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Why using Virgin Points on ANA is the best way to use air miles to get to Japan

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If you are considering travelling to Japan next year as the country starts to reopen, the obvious options – especially if you want to earn Avios and British Airways tier points – are British Airways and Japan Airlines.

(Japan Airlines is a member of the oneworld alliance, alongside BA, so you can earn Avios and Executive Club tier points, and spend Avios, on its flights.)

using Virgin Points on ANA is the best way to use air miles to get to Japan

There is another option ….

There is a third airline flying directly from Heathrow to Tokyo – ANA.  ANA runs a daily service, departing at 7pm from Heathrow Terminal 2, to Tokyo Haneda, the nearest airport to the city.

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.  

How to use Virgin Points 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 points for tickets on ANA. 

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

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

Using ANA miles on Virgin Atlantic to Japan

How many Virgin Points do I need to fly ANA?

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 Points
  • Business return flight (London to Tokyo) – 95,000 Virgin Points
  • First return flight (London to Tokyo) – 120,000 Virgin Points

One way redemptions are possible for half of the above cost.

Availability seems to be limited to ONE First Class seat per flight, especially on the aircraft with the new ‘THE Suite’ product which we discuss below. This is not a great option for a couple unless you book one seat and wait to see if another is released later.

You cannot book ANA redemptions online. You need to call Virgin Atlantic which is, unfortunately, not always easy at present.

Virgin Atlantic lets you book 331 days in advance

Virgin Atlantic only allows you book rewards 331 days in advance.

Whilst this does not sound like a problem, ANA itself opens up its flights for booking at 355 days before departure.

This puts an additional squeeze on reward availability using Virgin Points, since reward seats can be snapped up by ANA’s own frequent flyers or members of partner programmes which work on a 355 day basis before you have a chance to book.

Use Virgin Points on ANA

How does this compare with Avios pricing?

These are exceptionally good rates in Business and First.  For comparison, this is what you pay using Avios for a British Airways redemption using the ‘middle price’ which is usually the best value:

  • 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 Points is stunning.  Even with a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher, it is STILL a better deal to use Virgin Points most of the time when travelling in Business or First Class.

Historically there were no fuel charges added to ANA redemptions using Virgin Points which kept taxes and charges from the UK at around £250. During the pandemic, however, ANA has had a couple of rounds of surcharge increases. From 1st August 2022, the surcharge alone will be £281 return when travelling from the UK (€315 from Europe). I haven’t seen a recent example but you should expect to pay nearer £700-£800 return in taxes and charges in total.

ANA has various European route options

If you can’t find availability on the ANA flights from London, they also flew – pre coronavirus – to Tokyo from Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Vienna and Paris.  It is not clear how many of these routes will eventually return.

The current schedule for Autumn 2022 is:

  • Frankfurt – 10x weekly on a Boeing 787-9
  • London Heathrow – 7x weekly, split between a Boeing 787-9 and 777-300ER
  • Paris CDG – 3x weekly on a Boeing 787-8
  • Brussels – 2x weekly on a Boeing 787-9

Virgin Flying Club appears to have access to the same availability as Star Alliance partners. The Aeroplan (Air Canada) and United Airlines websites are both decent places to search for seats before calling Virgin Flying Club to book.

Is ANA any good?

Oh yes.

In 2019, ANA launched a new Business and First Class seat on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, and the London route was the first to get it.  It looks rather good, to put it mildly.

Note that some flights from London are currently operated with a Boeing 787-9. These aircraft do not have First Class or the new business class product. You need to look for flights marked 77W.

The First Class suites, known as ‘THE Suite’, are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration.  Finished in dark woods, there are two only rows which make this an intimate cabin:

ANA first class the suite

The seat almost takes the full width of the suite, with only a thin slither along the side given over to storage or as an armrest. There is also an exceptionally large 43” screen which has a 4K display.

THE Room is ANA’s new Businesss Class product.  Club World style, half of the seats face forwards and half face backwards.

If you look at the photo below the first thing that will strike you is how disproportionately wide the seat is.  Look at the head rest.  You can see the protective cover, which is about what you’d expect the seat width to be. THE Room looks like it is twice as wide – more sofa-like than a seat! ANA says that THE Room has twice the width of their old business class seat (click for Anika’s flight review) which is not hard to believe.

Of course, this is business class and the trade-off is that it does taper into a cubby hole where your feet end up.  Nonetheless, the extra width at torso and shoulder height makes sitting and sleeping in this seat feel a lot less cramped.  It is a very clever piece of design.

ANA business class the room

I haven’t flown THE Room but I have sat in the seat at a media event.  It is, genuinely, huge.  At one point there were two of us sat side by side on the seat and we were able to have a normal conversation, with a decent bit of space between us.

Not content with a sliding door, THE Room also has a second opening which slides up and down.  This allows the crew to pass food to you whilst the door is closed, getting around one of the biggest issues with Club Suite and Qsuite.  The 24 inch 4K TV also looked very impressive, although it was not operating.

ANA business class the room

Conclusion

If Japan is on your radar for a post-covid break, you should be seriously considering flying ANA using your Virgin Flying Club points.

Remember that flying out of Frankfurt may make it easier to find availability, but you won’t be able to experience the new Business Class and First Class suites this way.


How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (October 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, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 Read our full review

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.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points.

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn 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.)

Comments (36)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • RJ says:

    Hi Rob,

    Just fyi it looks like LHR-HND return taxes & YQ is currently running at about £835 for a return flight in J or F on NH.

    RJ

    • Thegasman says:

      Ouch! Gutted that Covid stopped me taking advantage of the previous bargain basement prices.

      At least Virgin look like they will survive though & are improving hard product & availability so still not tempted to cash out to Hilton.

    • Rob says:

      Thanks

  • Terry1968 says:

    Maybe I will blow my Virgin points balance on a flight to Tokyo. I was looking at Manchester to Atlanta return with Virgin – 105k points plus an eye watering £954 in taxes (versus £2,377 cash fare) . I no longer see rewards flights with Virgin an attractive proposition due to the taxes.

  • RC says:

    I (somehow) managed to bag 2x Business Class seats in “The Room” departing LHR – HND and taxes were £732 using my Virgin points. This was on ONE WAY tickets, however.

    Praying that Japan is open to independent travellers by the end of Jan, which is when we fly. Also praying that 777 equipment is used that day!

  • BrotherLehman says:

    It’s a real shame Virgin removed their Whatsapp service – this was a much easier way to get this ANA redemption booked previously!

  • G says:

    BA are also unlikely to return first class to Tokyo for the foreseeable too.

  • Matt says:

    Got extremely lucky over COVID and got 2x F return, three times! Also previously managed redemptions in their old F in 2019.

    Sadly couldn’t enter Japan and had to cancel one set, but found connecting flights that worked with the other two including a ridiculous routing of LHR-HND-LAX all on new F that was actually very fun (though environmentally questionable).

    New F seat is orders of magnitude better than the old one, service is still impeccable.

  • meta says:

    Forget about booking this while Japan entry quotas are in place as ANA is not releasing any inventory from LHR/FRA. You might be able to score in the other direction, but chances are slim.

    You can also forget about seats in the first half of next year as they’ve been booked up. ANA rarely opens up inventory last-minute.

    • Harry T says:

      Agree, no one I know has been able to find any availability at all recently.

  • Sean C says:

    Genuine good luck to anyone looking to book these, I looked solidly in 2018 for flights in 2019 on my own and gave up hope of finding anything that worked. Eventually someone else wanted to come with me so ended up booking Virgin UC to HK, and intra Asia flights on Cathay and JAL using Avios. I know it’s possible… but you have to be very flexible.

    • lumma says:

      I found availability for early 2020 in mid 2019 easily from Frankfurt. From Heathrow it was impossible to find a return that worked for me but it saved £150ish on the taxes and charges

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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