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 and Japan Airlines. If you don’t mind a longer journey, you can also use Finnair via Helsinki, Qatar Airways via Doha or Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong amongst other options. These indirect flights are likely to be cheaper and will get you MORE BA tier points because you are taking multiple flights.
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 – Narita is about 40 miles from the city centre.
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.
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. Ever since the amazing Virgin Atlantic redemption deal on Air China was killed off last year (see this article) I think that ANA is the best ‘sweet spot’ in Flying Club.
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.
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 you are considering Japan for a 2019 holiday (get in before the 2020 Olympics creates a rush), you should be seriously considering flying ANA using Virgin Flying Club miles. Take a look at our review if you want to learn more.
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (May 2022)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 30,000 points until 6th June 2022):
You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.
The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Virgin Points, if you apply by 1st June 2022.
Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.
(Want to earn more Virgin Points? 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.)