People don’t like learning “new” airline programs, but ANA has one of some the most generous award chart prices, generous stopover rules, generous routing rules… and yet, it’s hardly talked about. The miles are also easy to collect. So may I suggest that it’s at least worth learning the basics?
Let me start by saying that you get 4 stopovers. Have I got your attention? Well, I’ve come to find out that they say “4 stopovers” and really mean 4 stops. It’s really 1 destination and 3 stopovers. Or they could say 4 destinations.
Semantics! Who cares?
The point is that you get 4 stops that can be as long as you want.
Next, I want to point out that ANA is a transfer of Amex Membership Rewards. Transfers at a 1:1 ratio. This is pretty prime if only for the reasoning that there aren’t a lot of good transfer options anyways. So one good Amex bonus should fund one of these dream trips we’re about to discuss.
Third, the award chart is awesome. Not awesome for all routes, heck, not even good for some long hauls. But for some routes, it’s incredible.
So let’s get to it.
I’ll go over more rules later, but here are some key ones:
- you do get open-jaws but you have to return to the same country
- roundtrips (no oneways)
- The price is based on butt-in-the-seat miles flown, not just to the destination and back
ANA tickets are expensive. Fees can add up quickly. Why?
1) Fuel surcharges.
Of course you can choose to fly a few routes that don’t have fuel surcharges. US Airways and Air New Zealand are examples of airlines that don’t have fuel surcharges. Also, the North American airlines in general don’t pass on fuel surcharges domestically or to latin america/the caribbean.
Further more, apparently Air Canada, as well as United to Europe doesn’t charge fuel surcharges. When you search on ANA the fees are just really low, despite ITA showing fuel surcharges. I won’t correct them though.
2) Airport taxes. This may seem like an obvious thing or something every ticket has to deal with. Well yes and no.
Let’s say you have to stopover in four European cities that each charge $100 in airport taxes. This will definitely add up to a higher than normal fee.
Airport taxes in the US are minimal, $2.50 – $5. However, if you are curious about other places you can search ITA, or even United.com award searches which break that down for you.
Case and point, I tested booking a ticket from Vienna to Cairo with stops on the way in Warsaw, Istanbul and Amman and the ticket came out 22,000 points and nearly $600. 22,000 points for that is incredible. I mean awesome. $600 is terrible. I could buy a revenue ticket for $800 as it turns out.
For this reason I’ll try to only use airlines mentioned above as being without fuel surcharges.
Routing and Finding
This may sound crazy to some but I hate ANA’s search engine. It’s the most anti-user-friendly site. Maybe the Japanese site is great, I wouldn’t know. But it makes Avianca’s site feel like Southwest. So I find I’m quicker using other sites when just getting my ideas out. Final stages, sure, or just call.
Anywho, there are three things you need.
2) The Greater Circle Mapper – since it’s a distance based pricing.
3) A site to check availability. ANA, Aeroplan, United, whatever… this is just brainstorming.
Where should we start from?
Little Rock… It’s in the middle. Little Rock to the Caribbean?
“Great. Is this going to be another Caribbean Hopper post?”
I mean… it’s a great use. But, we’ll do other examples.
Well the route map is telling me the first connection south is Houston. I could do that or route through Charlotte too.
Now I’m clicking Houston on the route map and looking at my options. And highlighted by the darker circles, you can see there are a lot of options.
One thing I’ll mention is that because we’re trying to see four places, I’m not going to choose a dead end location. Meaning, I want a destination, like Cancun, which can continue you on to Panama or whatever.
So I’m kind of interested in Puerto Vallarta because I have a mistake fare coming up. $18/night for a club room. (Hey anyone want to use my Oct 12-19th date? Reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook! Otherwise I’m canceling that date as I can’t make it.) However, when I search the route map from Puerto Vallarta, your going to see the only Star Alliance routes are back towards the US.
Whatever. Point is that you can piece together a trip just like I’m doing. First to Houston. Then to Cancun. Then to Bogota. Make sense?
But all the while you can plug the airport code (which the route map will give you on the side) into the circle mapper. And understand that you get four stops. I’m not going to stop in Houston, instead it’s just a layover. Under 24 hours is a layover, anything more, for as long as you want is a stopover.
While layovers don’t count towards your stops, they do count toward your mileage flown, which is in turn your price. So I’m trying to make things as direct and as simple as I can. Well, as short as I can.
So here’s what I came up with: Via Houston, Cancun, Bogota, to Punta Cana, via Charlotte home to Little Rock. When I plug that into GCMapper it looks like this – LIT-IAH-CUN-BOG-PUJ-CLT-LIT.
It’s 5649 miles. So let’s compare that to the award chart above. Anything between 4,001 and 7,000 would cost 38,000 ANA miles.
So here’s my opinion on that price, it’s great. After all this isn’t even possible on most airlines and it would likely be more expensive just to go to BOG and back.
But in my opinion the hot spot is 4,000 miles as it only costs 22,000 ANA miles. It’s a minor price bump from 2,000 to 4,000. Look you can double your distance for 2,000 more miles! It’s phenomenal. 4,000 is still enough to Caribbean hop, if you will.
However the jump from 7,000 to 9,000 isn’t much either. Consider this, for 5,000 miles flown you are paying 38,000 ANA miles. But if you fly 9,000 or just under, you are flying significantly more for 43,000 ANA miles.
Really the only way to get under the 4,000 mile bar is to start some where like Houston. Or do a domestic ticket.
Air New Zealand
Since Air New Zealand doesn’t have fuel surcharges, it seems like a great idea. You could start in Australia and go to Fiji, New Caledonia, etc… (You have to start in SYD as you can’t back track in originating country and leave again). However, those islands are further than you think.
Our Sydney to Cooke Islands flight was like 6 hours long. Grant it, it is further away than many islands. And Fiji is worth a trip for sure. But there might be better Star Alliance options. Who knows.
A trip to see three islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and New Zealand would be 55,000 miles, or 85,000 miles in Business Class. But seeing as a roundtrip with United would be 35,000 miles and could only include two locations… it’s a better deal, but not a great deal.
But technically you could do a trip from LA to Rarotonga, to Sydney, to New Zealand, to Fiji and back (via New Zealand) which would be 75,000 miles. Could maybe do something similar for 65,000 miles (or 105,000 miles in business class (and trust me, Air New Zealand is a nice business class)). Which is actually a great deal.
With United I could get a similar route for a similar price, minus two stops. So this is actually a great deal.
However, it’s quite difficult to find availability on Air New Zealand across the Pacific. In fact, across the Pacific is just a weak point in the Star Alliance period. So I won’t dwell on this route too long, but will say, if you put it together in advance… this could be better than a United route.
This may be the best redemption. I love international travel but there are some great places in the US and the fact is you can avoid fuel surcharges and see 4 places for 22,000 miles.
Let’s start in Cleveland… because, if you live there you’re probably wanting to be somewhere else.
From Cleveland to Toronto, to Calgary, to Denver, to Chicago, then back to Cleveland. (CLE-YYZ-YYC-DEN-ORD-CLE).
That’s 3,971 miles. That means it would cost you 22,000 ANA miles. That’s incredible. For most airlines you don’t even get 1 stopover on domestic flights and to see one place would cost 25,000 miles at best.
Of course, further routes would require the next tier, which is 38,000 miles.
Combining two tickets
But for 38,000 miles, geez, you could pay 6,000 more miles and do a whole new route. Right? Or for example, an 8,000 mile route would cost 43,000 ANA miles or 22,000 for two 4,000 mile trips.
This is all ideal, and a bit extreme but might as well give it a hypothetical go?
Let’s go one coast to another. Let’s even start in my little hometown of Charlottesville, Va.
You could do this:
Charlottesville to DC, to Miami, transit in Houston, to Austin, to Chicago, then via DC we return home. (CHO-IAD-MIA-IAH-AUS-ORD-IAD-CHO) Except, make the stopover in Austin really long to add another ticket in it.
Sounds absurd but you could add the following to the ticket: Austin to Denver, to Seattle, to Portland, to San Francisco, to Phoenix, to Austin. (AUS-DEN-SEA-PDX-SFO-AUS).
All that to say for 44,000 miles you can have a stopover in DC, Miami, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Grant it, a regular roundtrip on United or Air Canada is 25,000 miles, but for 76% more miles, you can see 8 places instead of 1. And for what? like $20-$40 in fees?
Even without all the unnecessary craziness, 4 stops is a lot and often cheaper than the other airlines. So my advice is simple:
- Before you transfer you Amex MR Points, run your route through the circle mapper and find the price on the ANA award chart above.
- Figure out where you want to stopover and try to route that in.
- If it’s cheaper/worth the extra miles – call and simply ask them to price it out. They can tell you what the fees, fuel surcharges and the mileage will be.
Understand they are unable to hold your ticket while you transfer points, thus you risk loosing your award seats. This is one reason it’s better to look online, just so you can see what the availability is like yourself.
But I have no doubt that ANA is a better transfer than a lot of the other Amex travel partners for a lot of people. Again, it just depends on the fees and thus depends on where you are traveling to.
ANA Stopover Rules
- Only roundtrip (no oneways)
- 4 stops
- “No stopovers or ground transportation within the country of origin are permitted on international routes.”
In other words, on routes with two or more countries you can not stopover in the home country. So you can’t stopover in Houston on your way to Bogota.
- Only 1 stopover in each city
- Open-jaws are allowed
- But (regarding open-jaws) you need to return to the same country
- Itinerary is valid for up to 12 sectors (which I assume means segments).
There are more, mostly common sense rules you can find here.
I will mention that you cannot route through your departure country on your way to another country. I imagine that if you have extra mileage left over, you can add a free trip on. Like go to Europe and back, then do Mexico and back. But you can combine the two if you don’t cross back into your own country.
Open-jaws could be really helpful. Think about it, let’s say your ideal trip is 4001 miles. Instead of returning home to Charlottesville, I could return to DC. Or better yet, I could open-jaw between Seattle and Portland, save the miles and use the stop elsewhere.
Also, let’s just say hypothetically you were doing the trip I mentioned being too expensive. Starting in Vienna and going to Istanbul and Amman and all that. Well, the thing is that you have to return back to Vienna. Or do you?
I should say you have to book a ticket back to Vienna. But just route a layover somewhere and get off the plane and leave the last leg dumped. Yes, you paid for it, but as long as you’re under the 4,000 mile bar (or whatever the bar is you’re going for) it doesn’t matter. And no, you cannot get it refunded (although you could probably get the tax refunded).
With Star Alliance partners, you can mix and match on one ticket. This is normal. However the following confuses me.
It says, “Partner Flight Awards are eligible for use on only 1 airline other than ANA for non Star Alliance Member Airlines.” No, google translate didn’t come up with this wording, it’s on their site.
I would assume it means that you can use multiple Star Alliance partners but only add one of those non-Star Alliance partners. However, then the visual shows only Virgin.
You may notice that there are some good partners here too, Etihad, Virgin Atlantic, Qatar. However, I can’t help but notice that you only accrue miles on Hawaii Airlines for inter island flights.
So if anyone has any experience on those two things, please comment and clarify.
American Express is hurting for good transfers, and this is greatly under rated, so it could be worth a try. I mean, for goodness sake, people transfer Amex points to Delta SkyPesos! I’d rather try Air New Zealand availability to Fiji and New Zealand than do that.
Also, it is a 1:1 transfer of SPG. So your options of earning are there.
Who’s with me! Who’s got some ideas for good routes for ANA. However… I’m pretty low on Amex points.