Is Japan on your bucket list? Then, believe it or not, U.K.-based Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club mileage program should be on your checklist. There's no better way to get to Japan on the cheap – and in serious style.
Not only can you use Virgin Atlantic points to book award flights on Delta Air Lines, but you can also use them to fly in first or business class on one of the top airlines in the world: All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's flag airline.
A few years back, Mr. TT and I flew in ANA first class in what is now one of my favorite points redemptions to date. I'll walk you through exactly how to find the award space and book the tickets using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points for an absolute steal.
Virgin Atlantic's ANA Award Chart
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club has a zone-based award chart for travel on ANA. Departing from the western U.S., that means it will cost 60,000 points for a round trip to Japan in economy, 90,000 points round trip in business class. After a devaluation in March 2023, it now costs at least 145,000 points round trip in first class.
Leaving from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD), Houston (IAH), or New York City-JFK (JFK)? It will cost 65,000 points round trip in economy, 95,000 points round trip in business class, and 170,000 points round trip in first class. These cities price out higher, thanks to ANA's definition of “Eastern USA.”
For years, you'd be forced to book round-trip award tickets on ANA via Virgin Atlantic. Luckily, that has changed. You can now book one-way tickets!
Finally, all of the awards listed are for flights between the U.S. and Japan. If you are looking to connect beyond Japan, you will need to book the ticket as two separate awards.
ANA's U.S. Destinations
- Chicago-O'Hare (ORD)
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Houston (IAH)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York City-JFK (JFK)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- San Jose (SJC)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD)
Finding ANA Award Space via Virgin Atlantic
Once you have chosen a departure city and know how many Virgin Atlantic points you will need, it's time to find the award space. You cannot search for or book ANA award tickets directly through Virgin Atlantic's website. But there are other airline websites you can use to find award availability – generally, any award space that shows up through one of ANA's Star Alliance partners will be available through Virgin Atlantic.
We recommend searching for award space on either the United Airlines website or Air Canada's Aeroplan website.
The screenshot below was taken from United's website. As you can see, there are both economy and first class award seats available on this particular date between Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) and Tokyo-Haneda (HND). Make sure the flights you are looking at are operated by All Nippon Airways, which you can see under the departure and arrival times below.
Booking the Award Ticket
Once you find award availability that will work, you will have to pick up the phone and call Virgin Atlantic to actually book the ticket. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club can be reached at 1-800-365-9500.
When booking our recent first class trip to Tokyo, both Mr. TT and I had great phone agents that were very knowledgeable and attentive. They were able to see the award space we saw from the United website and booked the flights for us with the 120,000 points in our respective accounts. In total, each of our phone calls only took about 10 minutes.
Fuel Surcharges on ANA flights Booked via Virgin Atlantic
One of the few downsides to booking ANA award flights with Virgin Atlantic is that Virgin Atlantic will pass on any carrier-imposed surcharges ANA would have on a revenue ticket. And while it may easily be worth it given how few points you'll need, those surcharges can be substantial.
The easiest way to figure out exactly what you'll pay in fees is to go through Google's ITA Matrix software.
Using the example above for the award space I found on United's website, I entered in the airports, flight dates, class of service and nonstop flights only.
Our flight comes up with a price tag of $23,330. Yikes!
But we won't be paying that, of course. If you click on the price of the flight it will give you a full breakdown of the fare. You will be responsible to cover all fees beyond the base fare price.
In addition to the Virgin Atlantic points needed to book the flight, we will also be on the hook for all of these charges listed in the red box below. In this example, the total surcharges will be $270.03. While this is certainly more than some award ticket surcharges will cost, that's a small price to pay for what would normally be a $20,000 ticket.
And if this sounds like more work than you want to do, just simply plan on paying between $200 and $400 for ticket surcharges.
How to Get Virgin Atlantic Points
One of the best parts of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points is how easy they are to earn. That’s because the program is transfer partners with all three of the major bank’s points currencies. Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points.
So you could boost your Flying Club balance by opening the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a 60,000-point welcome bonus, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a 50,000-point welcome bonus.
The American Express Platinum Card is a strong option for frequent flyers. The $550 annual fee may seem steep, but that comes with at least a 60,000-point welcome bonus and an unbeatable set of travel perks. Check to see if you qualify for a 125,000-point bonus.
And now is a great time to apply for the Citi ThankYou Premier card, as it’s offering a 50,000-point bonus. Further, the $95 annual fee is waived for the first year.
Using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points for ANA flights to Asia is an incredible points value. The process to book is relatively straightforward but does require a little bit of searching and a phone call. While you will be on the hook for the ticket surcharges, it is a relatively small price to pay for one of the best experiences in the sky.
Lead Photo Credit: Max Zulauf – Flickr
Houston also codes as “Eastern” front ANA and will cost 120k. Just booked it the other day.
Thanks for the information. I updated the post to include Houston in the Eastern USA cities.
Any information about the transfer time of MR or UR to a VS account? And can you put award tickets on hold with VS? I’m always worried about award availability closing up in the period of time when points are transferring. I miss Korean Air for the option to Asia!
Transfer time from MR is generally 1-2 days and my experience is it has been instant from UR. Transfer from UR if you are worried about the wait time.
You can hold award tickets for up to 24 hours with Virgin.
If you’re originating in a city that isn’t one of the ANA-served US cities, is there a way to include the leg of where you come from into the ticket? For example, I fly out of Portland, OR. Do I need to position myself to LAX (on my own dime) in order to book the ANA flight, or can I do some sort of code-share ticket from PDX-LAX then get on the LAX-HND flight on ANA? Thanks!
Virgin doesn’t allow you to mix partners on award tickets, which would be the only option for you to build in a domestic connecting flight to your itinerary. So you’d have to position yourself to LAX!
Hi – I know ANA opens their schedule at 355 days, but United and I believe Aeroplan only show up to 330-335 days out. Do I have a way to see availability during those “extra” 20+ days?
The only way to see flights unfortunately is via ANAs schedule. However, the availability won’t be the same, so your best bet waiting it out
Newbie here, thanks for the great info btw. I can’t seem to find first class availability on United’s site so I’m going to try business class. Does it matter how many United miles it states is needed (in this case 175k), if I book through Virgin it’s always going to be at a rate of 90k from Los Angeles? Seems like there are some Business saver fares at 80k United miles, not sure if there’s any bearing on that for the Virgin Atlantic miles.
Hey Brian, great question! The number of United miles listed doesn’t matter. You are simply using their site to find the award space.
The rates using Virgin will be tied to the award chart mentioned above.
Just realized I misread them, looks like those flights aren’t operated by ANA anyways. So no availability at all 🙁
How on earth do you actually find one of these fares? Have been trying for weeks to find anything withing 200-330 days out off-peak and on-peak. Can’t find a single first class return using miles at all…
I used ANA website to search for award space, LAX to TPE. I saw BR (EVA) in the result. Can I use VS miles to book ANA’s partner metal?
To my knowledge, this is not possible.
I found one flight leaving LAX via ANA Business Class, but on the return flight, there was a First Class ANA flight available. Can you mix classes when booking a round trip? I’ve looked into September 2020 and there are practically no ANA Award flights available. Is this typical or do you think the Summer Olympics is affecting travel? Thanks.
Yes you can mix classes.
I”m looking to fly my family of 5. Could I use VA miles to book 5 award seats on ANA (if available) and what would be the total cost? ANA economy during low season is 40k RT while VA is 60k RT. Would it be 200k or 300k?
If you’re booking with Virgin miles, you will pay the Virgin rate – 60k each, so it would be 300k total. Definitely look into using ANA miles if possible!
I’m not clear on your comment about travel beyond Tokyo and needing a separate awards booking, yet you said it has to be a round trip ticket.
Thanks Corky. Simply stating that if you want to travel beyond Tokyo, it will price out as an additional segment per their award chart. It would still have to be booked round trip.
Hi. I know that ANA allows mixed class on award flight. how much VA miles will it cost if i book a business class from SFO to TYO and first class from TYO to SFO? 90k/2 + 110k/2? Thanks!
Correct, your math is right!
I was able to find some business class reward seats for ANA on united.com (Business Saver Award), and confirmed that on ExpertFlyer. However when I called up Virgin Atlantic to hold them, they said ANA could not confirm the seats, meaning that Virgin was not able to lock in those seats for me. Does this happen often where award seats show available but ANA hasn’t actually released them? I’m assuming nothing to do but wait for them to be released or look at other dates?
Hey Matt. That is odd as I haven’t seen that before. I would maybe give it a day or two and see if the award space is released by ANA. Or hang up and call Virgin to see if another agent can see the space.
Thanks for the tip! I called right back and the next Virgin agent was able to find the seats right away. Makes you wonder a bit how they’re looking up the partner rewards flights…
Awesome to hear! Happens all the time. We call it a HUCA! Hang up, call again.
Been looking since November looking for 4 business tix from SFO. For mid June . Am I looking too early or is it too late?
It might be the number of seats you are looking for. Finding 4 available is tough to do. Have you been able to find availability for fewer seats?
Hey Nick, I have a logistical question for you please regarding ANA award space and using Expert Flyer. For example, looking at the last week of April 2021, I can find saver award dates using ANA’s site. However, searching those same dates on expertflyer, they give me an error that says I’m searching too far into the future. Do you know why this is? Thanks!
I am honestly not sure why space wouldn’t be showing on the Expert Flyer website if it is showing on the ANA site. The bottom line is that if it is showing available on ANA, you should be able to book it.
Do I need to find business “saver” award space on United’s site to book the ANA award or will I still be able to book with just the “Everyday” award space available?
You’ll need to find saver award space on United.com for those flights to be bookable via Virgin.
Will it be possible to book a stopover in another city in Japan using virgin Atlantic points?
LAX -> HND
HND -> KIX
KIX-> HND ( LAX
It wouldn’t book as a stopover, but you could instead simply book another roundtrip fare from HND to KIX using your Virgin points, as Virgin charges separately per segment. HND-KIX would cost 15,000 Virgin points in economy (business class is not available)