Why using Virgin miles on ANA is the best way to get to Japan (and why we went)

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Regular readers will know from my hotel reviews that I was out in Hong Kong, Japan and China over Easter.  By coincidence, Anika was also in Tokyo for a few days as a guest of Japanese airline ANA / All Nippon Airways.

If you are considering travelling to Japan, the obvious options – especially if you want to earn Avios and British Airways tier points – are British Airways (two flights per day) and Japan Airlines (one flight per day).

There is a third airline flying directly from Heathrow to Tokyo – ANA.  ANA runs a daily service, departing at 7pm.   It flies to Tokyo Haneda, which is substantially more convenient than Tokyo Narita, used for one of the BA services.

ANA is a member of Star Alliance.  This means that you can credit ANA flights to Lufthansa Miles & More, United MileagePlus, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, ANA’s own Mileage Club or whichever other Star Alliance airline you prefer.  You can also credit ANA flights to Virgin Flying Club.

ANA offered us a complimentary return Business Class ticket to Tokyo to review their seat and service.  You can read Anika’s two part review tomorrow.  As usual, Head for Points paid for all of its other expenses including hotel costs in Tokyo.


Using Virgin Flying Club miles to fly ANA

You can obviously redeem miles from any of the Star Alliance airlines for reward tickets on ANA.

You may not know, however, that ANA is also a Virgin Atlantic partner.  You can redeem your Virgin Flying Club miles for tickets on ANA. 

Even better, the rate is VERY attractive, especially when compared to an Avios redemption.

You can also earn Virgin Flying Club miles when booking cash tickets on ANA, if you want to steer your next business trip their way.

You can see the Virgin Flying Club earning and spending chart for ANA on this page of the Virgin Atlantic website.

Assuming you are based in the UK, these are the key numbers you need to know:

Economy return flight (London to Tokyo) – 65,000 Virgin miles

Business return flight (London to Tokyo) – 95,000 Virgin miles

First return flight (London to Tokyo) – 120,000 Virgin miles

Note that one way redemptions are not possible.

These are exceptionally good rates in Business and First.  For comparison, this is what you pay using Avios for a BA or JAL redemption:

Economy return flight (London to Tokyo) – 39,000 Avios off-peak / 60,000 Avios peak

Business return flight (London to Tokyo) – 150,000 Avios off-peak / 180,000 Avios peak

First return flight (London to Tokyo) – 204,000 Avios off-peak / 240,000 Avios peak

The price gap between Avios and Virgin miles is stunning.  Even with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher, it is STILL a better deal to use Virgin miles most of the time when travelling Business or First Class.

Even better, there are no fuel surcharges added to ANA redemptions using Virgin miles.  You will have to pay the usual Air Passenger Duty, Heathrow departure taxes etc.

If you can’t find availability on the ANA flights from London, they also fly to Tokyo from Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Brussels and Paris.  Virgin appears to have the same availability as Star Alliance partners and the Aeroplan (Air Canada) and United Airlines websites are both decent places to search for seats before calling Virgin to book.

So …. if my recent reviews have made you consider Japan for your next holiday, you should be seriously considering flying ANA using Virgin Flying Club miles.  Anika’s review tomorrow will give you a good idea of what to expect in Business Class.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

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  1. Sam G says:


    “50%” off sale starting early Tuesday AM UK time. Looking at Conrad Tokyo I think it’ll be more of a 33% discount as their AP rates are already quite a big saving vs the Best Flex, but still worth a look !

    • Thanks for this. Looking to book hotels in Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa for our Japan trip in November.
      We booked our internal flights in Japan on ANA using Jet Airways miles which were due to expire in June and saved the Virgin miles for later.
      The 2-4-1 off-peak J redemption was pretty good value I think.

    • Kevin says:

      Does anyone know when would be Hilton next sales for Europe and Asia?

  2. Chris says:

    I have a fist class ticket booked for October and £130 for taxes and surcharges makes it an even better option

  3. Waribai says:

    Unknown Air China works but has anyone managed to book with ANA or Singapore Airlines using flying club miles? I thought that the perceived wisdom was that actually finding availability is nigh on impossible as a) the seat availability pool is not the same as the regular star alliance reward pool and b) availability is not viewable online.
    So typically you have to go through a list of dates with an agent on the phone till one of you says “quits”. As our family are frequent travellers on that route, I would be genuinely interested to know if the situation has changed!

    • Waribai says:

      “Unknown” Sorry I meant to write “I know”

    • VFTW wrote about his experiences booking this just over a week ago… said it was relatively straight forward

      • Waribai says:

        Ok, thanks. Got 200k FC miles so this could come in very handy!

        • In that case… sounds like i would be rude not to!

        • ankomonkey says:

          We are a family of 4 and fly UKTYO at least once a year. Finding reward availability for 4 has eluded us for many years. You may get lucky with 1 or 2, but in my experience anything more is unrealistic.

          • Waribai says:

            Are you talking about using Avios or FC miles?
            BA availability direct to TYO used to be easy to find but over the last couple of years things have changed.

    • SydneySwan says:

      I have never succeeded in booking SQ using flying club miles. I have tried several times trying to book J but there is never availability. They can find availability in Y if dates are flexible enough but the cash component is almost the same as buying a cheap Y fare.

      • SQ is virtually impossible due to the restrictions on aircraft type. They also make it hard for Star partners, it is only easy with their own miles.

  4. Geordie says:

    Another option for Avios is Japan Airlines via Helsinki – a benefit being very low surcharges if availability can be found. Helsinki transfers are super fast and total flight time is not substantially longer than direct from LHR. Plus if UK regions, it is arguably easier to transfer in HEL than LHR. Plus Finnair OW Emerald and Sapphire lounges. Plus JAL service.

  5. Given how much airplay this redemption has been getting recently, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it suffer the same fate as the Brussels Air and ANA redemptions on Etihad…

  6. I used my avios points on a return to Tokyo for this September using 39000 still cost £350 I expect that was taxes ? Via ba . Fairly new to avios so still learning.

    • BA bundles up all cash amounts charged on an award booking and staff often incorrectly refers to them as “Taxes”

      When in reality, the BA surcharge can be even greater than the Air Passenger Duty + Airport Fees combined.

      • Actually it’s Rob who incorrectly labels all charges as taxes, e.g. he refers to”Heathrow departure taxes” above.

        Sure it’s a privately collected tax but so is renting in central London.

        BA calls them taxes and fees, IIRC (don’t know about phone agents though)

  7. Aliks says:

    I was thinking of using soon-to-expire Etihad points for Prague – Seoul and a short hop across to Japan for the main holiday in 2018.

    I could then use my Virgin Flying club points for China Air 1st class flights to Beijing for a second long haul holiday.

    Anyone know how China AIr 1st class compares to ANA business?

    • Air China would require fewer miles and availability is good. Some issues, historically, with Air China cancelling redemption tickets if they suddenly find they can sell the same seat for cash …..

    • Pretty sure Virgin have discontinued the Air China relationship because they kept bumping customers with confirmed bookings.

  8. wayne says:

    WOW the ANA redemption business/1st is stunning value, im looking at maybe Japan on a 2 4 1 with ba next year 1st. I have only Avios, but maybe the Helsinki route might offer better value & use the 2-4-1 another time? dah, its making my head hurt….

    Rob’s got the life…..;)

    • I didn’t fly it, I sent the staff 🙂 I am cutting back and just doing First Class reviews (which are usually self funded with miles anyway) and Anika is doing Business Class, unless it is somewhere I really want to go.

      This is mainly for family reasons at my end, but also because they do take a heck of a long time to write up afterwards.

      • There is another article that needs writing – how best to maximize travel when partners are employees and have limited holidays. My partner’s costing me a fortune in points with just weekend breaks as he can’t leave until late Friday night and has to be back Monday….

        • BA RFS seems ideal for this… Just go when nobody else is on holiday

          • Quick Europe hops are ok but we’re missing out on breaks that take more travel time. I’ve got two 2-4-1 vouchers still outstanding and looking to off load them now for two weekend trips to Madeira as anything further won’t work for both of us. It’s not a good use of the vouchers or points (although we don’t fly BA anymore).

            It’s just depressing seeing flash sales like Qatar’s appearing knowing I can go but partner can only go if we can fly out Friday night and come back ‘on the Sunday.

        • We have actually had to restructure our October holiday because I just went off and booked, oblivious to the fact that my wife can’t actually take all the time off she wants. Looks like she will be joining us 3 days later.

          • I feel your pain.

            I do feel though that men travelling alone have more of an advantage than women; my partner would worry if I was on my own for three days in some countries. Ho hum.

      • Lady London says:

        Testing Business Class flights is a tough job but someone’s got to do it 🙂 I feel for poor Anika lumped with this.

  9. Ian Snowley says:

    Is it possible to buy cash tickets on ANA and upgrade with VFC miles (availability permitting)?

  10. razvan says:

    O.T. There is a new British airways offer on my BA Amex, spend 500 get 100 back. Not on my other Amex cards.

    • Not on any of mine or my wifes. What is the deadline / maximum number of registrations please?

      • Michael says:

        Was on my BA Amex too. 7000 cardmembers, purchase by 12 June.

        • Have messaged them asking if they can add it.

          Can someone with it post the full text of the offer? That sometimes seems to help the agents to find the offers…

          • Luckily I got it on mine. It seems to be the same offer as was available last November:

            OFFER TERMS
            Only one £100 statement credit per UK Card for the first 7,000 Cardmembers to save.
            UK departure flights only.
            Travel insurance purchases are excluded.
            Offer only available when you spend £500 or more at ba.com by 12th June 2017 with the British Airways American Express® Card to which the offer is saved and on transactions made in Great British Pounds (GBP).
            The offer does not apply to spend on other Cards you might hold and on transactions made via payment wallets or payment aggregators including, but not limited to, PayPal.
            An awarded credit can be reversed if qualifying transactions are refunded or cancelled.
            Credit should appear on your billing statement within five days from qualifying spend but may take up to 90 days from 12th June 2017.
            All travel is subject to British Airways conditions of carriage, subject to availability and standard booking conditions apply, ba.com/theclubterms. For full terms and conditions please visit URL.
            For full Offer Terms and more details about statement credits click here. By saving the offer to your Card, you agree to the Offer Terms.

          • Excellent, thank you. Although it says BA.com, I’m pretty sure phone reservations will count too. (I hope so at least!).

            I heard back from Amex CS this morning and they confirmed they have added the offer to my card 🙂

          • Believe it does in fact have to be made directly on the BA website, not flying on BA but purchased through a third party.

          • Agree re 3rd party, but telephone bookings with BA would normally be OK as they’ll still show as BA on statement. Amex Travel purchases normally show as BA too but I wouldn’t risk it.

    • Seen it mentioned on here and FT a couple of times but sadly not on my BAPP 🙁

  11. razvan says:

    7000, up till 12 June

    • Thanks. Will slot this in on Tuesday.

      • Have just spoken to amex and got rep to query with his manager ” Amex can never add offers if it was not sent to you in the first place”
        How true is this??

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