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Virgin Atlantic devalues ANA First Class flight redemptions to Japan

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If you are considering travelling to Japan now that the country is reopening, 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.)

Qatar Airways is also worth a look, of course, with the resumption of flights to Tokyo Haneda and Osaka announced yesterday – see our other article today.

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 has historically been 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 you 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) – 170,000 Virgin Points

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

Hang on …. isn’t First Class meant to be 120,000 Virgin Points?

Yes, it was. Until yesterday.

With no notice, Virgin Atlantic has increased the cost of First Class redemptions on ANA from 120,000 Virgin Points to 170,000 Virgin Points.

That’s not great, however you look at it. A 42% increase in the points cost of an award with no notice can’t be justified.

That said, of course, availability has always seemed 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 was never a great option for a couple unless you book one seat and wait to see if another is released later.

What about taxes and surcharges?

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 was £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.

Use Virgin Points on ANA

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.

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

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.  Dusseldorf and Vienna have yet to return.

The current schedule for Summer 2023, which starts on 26th March, is:

  • Frankfurt – 14x weekly on a Boeing 787-9
  • London Heathrow – 7x weekly on a Boeing 777-300ER
  • Munich – 3x weekly on a Boeing 787-9
  • Paris CDG – 3x weekly on a Boeing 787-9
  • 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.

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

Putting up the cost of First Class redemptions on ANA by 42% – with no notice – is clearly not great. It doesn’t exactly do much for trust in Virgin Points and Virgin Flying Club either.

That said …. and I know it’s difficult to look positively on a 42% increase in points price:

  • Business Class, and indeed Economy Class, redemptions are unchanged
  • it was always likely that Virgin Atlantic would drop ANA redemptions entirely once they joined SkyTeam, so if this is what it takes to keep them then it’s a good trade off
  • 170,000 Virgin Points is still – given the quality of THE Suite – very acceptable value for a ‘once in a lifetime’ flying experience, especially on such a long route
  • because it was exceptionally tough to get more than one First Class redemption seat per flight, this wasn’t an option for many readers anyway

Remember that flying out of Frankfurt, Munich, Paris or Brussels 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 (May 2024)

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 18,000 Virgin Points and the free card has a bonus of 3,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

3,000 bonus points, no fee and 1 point for every £1 you spend 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 40,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 40,000 Virgin Points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (38)

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

  • Alan says:

    I flew THE Suite in Nov 2019 on a return flight – absolutely brilliant product and definitely still worth it at this level compared to what other airlines would charge for an inferior product. I’m actually impressed they retained it as an option at all and to not change business makes it decent value for an excellent product too.

  • VALittleRed says:

    I really wanted to do this redemption, but for the life of me cannot find one business class seat on the LHR-HND route whatever day I look. Can see availability in economy but that’s it, not ideal. Is using United the best way of finding availability as the site seems slow and can only do a day by day basis? Is there any seatspy equivalent for ANA?

  • RJ says:

    Everyone saying ‘it’s not really a problem, they were never available’ – doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    You folks aren’t willing to put the legwork in to look for availability – or find the right way to search for them (not just United) – and that’s YOUR problem.

    And you can’t be flexible in your departure/arrival dates at all? Again YOUR problem.

    These tickets have been great.

    The surcharges the last 24 months have been rough. For sure.

    But to say it doesn’t really affect anyone, get a grip, quite frankly. You are the laziest people, who want everything handed to you on a plate.

    • Richie says:

      Motivated and agile people always win in this points game.

      • Mikeact says:

        Agreed…Premium seats on all airlines can be problematic, but…patience…patience…flexibility. If not prepare to turn right.

    • JDB says:

      It’s just the same with people complaining about BA availability, even for ‘hot’ destinations we have never, for 2-4 long haul trips, p.a. made the midnight call or had adjust by more than a day or two and certainly never compromised on destination in 37 years of playing the points game.

    • camille55 says:

      Agreed. My experience is be flexible with dates and, unless you are travelling for a particular event or to meet family (in which case be prepared to pay £), prepared to be flexible with the destination as well. If you want a long weekend in NYC and there’s no availability (which there nearly always is!) does it really make a difference if you got to BOS or DC instead? If Nice isn’t available, Barcelona nearly always is (due to flight frequency), etc,. For Japan, try embarking ex-EU. Flexibility is key.

      • Rob says:

        Our Japan trip 5 years ago ended up as HKG 3 days Japan 7 days Beijing 2 days due to BA availability – which worked really well. Redeemed in Cathay and JAL for connections.

  • Fraser says:

    A shame about the price hike and of course extremely difficult to find two (and finding another 100k miles isn’t easy either), but for myself I might still do it and find the price reasonable. It’s not quite the 65k miles in Air China first I did previously which was the absolute bargain, but looks a much better product.

  • Mzungu says:

    *Pedant alert*
    “…only a thin slither along the side…” does that mean that you slip into the seat on this?
    Or perhaps it’s a sliver…

  • Mos says:

    Rob, do Amex MR points convert to ANA? If so, do you know whether it’s better to try and book the 1st class or even bizz through that option rather than through Virgin points?

  • Royback says:

    Can you use a virgin voucher on ANA

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

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