between Denver and Tel Aviv, with nearly every day having award space for two people at the 25,000 miles one way price.
Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.44.03 PM Unfortunately, you are generally looking at three flights each way. The ones that fly Delta across the Atlantic have only $50 in taxes and fuel surcharges.Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.45.07 PM The ones that fly Air France have another $55 in fuel surcharges.Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.45.23 PM The returns have about $85 in taxes and fuel surcharges with Delta flying across the Atlantic plus another $55 if you fly Air France to the USA.Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.45.51 PM My friend absolutely can book two people a roundtrip from Denver to Tel Aviv for 100,000 Flying Blue miles (an instant 1:1 transfer partner of Amex) + $269. The drawback is the ~$165 extra out of pocket compared to the ANA/United option below and the three flights per direction.Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.46.13 PM

Searching United Award Space

The last section was about searching Flying Blue award space. It didn’t matter much which Flying Blue partner he flew as the fuel surcharges are minimal.

This section is about using ANA miles, but the only partner he would want to fly is United. Flying United, ANA doesn’t collect fuel surcharges. If he flies another partner, say Lufthansa, the fuel surcharges would probably exceed $1,000 for two people roundtrip.

To see only United award space, he should go to united.com and NOT sign in. (Signing in will bring up extra award space ANA cannot book if he is a United elite or credit card holder.) On the home screen, he should click “All search options” in the search box.
Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.46.41 PM

Then he needs to scroll down and click “My search preferences.”Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.46.54 PM

He needs to select “United and United Express only” to exclude results like those fuel-surcharge-infested Lufthansa flights.Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.47.00 PM Now his searches should bring up only United results. (Unfortunately the calendar will show both United and partner results. I wrote about this glitch last month.)Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.47.25 PMAny award space he finds on united.com, he can book on ana.com. (Here’s how to book on ana.com.) I pulled up award space for two people on ana.com on United flights, and it priced at 130,000 ANA miles + $105 for two people.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 4.19.25 PM

Unfortunately I could only pull up Denver to Tel Aviv and vice versa connecting in Newark on ana.com. There’s no reason I can see that ANA couldn’t book the connections in San Francisco that united.com brought up, so if my friend wants to book those, he should call ANA instead of booking online.

Planning, Transferring, Booking

My friend has some planning to do. Does he prefer the 100,000 Flying Blue miles and $269 Flying Blue awards with three segments or the 130,000 ANA miles and $105 ANA awards with two segments. Or does he want to stop each direction and explore Europe on an American Airlines off peak award to Europe, supplemented by separate flights to Israel?

If he prefers the Flying Blue award, he can find award space on airfrance.us, transfer instantly from Amex to Flying Blue, and book online tonight. Or he could try to get 25,000 more American Express, Chase, or Citi points or 20,000 SPG points, all of which would combine with his 125k Amex points to get him enough points for three award tickets.

I’d recommend the Sapphire Preferred with 50,000 bonus Chase points. While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

If he prefers the ANA award, he needs 5k more Amex points, so a few months of spending should get him there. Then he can search for award space, transfer from Amex to ANA, wait approximately 36 hours for the miles to post, and book.

If he prefers the American Airlines award, he should put it on hold for five days, book the segments to and from Israel, then ticket the American Airlines award.

Bottom Line

The outlook is good for my friend’s trip to Israel. He has great options through a few obscure foreign airline programs. The key is to find the good deals on the award charts, including getting creative about where you book your award, and then make sure there is actually award space available for that price.

The process is basically the same no matter where you want to go and no matter what points you have. If it seems too complex, hire my Award Booking Service to plan and book your award for you.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) has reduced fuel surcharges drastically on awards that travel to or from Japan. Now you can fly to Tokyo from the United States for 75,000 miles in flat bed Business Class roundtrip plus low taxes plus a $4–yes four dollar–fuel surcharge. That’s tens of thousands of miles fewer than competitors charge.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 2.33.42 PM

The above screenshot is of a roundtrip Business Class award flying ANA between Los Angeles and Tokyo in February 2017.

Routing Rules

ANA has two award charts. A cheaper one for flying only ANA flights, and a more expensive one for flying partner flights.

ANA flies between Tokyo and Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington D.C.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 12.25.37 PMIf you don’t live in one of those cities, you can add Saver United award space to get to one of those cities (the United hubs of Washington-Dulles, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco would be easiest), but that puts you onto the more expensive partner award chart.

When redeeming ANA miles on ANA-operated flights, you can have one stopover if your flight originates outside of Japan. You can also have one open jaw.

 

US to Japan Roundtrip

ANA awards are roundtrip only– no one ways allowed. Hence all prices mentioned in this post are roundtrip.

The price of redeeming ANA miles on ANA-operated flights depends on the time of year. If you fly to Japan during any of the dates listed in the blue section of the chart (basically January, February, or April 2017), you will pay the lowest rates of 40,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 75,000 roundtrip in Business, or 150,000 roundtrip in First Class.
Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.28.07 PMHere are the current prices for all cabins (taxes and fuel surcharges for all are roughly $85):

Low Season (January, February, April)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 40,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 75,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 150,000 ANA miles

Regular Season (Most of the rest of the year, including most of summer)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 50,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 85,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 150,000 ANA miles

High Season (Christmas, New Years, late April to early May, and late July to mid-August)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 55,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 90,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 165,000 ANA miles

Any time of year if you include a United flight (same prices as High Season)

  • North America to Japan in economy: 55,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in Business Class: 90,000 ANA miles
  • North America to Japan in First Class: 165,000 ANA miles

For comparison, redeeming American Airlines miles to Japan would cost 70k/120k/160k miles roundtrip in economy/Business/First. Redeeming United miles to Japan would cost 70k/150k/220k miles roundtrip in economy/Business/First on partners.

Flights From the US to Other Countries ANA Flies To

While ANA’s award redemption rates are some of the lowest out of all of the Star Alliance options to a number of regions, their fuel surcharges can be prohibitive. Unfortunately–apart from Japan–fuel surcharges on those awards have remained intact and exorbitant. It appears that ANA has only cut fuel surcharges on awards that touch Japan.

Out of pocket costs to get to Bangkok are over $500, to Delhi are nearly $700, and to Sydney are nearly $900.

Good News from Another Angle

ANA axing fuel surcharges on awards to or from Japan is also beneficial for those of you with any type of Star Alliance miles that collect fuel surcharges when the carrier does (pretty much all of them do except United, Copa, and Avianca). You can now redeem your miles on roundtrip flights between the US and Tokyo (almost) fuel surcharge free!

However, the easiest way for Americans to collect foreign programs’ miles are through cards that earn transferrable points, so it’s most of you reading this have points that can transfer to a variety of programs rather than, say, Lufthansa or Asiana miles outright. In that case, don’t bother transferring to a different Star Alliance partner to redeem on ANA flights since ANA’s mileage prices on their own flights are by far the cheapest to Japan.

How to Search for and Book Award Space

You can search for and book award space right on ANA’s website. Read this post to learn how to use the ANA search tool.

How to Get ANA Miles

ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG points as well as Membership Rewards.

Until June 22, 2016, the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 75,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer to around 20 hotel and airline programs including Delta, Singapore, and British Airways.

The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status.

Premium Cabin Award Space to Japan During the Low Season

I checked the Los Angeles to Tokyo route’s award space in both directions for the first portion of the low season in 2017 (January 5 to February 28) to see how much space is available in Business and First Class. It appears to be completely, totally wide open in Business and First Class.

Los Angeles to Tokyo

Pretty much every week has six seats available in Business Class every day. The screenshot below is for six passengers in Business Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.12.07 PMSix to seven days each week have four seats available in First Class. The screenshot below is for four passengers in First Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.29.06 PM

Tokyo to Los Angeles

Beginning January 11, there are six seats available in Business Class every day. The screenshot below is for six passengers in Business Class:

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.15.33 PM

Also beginning January 11, there are four seats available in First Class five to seven days a week. The screenshot below is for four passengers in First Class:Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.35.37 PM

Bottom Line

ANA is now only charging $4 fuel surcharges on awards between the United States and Japan that used to be rendered much less attractive by expensive fuel surcharges. Depending on what time of year you travel, it will cost you 40-50,000 miles roundtrip in Economy, 75-90,000 miles roundtrip in Business, and 150-165,000 miles roundtrip in First Class. These prices are well below what competitors charge for the same routes.

Award space during the low season, which costs the least amount miles, is wide open in Business and First Class.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I use united.com for most of my award searches when redeeming Star Alliance miles because it shows most Star Alliance partners’ award availability, but it does have some drawbacks. Namely, it doesn’t show all partners and it sometimes displays phantom award space–award space will show as available but in reality, it doesn’t exist.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM
Star Alliance Airlines Whose Award Space I Want to Search

The best way to confirm Star Alliance award space is using the All Nippon Airways (ANA) search tool. ANA’s tool is trickier to use, but it’s the most reliable. The website and search tool’s interface has undergone some changes since the last time I wrote about how to use the ANA search tool three years ago, so I’m rewriting that post today to clarify any doubts.

First of All, Great News!

ANA no longer restricts members from using it’s award search tool for a lack of miles in their account. Anyone can search Star Alliance availability as long as you are signed up as a member of the ANA Mileage Club— no more annoying work arounds necessary!

Using the ANA Award Search Tool: Step-by-Step Guide

1. If you haven’t already, sign up for a ANA Mileage Club account here. Though this page looks like a credit card application (no annual fee!) simply click “Apply Here” at the bottom of the screen.

ANA mileage club sign up2. After filling in your pertinent information, you will be assigned a Mileage Club frequent flyer number and a password. Once you are signed up and logged in, you can access the award search tool directly from the ANA home page, just click Award Booking in the bottom right corner of the regular flight reservation box.

ANA homepage, award booking box

3. You will then be taken to the ANA Award search tool, where you can start searching for your desired Star Alliance award. Check the bubble next to “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days.”

ana search tool

4. Checking the bubble next to Compare seat availability +/- 3 days will show you a week’s worth of availability.

LAX to Tokyo ANA

5. Occasionally a search will turn up this ugly error message, but it only means the specific day and class you searched for doesn’t have a seat available. Click Confirm and the rest of the week’s availability will display.

Mia to Bue error, confirm anyways ANA

6. Choose your dates for both legs.

LAX to tokyo, day specific selection

7. And then select your preferred flight schedule for both legs.

If you don’t have the sufficient mileage in your Mileage Club account, a box will pop up like this:

lack of mileage ANA

8. Just click Confirm and it will allow you too see all the details anyways.

Displayed will be the summarized flight itinerary, the price of the award in miles as well as taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges….

ANA itinerary, payment breakdown

…and the award type descriptions, with convenient links to the corresponding award chart/rules. The baggage limitations are also displayed. (This is only important if you are redeeming ANA miles.)

award type bagge ANA

A Common Glitch

I received this pop-up multiple times while choosing the flight itineraries for my preferred days of travel:

wonky error ANA

It seems like you can ignore the error message if the previous screen said there were flights available on the day you’ve selected.

LAX to Tokyo ANA

Try to select the date again, and you may see the space and no error message.

In my experience, even if you keep getting the error message, there is award space on the flight. (You can check this by calling United and asking the agent if the flight has award space. I did that for the example of a Business Class seat from Los Angeles to Tokyo above, and there was indeed award space available.)

Can I Plug in my City Pairs and Expect ANA to Come up With Good Itineraries?

No. ANA’s search tool has improved somewhat over the years, but searching Kansas City <-> Mumbai likely won’t yield anything usable. You should search segment-by-segment (like Newark to Mumbai on Air India and Kansas City to Newark on United.)

How do I search multiple segments?

There’s no short cut to this with ANA’s search tool unfortunately. You’ll need to search every segment separately.

This seems tedious. Any shortcuts?

Searching United.com is faster but can sometimes display false positives and negatives as previously detailed in my post about phantom award space. United’s site is a great place to get routing ideas while confirming them using ANA’s tool.

Do ANA miles have any value?

This is outside the main scope of this post, which is how to SEARCH ON ANA.COM to USE ANY STAR ALLIANCE MILES.

But yes, since you ask, ANA miles have plenty of value.

Though ANA assesses fuel surcharges on all Star Alliance partner flights except United, their chart has some great sweet spots that allow for low mileage redemptions. Check out how ANA’s chart compares to other types of Star Alliance miles here: Comprehensive Spread Sheets of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts.

Bottom Line

ANA’s search tool is the final word on Star Alliance availability. If united.com displays the space but you don’t see it on ANA’s site, the award isn’t bookable.

The only requirements to use ANA’s search tool are a Mileage Club membership and a little bit of patience to do the segment-by-segment searching. Once you find award space on ana.com, you can book it with the Star Alliance miles that offer the cheapest award price to where you’re going. Find that out here.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Updated 1/29/16 to reflect new Aeroplan award prices effective for awards booked 12/15/15 or later.
Updated 10/6/15 to reflect new ANA award prices effective for awards booked 10/15/15 or later.

In the last few weeks, I have published some comparative charts of Star Alliance award charts. I’m putting all of those charts into this post for easier reference.

You can use any type of Star Alliance miles to book almost any Star Alliance flight. (Swiss, Lufthansa, and Singapore hold back some premium cabin award space for their own members. United gives extra award space to elites and United cardholders.) The 27-member alliance has more than a dozen frequent flyer programs, many of which offer good or great deals on some routes.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

I’ve taken the time to make a comprehensive spread sheet of eight programs’ award prices from North America:

  • United (on United flights and on partner flights)
  • Copa
  • Asiana
  • Singapore (on Star Alliance partner flights)
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • ANA

These programs were chosen because they all have at least some awards that are really cheap. And other than Copa and LifeMiles, Americans can easily get all these miles through transferable points programs:

  • United: Ultimate Rewards
  • Copa: no easy way to get the miles yet, but the program is brand new
  • Asiana: SPG
  • Singapore: ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG
  • LifeMiles: buy miles for 1.5 cents each
  • Aeroplan: Membership Rewards, SPG
  • Lufthansa: SPG
  • ANA: Membership Rewards, SPG

There are other Star Alliance programs into which Americans can transfer miles–Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to EVA and Thai miles–but their charts don’t offer any value compared to the eight I’ve selected.

Of course, the charts below only captures one part of an award: its mileage price. The routing rules and fuel surcharges matter too. Here are a few big things that applies to all charts:

  • United, Copa, and LifeMiles never collect fuel surcharges. All the others collect fuel surcharges on most awards.
  • All programs allow one way redemptions for the prices listed on the charts except ANA. It only allows roundtrip redemptions for double the price on the chart. I used its fictitious “one way price” that you can’t actually book just to more easily compare to the programs that do allow one way bookings.

For specific information on fuel surcharges to each region and other important routing rules, click on the individual posts where I really analyzed awards to each region.

Searching and Booking the Awards

A truism of miles is that–with few exceptions–award space is equally available to all partners. One corollary is that you can search any award search engine that displays an airline’s award space, and if space is there, you can book it with any partner.

All Star Alliance partner award space is searchable on aeroplan.com. Here’s how to search for award space on aeroplan.com. All the award space you find there is bookable with all the miles discussed in this post. Ignore the price quoted on aeroplan.com. You will pay the price on the award chart of the miles you’re using.

To book, call the airline whose miles you’re using (or go to their website to book online if you can.) Feed the agent the award space you found on aeroplan.com.

The Charts

Below the award charts show the one way price in thousands of miles from the United States mainland to the region listed for the eight types of miles listed. For information on slashes, click the links above to get more information.

Within Mainland United States and Canada

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.42.55 PM

Alaska

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.44.14 PM

Hawaii
Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.44.25 PM

Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.00 AM

Northern South America

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.12 AM

Southern South America

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.30.52 AM

EuropeScreen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.31.05 AM

Middle East

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 4.28.47 AM

Africa

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 4.29.08 AM

North Asia

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 7.41.47 AM

Southeast AsiaScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.44 AM

Indian SubcontinentScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.58 AM

Australia and New Zealand

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.33.06 AM

Oceania

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.33.16 AM

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

8

ANA is devaluing its award charts for bookings made October 15, 2015 or later. This is all the notice they’ve given. (Hat tip @saianel on Twitter.) To beat the devaluation, book by October 14 for travel through mid-September 2016.

This devaluation affects you because you “have” ANA miles in the form of Membership Rewards and SPG Starpoints, both of which can be transferred to ANA miles. I track ANA’s award chart because ANA miles can book any Star Alliance award space that United miles, for instance, can book.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

The devaluation affects awards from the United States to Asia 2 and South, Latin America. Here are the old and new roundtrip award charts:

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.26.03 AM

 

Remember that ANA Star Alliance awards must be booked roundtrip and include fuel surcharges every time an equivalent cash ticket would have fuel surcharges, except that United flights booked with ANA miles have no fuel surcharges.

Asia 2 is Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, the Maldives, Mongolia, and the ‘stans.Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.26.54 AM South, Latin America is what you’d expect. It does not include Mexico, which is in North America on the ANA award chart.
Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.27.14 AM

I included ANA’s award chart in my Comparison of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts, and there are some sweet spots on the award chart, most of which were not touched. For instance, the great deals to Europe, Middle East, Africa, North Asia, and Australia remain untouched.

ANA awards to Central America, the Caribbean, and Northern South America get pricier on October 15, but that doesn’t matter much because they were already terrible deals.

Awards to Southern South America, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent go up in price October 15 also. Southeast Asia and Indian Subcontinent aren’t a huge deal because most such itineraries would have fuel surcharges making them a bad deal.

The biggest blow is on those awards to Southern South America, which have no fuel surcharges and were very cheap. They get 10% more expensive. Asiana and Copa awards (on Copa metal) are now cheaper in economy, and Asiana awards remain the cheapest in Business Class.

Here are the affected award charts. Remember that all of these programs allow one way award bookings for the price listed except ANA, which requires a roundtrip award for twice the price listed. Fuel surcharges vary by program, so get more information on those here.

Central America and the Caribbean

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.00 AM

Northern South America

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.12 AM

Southern South AmericaScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.24.59 AM

Southeast AsiaScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.44 AM

Indian SubcontinentScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.58 AM

 

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

3

ANA’s “First Square” is one of the nicest First Classes in the world.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.05.09 PM

The fully enclosed suite featured on ANA’s 777-300ERs is a top of the line hard product, including a fully flat bed.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.04.31 PM

In addition, it comes with–from the reports I’ve read–typical, excellent service you would expect from a top Asian airline and fancy touches like caviar.

ANA has announced schedule changes that put the 777-300ER on new routes this year.

  • Tokyo-Narita to Houston starting June 12
  • Tokyo-Narita to Singapore starting March 29
  • Tokyo-Narita to Seattle starting May 6
  • Tokyo-Narita to Frankfurt starting May 7

The only one of these flights that I consider accessible with miles is Tokyo to Singapore. On that route, you can get seven hours of one of the world’s nicest First Class products for 60,000 United miles + $22.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.25.54 PM

Award space is wide open on the flight with many dates having two First Class award seats.

 

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United charges more for partner First Class than its own mediocre offering, but in this case, not much more. United’s First Class on the route is 55,000 miles.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.26.31 PM

You can even get the Tokyo to Singapore leg for only 50,000 AviancaTaca LifeMiles or 25,000 LifeMiles + $375.

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Unfortunately LifeMiles are not easy to earn and basically need to be purchased for 1.65 cents each.

United States to Asia

Of course, you can fly from the United States to Asia on the 777-300ER, but that starts to get prohibitively expensive.

United charges 110,000 miles one way in First Class from the United States to Japan and 130,000 to Singapore.

LifeMiles charges 90,000 miles one way in First Class from the United States to Japan and 99,000 miles one way to Singapore.

Air Canada charges 105,000 miles one way to either in First Class, plus fuel surcharges.

For these reasons, I’d be inclined just to book the seven-hour daytime flight from Tokyo to Singapore with United or LifeMiles. You’d get to enjoy all the service and relax in luxury for a manageable 50,000 to 60,000 miles.

I’d probably make the flight part of a much larger trip hopping around East Asia, and I’d consider using American Airlines miles for the flights to and from the United States. The AA award chart is much cheaper, and they partner with Cathay Pacific, which has just as nice of a First Class product.

Bottom Line

ANA’s schedule changes make getting in the First Square affordable for 50,000 to 60,000 miles one way.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Here’s how I got United to “manually sell” me award seats for an itinerary. While this technique is not possible in most circumstances, in my case, it turned no award into my dream award!

I was in the midst of constructing a simple roundtrip itinerary from the US to Europe when I ran into some big trouble.

United’s online award calendar displayed Austrian award space on the only day I could return to the States. Unfortunately, when I clicked to select those flights, I was met with a message saying the seats were no longer available.

Rapid Partner Availability

I used other Star Alliance search tools to discover that the seats were actually available to all partners, but United agents simply couldn’t see them.

The only thing left to do was request that United ask Austrian for the seats directly, often called a manual sell. Agents are extremely hesitant to do this, and often cite the company rule book in declining to do so. It usually takes some serious convincing to pull it off, but if you are calm, confident, and polite, it can be done. It’s critical to know how to pull this off, especially if you think your preferred flights have award space while a phone agent insists they don’t.

After a lengthy call, I finally convinced a United agent to manually request the unavailable seats. By requesting the manual sell, the flight I wanted instantly became bookable with my United miles. The segment was added to my itinerary, and I got the perfect set of flights for a summer trip to Europe.

How did this problem occur? Is this a phantom award space issue, or something completely different? What is a “manual sell”? How do you get a United agent to manually sell partner award seats?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

12

This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Turkish Business Class: Washington DC to Istanbul and Cathay Pacific Business Class: Tokyo to Hong Kong already.

I was extremely excited for my nonstop flight from Tokyo to Washington-Dulles on ANA. About two months before our scheduled departure, we had an equipment change and would be flying their Boeing 777-300ER featuring ANA’s “new” flat bed business seats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We took a Cathay Pacific redeye back from Hong Kong to Narita where we had a long layover before our final flight home in the late morning. Both the ANA lounge and flight delivered in every way. The inflight experience was fantastic, especially the service and seat, so I can’t wait to fly ANA again.

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment in ANA’s new Business Class configuration? Was the ANA lounge a good place to relax for a few hours?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

All Nippon Airways (ANA)–a Japanese Star Alliance carrier–launches a new route between Tokyo-Haneda and Vancouver from March 30, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 10.45.48 PM

Saver award space is excellent on the route in economy and business class. You can book the space this week–by January 31, 2014–with United miles at pre-devaluation rates. You can also book the award space with US Airways miles until March 30, 2014 when US Airways leaves the Star Alliance, which will end its partnership with ANA.

How good is the award space? Where does ANA connect to/from Haneda? What Star Alliance flights fly into Vancouver?

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

There is currently gold mine business class award availability on US Airways flights from the US to southern Europe for this summer.

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Award space on US Airways flights is especially advantageous because it means that you can book the space at favorable mileage rates (and no fuel surcharges) with:

  • US Airways miles
  • American Airlines miles
  • United miles (until March 30, 2014)
  • Ultimate Rewards (until March 30, 2014)
  • Membership Rewards (until March 30, 2014)

What are the routes? How good is the space? How good is US Airways Business Class? What is the cheapest way to book it?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

While booking a family of four to Australia through our popular Award Booking Service, I ran into a  vexing problem with Star Alliance award space.

On a certain Air Canada route, Air Canada’s own Aeroplan members  had access to more award seats than its Star Alliance partners. That’s not a surprising practice on the surface. Air New Zealand never releases transpacific space to Star Alliance partners. Swiss Airlines restricts first class cabin redemptions to its own members.

The anomaly here is that United also has access to Air Canada premium cabin award space that other Star Alliance partners don’t.

What is the route? How did I discover this? What does this discovery mean for award bookers?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I recently booked a family of four an economy award from Miami to Buenos Aires with their Membership Rewards. It was an interesting award that I think demonstrates the complexities and fun of booking with American Express points.

I won’t talk about that award specifically, but I’ll use it as a jumping off point for discussion since it illustrates a typical Memberhip Rewards situation. Imagine you have a family of four trying for an economy roundtrip from Miami to Buenos Aires for two weeks in October with 300k Membership Rewards.

Membership Rewards are awesome because they can be transferred to any of the three airline alliances, so you can use them to book on almost any airline in the world.

But Membership Rewards are frustrating because they transfer to programs with which you may be unfamiliar like ANA or programs with major drawbacks like British Airways’ fuel surcharges.

I would approach an award like this looking first at the flying options, then at the transfer options. I know if I could find award space, I can probably find a transfer partner with access to that space. And if I find several ways to get to Buenos Aires, I cancompare the transfer options to see which is the best deal with Membership Rewards.

From checking the Buenos Aires international airport’s (EZE) wikipedia page, I know there are direct flights to/from Miami on American, LAN, and Aerolineas Argentinas. Of course, United and Delta also fly to Buenos Aires from their hubs.

Aerolineas Argentinas

Aerolineas Argentinas is the state-owned flag carrier of Argentina. I haven’t heard too many kind words about it, but it does have a direct flight from Miami to Buenos Aires. The best way to search for the space is on ExpertFlyer.

ExpertFlyer only displays economy award space on the airline. The space that Aerolineas’ SkyTeam partners like Delta have access to is T class space.

Aerolineas Argentinas flies twice daily between Miami and Buenos Aires–its only US route–once in the morning and one redeye. Up to seven seats are widely available on each!

The return is also wide open.

This was a promising start!

American

American has direct flights from Miami to Buenos Aires also. The best place to check for space on those flights is aa.com.

I can look at the whole month of October in just a few seconds with AA’s awesome calendar view. Unfortunately there is no MileSAAver outbound space–the low-miles-price space open to partners– in October, though there is some space on return flights.

Outbound: No Saver Space
Return: Some Saver Space

LAN

LAN is another oneworld airline with direct flights from Miami to Buenos Aires. I go to ba.com to check for LAN space to Buenos Aires, since aa.com doesn’t display LAN space.

I ca’t find any LAN space on ba.com, though it did pick up the same American Airlines space I’d seen on aa.com.

ba.com not finding any LAN space
…but it did find the same space on American Airlines

Delta

Yes, it seemed like a complete longshot that Delta would have space for four from Miami to Atlanta to Buenos Aires at the low-miles-price because Delta has putrid availability to South America, but I checked anyway.

Green shows low-miles-price itineraries. There actually are some returns possible.

While oneway tickets with Delta miles are a huge mistake since Delta charges the roundtrip price for all awards even oneways, I kept the returns in mind because AMEX has some transfer partners like Flying Blue that can be used to book oneway Delta awards reasonably.

United, TACA, Copa

The final place I checked was united.com to see what United, Copa, or TACA award space there was that I could snag with a transfer to a Star Alliance partner.

Green and yellow days have an award with four economy seats.

I found a few more possible awards to add to the bounty.

Search Results

I found space in both direction on Aerolineas Argentinas’ two daily flights. I found space in both directions on connecting United and Copa (via Panama) flights. I found return space on American Airlines and Delta, but no outbound space. I found no space on LAN.

Transfer Options

Delta

We can transfer Membership Rewards to Delta to book the Aerolineas Argentinas space and/or the Delta space. Delta charges 60,000 miles roundtrip to Argentina in economy class whether you fly it or one of its SkyTeam partners like Aerolineas Argentinas.

Although Delta does charge fuel surcharges for awards on a lot of its partners, it does not collect fuel surcharges on Aerolineas redemptions.

That means a transfer to Delta would mean the transfer of 240,000 Membership Rewards to 240,000 Delta miles. American Express charges $7 per 10,000 miles transferred to US-based airlines, with a maximum charge of $99, This transfer would incur that $99 charge. The award itself would have government taxes of around $75 per person, meaning a total cost of 240,000 Membership Rewards and approximately $400 for four people.

In return for that outlay, the family could get direct flights in each direction or could sub a one-stop itinerary on Delta on the return if they really didn’t want to fly Aerolineas Argentinas.

Flying Blue

Air France’s frequent flyer program, Flying Blue, is not always the best option because it levies heavy surcharges on several partners. But it doesn’t levy surcharges on Delta or Aerolineas Argentinas. And it’s price from the US to Argentina is 25,000 miles each way.

I’m not sure why the taxes collected exceed those collected by Delta by $15 per person, but that’s a minor concern. Flying Blue costs 25,000 miles each way, and it can be used to book oneways, which is a far better deal than Delta’s 60k miles roundtrip, which is the price whether you book oneways or roundtrips.

That means for 200k Membership Rewards and $360, a family of four could get on the same flights as with Delta miles: Delta and Aerolineas Argentinas flights.

British Airways

We can transfer Membership Rewards to British Airways Avios, but that would only enable booking the return leg in this case. Avios can be used to book American or LAN flights. We found only space on American, and only on the return.

The good news is that it’s only 25,000 Avios from Buenos Aires to Miami.

That means the return would be 100k Membership Rewards and $300.

ANA

I recently sang the praises of All Nippon Airways as a Membership Rewards transfer partner. ANA has a distance based award chart. You add up the distance of all the segments and see how many miles that trip will cost. Here is the economy chart.

Miami to Houston to Buenos Aires roundtrip is just over 12,000 miles. That works out 60,000 ANA miles (60,000 Membership Rewards) roundtrip. That’s not fantastic or awful.

But Miami to Panama to Buenos Aires is under 9,000 miles, meaning it is only 43,000 ANA miles roundtrip. That’s the lowest miles total we’ve seen.

image from gcmap.com

In neither case would there be fuel surcharges. ANA never charges fuel surcharges on United or US Airways flights, and Copa doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on this routing.

No fuel surcharges on Copa from Miami to Buenos Aires, so ANA won’t collect any.

That means ANA miles used to fly Copa would be 172k Membership Rewards and about $480 in taxes.

Transfer Options Summary

To summarize:

  • All the options here receive 1:1 transfers from Membership Rewards and incur only government taxes–no fuel surcharges.
  • Transferring to Delta is a bad idea. Why pay 60k Membership Rewards for a roundtrip when the same flights are 25k each way via Flying Blue? Total: 240k + $400
  • ANA is the cheapest option overall at 43k roundtrip if we route through Panama on Copa. Total: 172k + $480
  • British Airways and Flying Blue are the cheapest direct options at 25k each way. Total: 200k + $300

If you really value direct flights, take the Aerolineas Argentinas flight one direction for 25k Flying Blue miles and return on the American Airlines flight for 25k Avios.

If you really value the cheapest flights or want a free stopover in Panama, look for Copa flights for 43k ANA miles.

Recap

Membership Rewards have awesome versatility, which also means it’s more work to figure out the best deal. For a simple Miami to Buenos Aires roundtrip, all three alliances are possibilities.

Because some transfer partners have region-based charts, some have distance-based charts, some charge fuel surcharges sometimes, and some never do, you have to investigate every option for the best deal.

For Buenos Aires to Miami roundtrip, the best deals are with ANA miles on Copa to take advantage of the distance-based chart of a combination of Flying Blue miles and Avios to take advantage of their partners’ direct flights.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

American Express Membership Rewards are valuable because of their ability to be transferred to dozens of partners. But they have a glaring weakness: they don’t have a top-tier Star Alliance transfer partner–US Airways or United.

Membership Rewards can be transferred to Singapore, which is great because this is the only way to get into Singapore business or first class.

Membership Rewards can also be transferred to Aeroplan and ANA. The problem with all three is that they charge massive surcharges on Star Alliance award tickets, making our “free” ticket cost several hundred dollars–even in economy.

That’s the main reason I called US Airways and United the top-tier Star Alliance partners; neither charges surcharges on awards booked with their miles. Both charge just the miles and the government taxes and fees.

But as recently reported by Dan’s Deals, ANA is no longer charging fuel surcharges on United or US Airways flights. This is huge news for a few reasons:

  • ANA has an award chart with some incredible values.
  • ANA is a Membership Rewards transfer partner. With all the great Membership Rewards earning cards’ sign up bonuses lately, many of us are flush with Membership Rewards.
  • United and US Airways fly a lot of convenient routes for Americans. If ANA had to pick two partners on which they wouldn’t charge surcharges, these are ideal.
  • United and US Airways both have world-class business class beds. (United business review.)

What You Need to Know to Take Advantage of the Deal

The deal involves booking with ANA miles. That means you need an ANA account. (Sign up for one here.)

Don’t transfer your Membership Rewards yet. You can do that after you find space. You don’t want to transfer them and then not find space. ANA miles expire after 36 months regardless of activity.

This deal involves flying United or US Airways flights. The best place to search for award space on those airlines regardless of the type of miles you’ll be using to book the award (in this case ANA miles) is united.com. Here is a basic post on how to search on united.com.

On united.com, you must find Saver award space for it to be bookable with ANA miles. Saver space shows up as a blue button on united.com.

For instance, in the above screen shot of a flight from San Francisco to Sydney on December 2, 2013, there is Saver space in business class, but not in economy or first. ANA miles could only book this flight in business class.

If you find flights with Saver space on united.com, write down the flight date, time, and number to book it on ANA.com.

ANA award bookings cannot be made oneway. You have to book roundtrip awards. If you really only want a oneway, Dan has screen shots of what to do. Book your oneway award and any short hop other oneway on United or US Airways together as a “roundtrip.” Make sure the short dummy leg “return” is the second flight. If you make it the first flight, you will have the whole itinerary cancelled when you don’t show up for the dummy leg.

The mileage needed for your ANA award booking is based on the award’s distance. This is one of the key sources of value. Use the Great Circle Mapper (as explained here) to add up the distances of all segments of your itinerary and check its cost here.

Here are some sample itineraries to show you the incredible value of ANA awards. Remember that ANA and United would charge the exact same government taxes. US Airways would charge those plus a $50 award processing fee.

The best deals are from the east coast to Europe, but there is a discount to every continent.

Of course I cherry-picked this list. Adding connecting flights from your home airport may drive up the price.

In general this deal is best for those who live in United or US Airways cities with international flights: Newark, Dulles, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Philadelphia, and Charlotte.

When you find the award space you want, initiate the Membership Rewards transfer, which will take at least two days.

When you book, you will not pay any close-in fees like United and US Airways charge ($75 within 21 days of departure.)

If you want to change your date, you can do that for free.

If you want to change anything else, you have to cancel. There is no cash cost to cancel, but you lose 3,000 miles. This beats the US Airways and United cancellation fee of $150 per ticket.

Open jaws are permitted. Double open jaws are permitted. Sticking two unrelated segments together and never planning to fly the second one in an attempt to get a oneway pricing is permitted. (See the Dan’s Deals post for examples of this.)

Recap

Now that ANA no longer charges fuel surcharges on awards that fly on US Airways or United, we have an incredible new use for Membership Rewards and a way cheaper way to get onto United and US Airways flights.

This deal is great for those with a mountain of Membership Rewards and who live at an airport with direct international flights on United or US Airways. People who don’t live at such an airport may get a slightly worse deal because the distance-based ANA chart adds up the distance of all segments.

The deal is best if you want to fly from the east coast to Europe.

Pad your Membership Rewards balance with:

American Express Mercedes-Benz Platinum (personal) with 50k Membership Rewards after spending $1k in three months. $475 annual fee.

American Express Platinum (business) with 25k Membership Rewards after spending $5k in three months. $450 annual fee.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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