ANA award availability or lack thereof is not something that we can take lightly. In the end, it doesn’t matter how good your chart is or how easy it is to obtain your miles if you can’t actually use them.
So let’s see.
Which is the Best Frequent Flyer Program for U.S. Travelers
This series is my attempt to answer one simple question. Is ANA Mileage Club really that good? We know it is good, but in light of the recent events, I’m considering the upgrade to AWESOME.
Imagine that you own a few properties in an area prone to earthquakes. One morning after a strong one, you’re cruising around to assess the damage and see that one house has withstood the shaking with no damage at all, while the others show a lot of cracks from this quake and the previous ones.
So yesterday we spoke about the two most important components of the ANA Frequent Flyer program: Miles GetAbility and the award chart. We’ve found that with two U.S.-based credit card programs (SPG and AMEX MR) and its own U.S. credit card, ANA miles can be obtained easily. As to the award chart, we have proved that it beats all three U.S. legacy programs by a mile in most categories.
By the way, that cool word getAbility I thought I invented? Nope. Some smart asses had already invented it before me. Damn you, Colbert wannabes!
Also, let me reiterate once again — my only concern in earning miles is getting them the non-BIS way. And my only concern in spending miles is an award flight, not an upgrade. I am not a business traveler, so YMMV.
ANA vs. the U.S. Legacy Programs
- ANA wins for travel to Japan and Korea — in all classes.
- ANA wins for travel to Asia 1: China, Guam, Hong Kong, Macau, the Philippines, Taiwan — in all classes.
- ANA wins for travel to Asia 2 (including the AAdvantage Indian subcontinent): Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, among others — in business, and in some cases in first (AA wins in economy).
- ANA wins for travel to South Pacific and Oceania in business, and in some cases in economy and first.
- ANA wins for travel to Europe and “Deep” South America in economy and business (United takes first).
- ANA wins for travel to Africa and the Middle East in economy and business, and in some cases in first.
- ANA wins for travel to Hawaii in business.
The only regions where the ANA Mileage Club levels don’t win for travel from/to the U.S. in most classes are North and Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America. That’s it! And it’s clearly the airline you want to fly in business class, especially on its own metal.
- 75,000 for a ROUND-TRIP flight in business to Japan?
- 80,000 to Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, or Manila?
- 88,000 to Europe, Rio, Santiago, or Buenos Aires?
- 100,000 to Bangkok, Delhi, or Singapore?
Somebody, pinch me!
I’ve found availability displayed on United.com to be quite accurate. So far, every single ANA flight I’ve found on United, could be dummy-booked on ANA. Why use the United or, to a lesser degree, Air Canada websites to do your research there rather than ANA? No reason, if you enjoy getting your teeth pulled. 🙂 (Later about that).
ANA Award Availability: ASIA
ANA flies between Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) and: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and Washington (Dulles). It also flies between Haneda Airport (HND) and Los Angeles and Vancouver. Now, I won’t lie and tell you that I checked availability between all these cities, but with these many international gateways, I don’t have to. The JFK-NRT availability seems to be very decent in all classes of service, both ways.
It gets slightly worse in the summer…
… but then picks up in the winter.
Normally, you must be careful when you see a beautiful picture like this, as the United award search engine is famous for its phantom availability. However, I did verify a few dates and they’ve checked out for me.
(I will talk in more details about this wonderful award search tool above, just not today).
So, 75,000 for a ONE-WAY with United miles or 75,000-90,000 for a ROUND TRIP with ANA’s? Decisions, decisions. 🙂
This is availability from LAX to Haneda, which is closer to Tokyo than NRT. Availability looks pretty good, too. And if you’ve always wanted to, you can try the awesome (from what I hear) ANA first class seat and service for a quite reasonable 150,000-165,000 miles per round trip. I wouldn’t, though, since ANA miles are way too valuable to me.
I’ve also found all-classes availability between Tokyo and most other major Asian cities to be excellent in multiple searches, either on ANA metal or partners. So connecting to other parts of Asia shouldn’t be an issue.
ANA Award Availability: ASIA ON PARTNERS
Arguably, the best way to fly between the Continental U.S. and other parts of Asia is on an ANA partner, Asiana. Of course, there are other Star Alliance partners, like Eva or Air China, but I believe Asiana has the best availability coupled with the lowest fuel surcharges (Air China doesn’t add fuel surcharges, but finding a CA business class seat is an adventure).
Asiana flies between Seoul (ICN) and: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco, and Seattle. Availability seems to be usually wide open in all classes at least between some city pairs, so if you want to try its first class suite on a 777 or 380, you can, and for a “semi” reasonable price of 185,000 miles per round trip. Might be worth it, too, as it is the most comfortable suite I’ve flown in (sorry Cathay Pacific and Emirates). Although I haven’t tried Etihad and Singapore yet, those are coming.
ANA Award Availability: EUROPE
Not surprisingly, you can’t fly between North America and Europe or South America on ANA, so you have to use the partners. And Europe is tricky. Not because there is no availability, but because everyone and their mother adds draconian fuel surcharges. There are a few exceptions, though.
- No YQ for United and Air Canada, but poor business class availability.
- Low YQ on LOT, but… ditto.
- Higher, but not terrible YQ on Turkish, but fantastic availability in J.
I would not bother with the rest of the pack, like LX, LH, and such, not only because I’m cheap, but also because I don’t want to support bad business practices. Although, mostly because I’m cheap. :). For flying in Economy, United or AC are fine.
But for flying in business with reasonable YAs, Turkish is the thing. The Turkish business class on-board service and lounge at IST are awesome, and I look forward to this experience during my upcoming trip in the summer. And availability is unreal, too (or maybe it’s too real, with all the terrorist attacks and turmoil in that part of the world).
Anyway, from Istanbul you can use Turkish or any other Star Alliance airline to fly anywhere in Europe with low YQs. In Europe it doesn’t make any difference.
Turkish flies between Istanbul and: Atlanta (from 5.16.16), Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York (JFK), San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington (Dulles).
ANA Award Availability: SOUTH AMERICA
UPDATE: TAM IS NO LONGER A PARTNER
Several ANA partners will take you to South America — namely, United, Air Canada, Copa, and Avianca/Taca. As we’ve mentioned before, however, you don’t want to use ANA miles for flights other than to southern South America — Brazil, Argentina, or Chile.
Avianca or Copa can take you there too, and Avianca flies a Dreamliner with a great business class cabin between New York and Bogota and on to other South American destinations, but the flights are short, less than 6 hours. If you want to have a good night’s sleep in a real international first or business class seat, you want Air Canada
, TAM, or United.
Air Canada flies between Toronto and: Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile, São Paulo.
United flies the following routes:
- Buenos Aires–Houston
- Santiago de Chile–Houston
- Rio de Janeiro–Houston
- São Paulo–Chicago, Houston, New York (Newark), Washington (Dulles)
TAM flies between São Paulo and: Miami, New York (JFK), Orlando, and Toronto, and from Rio to Miami and New York (JFK).
Out of curiosity I checked United non-stop flights in all classes from Houston, and found that the best availability can be found to Santiago, followed by Buenos Aires, followed by Rio, followed by São Paulo. Air Canada availability from Toronto was decent to São Paulo and Buenos Aires (via São Paulo), but hit or miss to other destinations .
Do your searches for Air Canada and United on United.com.
TAM is a oneworld airline and can’t be searched on the United website. Search TAM availability on the British or Qantas website. I prefer British despite the fact that you can only search one day at a time, as I believe it might be more accurate. Besides, Qantas tends to kick you out after a few searches. They are finicky like that. TAM business class availability is really a hit and miss right now. It was much better just a few months ago.
Business class flights to Europe and South America cost 88,000 ANA miles — slightly more expensive after the recent devaluation, but still a bargain, compared to everyone else.
ANA Award Availability: OCEANIA
I left the best for last. Tell me — what do you know about Air New Zealand? Do you know them as a generous airline?
Air New Zealand flies to Auckland from LA, Houston, and San Francisco. Availability from Houston in business is nothing to write home about, so I won’t, but…
This is LA.
And this is San Francisco. Note the 2-seats availability.
Those of you who don’t know why the excitement — there hasn’t been a Star Alliance Air New Zealand business class award availability in years. Don’t worry, though, as we’re closing in on the fall and winter, the white and yellow spaces take over again, so — no, it’s not like Air New Zealand has seen the light or something.
However, this is a fascinating anomaly, and if you’ve always wanted to sample the product (and, hopefully, the destination too), grab it while you can. It’s yours for 120,000 ANA miles per ROUND TRIP and no bogus fuel scamcharges, but…
It wouldn’t feel right not to try and top it. So I will — in my next installment.
Next: ANA Awards Booking, Etihad Apartment, Routing Rules, and More
Andy you took over from Drew as the most thoughtful and analytical blogger out there. No one else wants to do these kinds of research and publish the results anymore.
I love Drew! Thanks for the compliment, fellows! 🙂
Agree to this. +1
The fact that they don’t allow one ways is a bit of a bummer to me.
I agree. But there is a workaround. Developing…
The old ANA distance based chart which had some sweet spots in the middle is still used by Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for travel on ANA, but without the generous stopovers. Virgin Atlantic currency is easier to obtain than ANA’s. Thank you for some great research!
Thanks John! I need to look into this. What I do remember about Virgin, though, is clueless agents. 🙂
What that workaround to get an one way award?