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Virgin Atlantic devalues ANA Business Class flight redemptions to Japan

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In March 2023, Virgin Atlantic devalued First Class reward flights on ANA with no notice.

Last week, Virgin Atlantic devalued Business Class reward flights on ANA with no notice.

You may see a pattern here …..

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

If you are considering travelling to Japan the obvious options – especially if you want to earn Avios and British Airways tier points, or spend Avios – 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 an option, albeit indirect. If you are travelling for cash, the plane change in Doha means that you earn two lots of BA tier points in each direction – so 560 tier points (almost Silver) for a Business Class return flight.

If you are travelling for Avios, Qatar Airways need far fewer Avios (160,000 Avios return in Business) than British Airways (200,000 – 220,000 Avios return in Business) for a London to Tokyo trip. Qatar Airways also offers Osaka.

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 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) – 120,000 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 Business Class meant to be 95,000 Virgin Points?

Yes, it was. Until last week.

With no notice, Virgin Atlantic has increased the cost of Business Class redemptions on ANA from 95,000 Virgin Points to 120,000 Virgin Points.

That’s a generous 26% increase.

This is isn’t as bad as the change to First Class last year – up from 120,000 to 170,000 points overnight, with no notice – but still not ideal.

What about taxes and surcharges?

Historically there were no carrier surcharges added to ANA redemptions using Virgin Points which kept taxes and charges from the UK at around £250.

During covid the airline decided that it had been missing out on a good revenue stream and started imposing random surcharges.

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.

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 European routes are (only Frankfurt and Heathrow have flights each day):

  • Frankfurt – Boeing 787-9
  • London Heathrow – Boeing 777-300ER
  • Munich – Boeing 787-9
  • Paris CDG – Boeing 787-9
  • Brussels – 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 Business Class redemptions on ANA by 26% – with no notice – is clearly not great. It doesn’t exactly do much for trust in Virgin Points and Virgin Flying Club either.

Of course, you should have known better after the 42% increase in First Class redemption pricing in March 2023.

That said:

  • Economy Class redemptions are still unchanged from pre-pandemic
  • 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
  • 120,000 Virgin Points is still very acceptable value for Business Class on such a long route, especially when compared to the Avios required to redeem on British Airways

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.

Comments (52)

  • Ed says:

    Why would anyone waste their time with Virgin Atlantic ?! 🙄

    • Richie says:

      Direct non-stop flights from Edinburgh and Manchester perhaps.

    • Throwawayname says:

      Skyteam short haul redemptions can be good value.

    • Russell G says:

      Because I HATE BA because a fly landed in my soup on a flight and they wouldn’t give me a full refund so to teach them a lesson I now will only ever fly with Virgin!!! ;-D

  • Chris says:

    Am I right in thinking that if you booked a Qatar flight via BA holidays and a 5 day stay you’d earn 1120 tier points?

  • Little Littlewood says:

    How many seats are released on ANA flights in Business please?

    • BagkokJoe says:

      Typically 1

    • Jonathan says:

      You’d probably need to have an ANA own-account with status to be able too see how good availability can be.
      Unfortunately non-SkyTeam VS partners usually isn’t great, notably finding SQ seats with VS points…

      • meta says:

        Typically more than 1 and they are not released all at once. Virgin has access only from 330 days in advance, so you have to have access to Star Alliance member airlines or ANA miles if you want to book more than 1 as soon as they are released.

  • Cathy says:

    Tried to use Virgin miles on Partner airlines a few times now – absolutely impossible if wanting to fly business/first – economy much more availability. So why advertise when the seats are never there!

    • BBbetter says:

      Its reciprocal. For example VS blocks J seats for Krisflyer members who block all their premium cabins in return.

  • TJ says:

    The lack of availability out of London, especially for more than 1 seat, has made this a very niche redemption opportunity. Any reward seats that are made available are quickly snapped up by Star Alliance members…this apparently is a tactic that some folks use, i.e. secure seats as an SA member and then cancel/rebook with Virgin <331 days out.

    The key takeaway from this article is that VA appears to be getting comfortable with no notice devaluations. Where will they target next?

    • meta says:

      Yes, that’s the tactic. If you are in this game then it’s all about the tactic, otherwise what’s the point of complaining?

  • barry cutters says:

    For me Virgin points are essentially pointless.

    I sat on almost half a mill for so long – always dreaming of a japan redemtion but never in years of looking managed to get 2 seats . -Wasn’t willing to fly to Europe as for me I don’t like the idea of adding an unconnected flight to frankfurt with a 4h wait etc etc. Id rathe just book a cash ticket from UK or use a 241 and fly Ba .

    In the end i did 2 cruises last year on virgin voyages , and used the last points i had to book another 2 this year – one for us and one for a friend as a gift. I’m down to less than 10k virgin points now and wont bother earning more.

    The cruises were a good redemption but the increase to more realistic points levels now means a good cash fare offer is pretty close in terms of value and not worth collecting virgin.

    This increase here wouldnt bother me as 120/170k is good value still in my eyes. But its all pointless if you cant actually get a pair of seats.

    Ill stick to Avios from now on.

    • Rob says:

      I’m sure Air France and KLM would have had availability. Virgin to China and then paying for a connection (or using Avios on JAL) would presumably have worked too. From next year there will be Virgin to Seoul too.

      • Dominic says:

        Yup. Totally agree. We’ve decided to go to Japan fairly last minute (in two weeks) and Air France had availability on several dates. 80k VS points one way in their new business class seats with only £30 of taxes. Can’t complain!

        • Danny says:

          80k one way from CDG to HND in business with Virgin points? Are you sure

          • Danny says:

            I think Dominic you may have used Delta points for the 80k rate and the £30 ish in charges was for Tokyo to CDG?

      • Jonathan says:

        Is that a confirmed new route they’re just yet to confirm officially to ICN ?
        There’s been talk for about a year or two now on this rumour

        • Rhys says:

          It’s not a rumour – it’s a legal requirement to satisfy the competition authorities. It is dependent on whether the Asiana/Korean Air merger gets the final go-ahead.

    • Matt says:

      We did IAD-TYO-NYC with 2 redemptions in First via Virgin. We just enjoy a few days in the USA before and start.

    • Throwawayname says:

      AFKL fly to literally everywhere and are arguably more convenient than flying direct from LHR as long as you aren’t based in Hounslow- whether you are going from a regional airport or LCY, the experience’s got to be better than having to arrive hours early, waiting 20 minutes in the T5 business class check-in queue etc.

      • Stuart says:

        Finally! Someone here that speaks sense and does not have the BA tunnel vision.

  • cin4 says:

    This is annoying but not nearly as annoying as the recent increase in extra charges.

  • sturgeon says:

    AF and KLM are just horrible to search for on Virgins site though. You get an error message with most searches. It’s just a lucky dip, choose dates and hope for the best. Is there an easier way of doing this by using another partners site with better functionality to find available reward flights and then try the same dates at Virgin assuming they’ll have them too? I have looked previously and never found any sweet spots, KLM to Asia had steep points and £ requirements from what I saw, for example.

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