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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 (December 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 & four 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.

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel 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 £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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.

  • Waribai says:

    My advice at the moment is don’t!

    Currently, there are so many equipment changes or flight number changes where they reduce the number of F seats or there is no longer any F on the new plane.We were a victim of this in April. We didn’t even get a cancellation email. It was just luck I saw that the booking looked amiss!

    We were booked F with ANA via VS, for a flight from Haneda to Heathrow in late April having flown out with JAL. There was an equipment change (the flight still existed, but no F). We called ANA and asked if they could downgrade us to business class. They said since the booking was through Virgin, I’d need to contact them and there was nothing they could do. I called Virgin and there was no business class availability for their stock. Luckily, Thai were running a decent campaign for cash. So we came home with them. As you can imagine it messed up the holiday for a couple of days though.

    This is happening very frequently currently. seen that’s the most common experience. There are two threads running on FT about this: ANA (NH) Redemptions using VS Flying Club points and for more examples here: ANA Flight Cancellations – Frustrating

    All seem to involve the use of Virgin miles rather than ANA miles. Post-covid they don’t seem to have any qualms about cancelling tickets booked on Virgin miles.

    This has been exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine as routes also changed. We had a similar situation with JAL where the flight number changed as they were flying over Alaska. The flights were in F and booked using Avios. However, they were very helpful and just rebooked us on the new flight.

    • BJ says:

      Tried to get ANA from KIX to BKK but they’re code sharing on Thai so cannot use miles. The schedules, equipment changes, cancellations etc ars all a mess into the medium term.

  • BJ says:

    Sadly, the only realistic way for most of us to get to Japan these days is in our dreams. I took a chance and booked INV-HND and HKG-EDI next June and July but rate our chances 50/50 at best. 150k avios and just under £650 for two using amex voucher. Followng an LHR-HND schedule change they switched us from BA to JAL which was a nice result if the trip happens.

  • Ian says:

    Is it possible to tack on Tokyo to Australia flights? Preferably also with Virgin points but cash if not.

    • Rob says:

      If New Zealand is also an option, I would guess ANZ flies to Tokyo too and they are also a Virgin partner.

      Not sure if Virgin Australia has restarted long haul routes yet.

  • Jonathan says:

    For those of you thinking about signing up to ANA Mileage Club, be aware that you there’s limited options with earning avenues for UK based residents at least, with Amex Marriott Bonvoy being the best option

    ANA also has a hard point expiry policy that closely resembles Lufthansa Miles & More, Emirates Skywards and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

    So although it can be tricky, unless you travel to Japan a lot, the Virgin Atlantic redemption is usually the best bet

  • George K says:

    Saw ANA’s R2D2 787-9 at LHR the other day. Not sure when they’re going to lose their special liveries (one of three is out, I think)…

  • Nathan says:

    I would love to fly ANA first to Tokyo but I would fly in the hold if they would just open up the country.What the hell are they thinking still being closed.

    • Jonathan says:

      Japan has a strong self reliant economy, they don’t need to rely on tourism. China is in a very similar position.

      Countries that rely on tourist traffic were always one the first ones to open their borders, those that don’t need them take their time to reopen

      • yorkieflyer says:

        And if I put it politely, an ambivalent attitude to foreigners. We’ll be using our October JAL Lloyds voucher flights to fly onward and will likely book fresh flights for Oct 23 but more in hope than expectation

      • meta says:

        Japan as a whole yes, but some cities in Japan are hugely reliant on tourism. Kyoto for example was relying on future predicted tourist money to finance the subway line and now they are nearly bankrupt. 5000 tourist-related businesses (almost 1 in 10) have gone bust as well since the border closures.

        And all this is in a country with 2-3 decades of chronic staff shortages. They don’t have enough workers and workers don’t want to come if they can’t go in and out freely, have family and friends visit them whenever they want without the labourious visa processes. Tourism is just one thing that suffers from this “never-ending considering” approach.

      • Gavin454 says:

        Business is also affected by the suspension of visa waivers – before the pandemic, most business travellers entered freely on a visa waiver. Now it requires a lot more thought, planning and expense. Outward-facing businesses may prefer to operate from somewhere else that is more accessible, especially if this situation continues into the medium-long term.

      • Alex Sm says:

        Where does UK sit on that scale then?

        And US seemed to be in this group too but they did reopen quite quickly….

  • MilesOnPoint says:

    Would love to do this redemption but the availability is like hen’s teeth on LHR-HND. You’d be lucky to get 1 J seat, let along 2 (I’ve used United.com to check exhaustively).
    I’m also mindful of the agro that occurs if/when ANA cancel/change flights and the struggles to reticket on VS stock.

    It’s a real shame as clearly it’s such a fantastic onboard product.

  • BuildBackBetter says:

    Does ANA do any cash sales offers like Lufthansa / Swiss?

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