Fly to Asia in biz for only 95,000 award miles roundtrip with free stopover

One of the questions I often get is what's the least amount of award miles I need to book a biz class flight to Asia or Europe.  No surprise that I'm rarely asked about economy class, but this makes sense because redeeming your points for saver biz award flights is one of best (if not, the best) value for your points.  Look at it from this perspective: if you hold the Chase Reserve, you can redeem your points for travel at a value of 1.5 cents per point via the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, which is powered by Expedia.  But if you found ANA first class award availability, you could transfer 110k miles to Virgin Atlantic and book a roundtrip SFO-NRT flight on ANA First, which would price out at well over $22,000.  So now, you're looking at a valuation of >20 cents per mile, though not that you would ever pay the price of a Toyota Corolla just to fly in First for 20 hours.  And with Amex's recent 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic, I recently booked a roundtrip SFO-NRT first class flight with ANA for just 85k, which is pretty much the best value you'll ever get for a $22,000+ flight.

Virgin Atlantic's award chart for nonstop travel on ANA provides some amazing value

To be realistic though, ANA is extremely stingy in releasing their first class and even their business class saver award flights.  Where ANA isn't that stingy though is their partner award chart, which includes all flights operated by the Star Alliance and their other partner carriers.

ANA's partner award chart for roundtrip flights originating from North America

As you can see, there's some great value here with roundtrip flights between North America and Asia Zone 3, which includes Japan, China, Taiwan, and the Philippines, for just 95k miles in biz.  Flights to Europe price out to just 88k miles too.  The same award flight bookings with United would set you back 160k miles.  Do bear in mind though that ANA imposes fuel surcharges on their award flights, which is something United stands nearly alone on never imposing for their award bookings.

Award availability

This is the part that frequent flyers might struggle with, especially if they're looking to fly a family of 4 in business class to China.  In my experience, ANA's Asia-based Star Alliance partners, particularly Air China, Asiana, and Eva, tend to be generous in the premium cabin award space.  Out of SFO, Eva operates 3 daily flights to Taipei on B777, which amounts to a total of 114 biz class seats daily.  Of course, Eva won't be releasing all or even 10% of them, but you can see why they would be more lenient on award availability.  ANA has a robust award search engine that displays all their partner awards, but I would recommend using United's award search engine, which will display a whole month's full of availability.

United's calendar award search for SFO-TPE nonstop.  80k green figures are the dates where nonstop in biz is available with Eva.

As you can see, Eva has nonstop SFO-TPE biz awards through most of February and March 2020.  Many of the dates even have 2+ seats available.  Once you find the flights you want on United's website, then you can head over to ANA's website to book the same flights for 95k miles instead of 160k miles.  You will need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account to use their award search engine.  Now, let's take a look at Air China's SFO-PEK, which operates just once daily on a B747:
United's calendar award search for SFO-PEK nonstop.  80k green figures are the dates where nonstop in biz is available with Air China.

Wow, just wow.  So you're looking at 2 seats available in biz everyday throughout February and March 2020.  And once again, these are bookable at 95k ANA miles instead of 160k with United.

Fuel surcharges

Like most non-U.S. carriers, ANA imposes fuel surcharges on most of their award bookings.  However, there are exceptions and ANA does not impose fuel surcharges period for travel on Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and United Airlines (except United travel to Asia).  ANA will display the fuel surcharge, taxes, and fees before you book, but it you want to estimate how much you're looking at, you can use Matrix ITA.

Matrix ITA displays fuel surcharge fees as carrier-imposed surcharge (YQ)

So for a roundtrip flight in Eva biz, you're looking at $86 in fuel surcharges, which is quite modest for a flight valued at over $5,000.

Total award flight cost as displayed on ANA's award booking page

Routing and changes

ANA does not allow for one-way award bookings.  Roundtrip award bookings are allowed one free stopover and one free open jaw.  ANA defines a stopover as a layover of over 24 hours.  These are definitely useful in Asia as you could visit two cities on one itinerary.  ANA does not charge date change fees as long as the routing and carrier are the same.  Any other change, including cancellation and redeposit of miles, is charged at just 3,000 ANA award miles, which is very modest.  Note that changes to award flights need to be done at least 96 hours before scheduled departure.

Obtaining ANA miles

Aside from flying on ANA and their partners, ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards and a 2.4:1 transfer partner with Marriott Bonvoy.  Transfers typically take 2-3 days, and ANA allows only one transfer request per 24 hour period.  You can't hold ANA awards online, but there have been reports of their call center agents holding award flights for people looking to transfer their miles over.

Bottom line

ANA partner award flights is a great way to fly in business class to Asia for very low mileage redemption rates.  ANA's routing allowances and low change fees also allow for a great deal in flexibility for your bookings.  If you've been planning on going to Asia and have been sitting on your Amex or Marriott points, this is a great opportunity for you to fly in biz for these long-haul flights.


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