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Booking an ANA award trip to Japan is the holy grail of points redemptions. ANA not only has one of the best business / first classes in the world but it is notoriously difficult to secure, especially given the bargain points they charge for the route.
First, you need to know that there are multiple ways to book ANA flights to Japan. ANA is a Star Alliance Partner meaning you can book directly via ANA or through partner airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada Aeroplan, and United MileagePlus.
We will break down the process booking with each to help you determine how to maximize your points and secure a booking.
ANA Booking Partners
As mentioned, ANA has multiple booking partners and there are pros and cons to each of the programs. While ANA program directly will offer the most value, it is also the most difficult to secure.
When looking at the various programs, you will need to determine if you want to pay more points or cash, as well as if you have the time to navigate the ANA booking system.
If you want to book a flight on ANA, here are the following program options.
ANA is known for having extremely limited premium-cabin award space and only offers round trip tickets. This means you will need to secure your departure and return at the same time.
If you are able to find award space, you can book a round-trip flight between the U.S. and Japan for 75,000-90,000 miles in business class or 150,000-165,000 miles in first class, depending on seasonality. Economy-class rates are between 40,000 and 55,000 miles.
ANA calendar opens 355 days in advance and the seat release are consistent and predictable. Although the calendar is a little tricky to operate, they allow free and unlimited changes but can be a bit tricky to navigate.
The redemption rate via ANA are some of the lowest but note the cash surcharges on award tickets are high.
Virgin Atlantic is a great program for booking ANA although it is a little trick to execute. The search and booking process is roundabout and tedious, since you cannot search the VS calendar online. In order to find availability you will need to go through a partner like United or Aeroplan and then call Virgin Atlantic to book.
The rates on Virgin Atlantic are not as good as ANA but are competitive compared to many other programs.
Hawaii, India and Indonesia
Australia, Canada and Western U.S.
Europe, Mexico and Central and Eastern U.S.
You can expect to pay between 90,000 – 95,000 for a one way business class ticket to or from the U.S.
Some advantages to Virgin Atlantic is they do have more credit card transfer partners, with the ability to transfer Chase and American Express 1:1. Virgin Atlantic also allows one way bookings but the surcharges are similarly high to ANA directly.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada Aeroplan is one of the best points programs with some of the greatest number of airline participating. The program also has an easy to use search and booking tool, making it a seamless process to secure an award ticket.
The amount of miles you can expect to pay are certainly higher than ANA directly but the big advantage is the lower surcharges you can expect to pay.
Distance (Round trip)
0 to 5,000 miles
5,001 to 7,500 miles
Additional advantages to Aeroplan include the variety of transfer partners, including Chase and American Express, as well as the ability to book one ways.
The award chart for ANA flights opens 355 days in advance and the ability to book online is very straight forward.
While the points charge for Aeroplan is about double that of ANA – the seamless booking process and low surcharge make it a good option if you want to use more points but pay less cash.
United Airlines MileagePlus
United MileagePlus boasts a great online search engine and allows availability with ANA about 330 days in advance. The downside is given the late opening of ANA flights most are booked via other methods before they get opened on United.
United Airlines typically charges more points than most programs for a flight however they charge extremely low fees. For a one way ticket in business class you can expect to pay 110,000 points and $5.60 in fees from New york.
Route (Round trip)
U.S. and Japan
A great part of booking ANA via United is the last minute availability they offer. I’ve seen plenty of business class flights about 2 weeks from departure for anyone that wants to book their trip last minute.
In the screenshot above I was able to find several options for flights that depart in the next few days.
United Points can be transfered from Chase, often instantly but can take up to a day.
Securing your booking with ANA
While there are many options to booking flights on ANA, we will focus on how to secure your booking with ANA directly as its the most complex program but offers some of the best value.
Here is everything you need to know about securing your booking via ANA.
Navigating the calendar
ANA website is a bit dated and there are some tricks to the trade to navigate it the best.
The first thing you will want to do is to set your account location to Japan and language to English. This is so you will be able to see one day further on the calendar given the time difference.
You can find the calendar under Reservations > Flight Awards.
Here you will see the option for Award Calendar and it will provide you a view of every destination and if there is availability.
When searching in their calendar its best to go towards the last week since that is where you will have the highest chance of securing a booking. Every new calendar date is bookable by 9:00 AM Japan time, which will be 7:00 PM EST.
ANA business class seats are usually booked within hours to days of release so it’s rarely if ever useful to look for anything prior to that timeline; any earlier flights will most likely be waitlisted.
While we haven’t had the best luck with the calendar, its a good way to view multiple dates and routes at once.
After you browse through the calendar you can approach the ANA search that is found on the same screen under Reservations > Award Reservation.
A good thing to select is the “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days” so it can expand your search.
If there is availability you will be presented with both the depart and return options on the same screen.
While on this search we were able to find business class availability from New York to Tokyo, the return flight was considered “Waitlisted”.
It’s not recommended to book waitlisted flights since the chance of clearing the waitlist is low. However you can do it temporarily if you are at the end of the award calendar so you can switch to your actual return flight when it opens.
American Express is the only major credit card transfer partner. While points transfer on a 1:1 basis they do take 3 – 4 days to process, which can feel like a lifetime when needing to book an award ticket.
It is not recommended to wait until you find availability before transferring since by the time it goes through you will most likely lose that award space.
It’s best to monitor the ANA calendar a few weeks to a month prior to your desired dates to get a sense of the available space and how often its bookable. Once you get a hang of the timing on seeing award space available then its safe to transfer the points.
Note, with all award tickets, you may need to be flexible by a day or two if you miss your open availability. If you need to be in Japan on a certain date it’s not guaranteed you will secure an award ticket.
Booking a dummy return
One of the most important parts of securing your ticket to Japan is what is known as the “dummy return”. Since ANA only allows roundtrip bookings, this is a return flight you book only because it is available and you will then switch to your proper return ticket when it opens.
What you’ll need to do is to find your departing flight open and book the next available return flight. If you are planning to fly to Japan on 2/1/2025 then you can book a return on 2/2/2025.
Let’s say you actually want to return on 2/10/2025 then you will need to keep tracking the calendar until your desired return date is available. Once it becomes available then you can simply go into ANA website and make the change for free.
As of now, you are allowed free unlimited date and time changes as long as the route remains the same. These flights can either be waitlisted flights or bookable flights with the only difference being points and fees are taken out on confirmed flights.
Note, you can make unlimited changes departing either NRT and HND, as they are considered the interchangeable in ANAs eyes.
Adding a stopover
This step is optional but on international flight departing outside of Japan, ANA allows one stopover exceeding 24 hours at no extra cost.
For example if you are flying New York to Osaka, you can add a 2-day stopover in Tokyo at no extra cost. Just use the multi-city search function to find availability from JFK-TYO, TYO-ITM, and ITM-JFK. The final cost will be the same as JFK-ITM roundtrip. This rule also applies to partner awards as well.
Booking a Star Alliance partner flight
ANA also allows you to mix and match flights on partners as well. However, the rate for partners can vary and are usually a bit higher than when flying on an ANA Plane.
You’ll notice in this route from New York to Tokyo the round trip price is 75,000 on ANA but with a return flight on a partner it will be 90,000. This is still a great deal and opens up a lot more flexibility given ANAs limited award space.
Note that waitlists are note allowed on partner awards but typically availability is easier to come by than on ANA directly.
Summary & Takeaways
ANA to Japan is not a beginner booking but for the value for points is arguably the best redemption you can get. Traveling to Japan is on many peoples bucket list and you will need to consider the time of year to determine how easy it will be to get tickets.
If you are able to navigate the ANA award booking process, and have a little luck, it will surely be worth the trouble.
Many travelers try not to bother with such a complicated booking process but if it was simple then everyone would be doing it (I guess even more so than they are now).
If you were successful in booking an award on ANA then let us know! We’re always looking for additional tips and tricks to help others navigate this process.
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