Last week, the internet rediscovered the value of ANA award tickets due to the airline’s having dropped its fuel surcharges as of June 1. I have written about ANA more than about any other airline over the years, which might seem kind of weird since I’ve never flown ANA metal. However, ANA’s frequent flyer program Mileage Club is so good that I’ve used it at least half a dozen times on partners, even though it requires you to fly roundtrip. Normally, that’s a huge obstacle for me because I love flexibility, but — what can I say — ANA is that good! I dissected ANA Mileage Club in a series of articles that, I believe, are mostly still relevant today.
Let’s quickly recap
ANA Mileage Club is your Business Class go-to program. Neither economy nor First Class values are particularly good, but Business Class — oh brother!
All examples below are for roundtrip flights between North America and:
- Business: 75,000-90,000 (seasonal charts; partners flights are the highest)
South Korea and Russia 1 (Seoul, Vladivostok)
- Business: 80,000-95,000 (seasonal charts; partners flights are the highest)
Asia 1 (Beijing, Dalian, Shenyang, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Chengdu, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila)
- Business: 80,000-95,000 (seasonal charts; partners flights are the highest)
Asia 2 (Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Yangon, Jakarta, Mumbai, Delhi, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Chennai)
- Business: 100,000-115,000 (seasonal charts; 136,000 on partners)
Oceania and South Pacific
- Business: 105,000-120,000 (seasonal charts; partners flights are the highest)
Europe, South America, and Russia 2 (includes all South America, Istanbul, and European Russia)
- Business: 88,000
Africa and the Middle East
- Business: 104,000
I mean, seriously: 75,000 to Japan, 80,000 to Hong Kong, 88,000 to Europe and anywhere in South America, 100,000 to Bangkok, 104,000 to the Middle East and Africa (including South Africa), 105,000 to Sydney or Auckland …
Per ROUND TRIP!
Wow, just wow!
By the way, as you can see, Morocco and Tunisia are both in Europe (who would’ve thought!) and you can visit either of them for 88,000 miles.
ANA fuel surcharge gone? Mostly yes, but …
Note: Here and hereafter I’ll call all of those scamcharges fuel surcharges even though it might not always be technically accurate. These scamcharges are also known as “carrier imposed surcharges” or “other carrier surcharges,” or you can see abbreviations like YQ and YR. Whatever they call them, it’s always about the same thing: an excuse pulled out of the thin air for padding the airlines’ bottom line. Think of them as resort fees in the sky when you see those.
It wouldn’t be fully accurate to state that ANA has dropped a fuel surcharge. It’s not like Japanese airlines have any say in the matter — it’s the government of Japan that mandates airlines to drop fuel surcharges when the price of Singapore kerosene falls to or below JPY 6,000. Just like ANA, Japan Airlines has also “dropped” a fuel surcharge, but it didn’t make the same splash as ANA (mostly, I presume, because JAL Mileage Bank miles are much harder to get). ANA is an American Express and Marriott partner, while JAL only partners with Marriott.
But there is one weird bug or quirk, or call it whatever you want. Whether your flight is originated in Japan or outside Japan, there is no ANA fuel surcharge. But when you’re looking for a connecting flight via Japan, the “no fuel surcharge” rule often flies out the window. See that text after the asterisk?
* Special rule may apply when the itinerary includes connection from international flight to another international flight.
I remember other times when ANA dropped its fuel surcharge:
But that time around, there was no footnote like this (I think). Nothing actually that would explain why ANA was still applying a fuel surcharge when they weren’t supposed to. I can’t tell you how many agents (and one supervisor) I spoke with over the years trying to understand this “phenomenon.” No one could give me an answer. Any kind of answer. If anyone knows why it’s happening, do tell.
In the meantime, if you’re one of those people who thinks “creatively” where you’re planning on going (I always say, be flexible about your destinations), here are some places you might and might not want to consider. I’ve checked the same flights I did when ANA dropped a fuel surcharge last time — in 2016. Let’s see if you can spot a difference.
Here is a Business Class award flight from to Manila via Tokyo with all segments on ANA. 90,000 miles and $213, of which $130 is a fuel surcharge.
4 years ago the fuel surcharge on this route was $328. Yay!
Next! U.S. to Bangkok, also via Tokyo.
No fuel surcharge at all! 4 years ago it was $408.
Let’s check U.S. to Singapore.
None whatsoever. Again! Was $415 in 2016.
I’m starting to like it!
U.S. to Phnom Penh.
No fuel surcharges vs. $588 in 2016.
U.S. to Beijing.
Oops! $320 vs. $358 4 years ago.
I think you’ve got the picture, so let me stop with the screenshots. Here are a few more destinations I’ve checked for you.
Award flights from U.S. to Hong Kong didn’t have YQ 4 years ago — still none.
Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh (ANA also flies to Hanoi): no and no.
How about Malaysia? ANA used to add $144 to flights to Kuala Lumpur, but not anymore!
Taipei? It did cost an extra $85 and it still does: $86 nowadays.
Let’s sum it up
Just another reminder: April — July 2016 was the period when ANA also abolished fuel surcharges on its own routes, but some connecting flights still “featured” $$$ in fuel surcharges. So, this is how then stacks up vs. now.
|Destinations from the U.S. (ANA Metal)||2016 (when ANA dropped YQ)||2020 (when ANA dropped YQ)|
So, from my little experiment we can see the following:
- 4 destinations have lost fuel surcharges
- 2 reductions
- 1 insignificant increase
- 3 more — no surcharges then and now
Star Alliance fuel surcharges are a mixed bag, but in general positive
When adding YQ to partners, ANA just normally adds the same amounts the partner itself is charging, so unlike ANA metal, fuel surcharges on partners are different for different classes of service. Here are my findings in Business Class (roundtrip).
- U.S. to Warsaw on LOT: $120, same as in 2016.
- U.S. to Istanbul: $366 vs. $266 in 2016. Ouch!
- U.S. to Seoul on Asiana: $260 vs. $160 in First Class in 2016.
Sadly, Asiana abolished its First Class suites along with the A380 aircraft that housed them, last year.
Surely, I was bummed that Asiana and Turkish went up $100 each in a fuel surcharge, but it’s still chump change compared to Lufthansa, Swiss, and Austrian that charge a whopping $1,300.00. I think it’s a travesty that the European Union lets them get away with those scamcharges.
So you might feel that doling out $366 on Turkish isn’t too bad. However, Air Canada doesn’t add YQ to Turkish at all. And both Air Canada and ANA are American Express transfer partners. So, if you specifically want to fly Turkish, it boils down to this choice:
- 88,000 AmEx points and $366 in scamcharges (plus legit taxes and fees) redeemed with ANA or
- 115,000 AmEx points and zero in scamcharges (plus legit taxes and fees) redeemed with Air Canada?
You might well decide that 27,000 AmEx points are worth more than $366, and you might be totally right. It’s your call.
So which airlines might you want to look at to avoid fuel surcharges?
- Air Canada (but see my ANA quirks section)
- ANA (currently)
- LOT (very low YQ)
- And (drumroll please!) Ethiopian (HT: Nick @Frequent Miler)
Ethiopian’s dropping YQ is better news than it seems because it has abundant Business Class award space and can fly you anywhere in Africa including South Africa.
ANA Round-the-World Awards
Oh, my goodness, there is so much … goodness … about these awards, and even more of it since TAP, SAS, and now Ethiopian have dropped their fuel surcharges. Not many things have changed since my last post except YQ.
This journey, for example, would only cost you 115,000 miles in Business.
But in some cases, it might be cheaper to get an RTW award rather than a roundtrip ticket even if your goal is less than ambitious — if you can avoid some serious damage due to fuel surcharges.
For example, you can visit Japan, Turkey, and Portugal from New York on a Business Class ticket for 105,000 miles and zero fuel surcharges — if you manage to avoid Turkish. Consider it a mini-RTW trip with 2 stopovers.
Just think about it: 105,000 miles!
Here are the RTW ticket restrictions.
- You can only use ANA and Star Alliance airlines for the ANA Round the World ticket.
- You must fly East to West or West to East.
- Backtracking is not allowed.
- Up to 12 flight segments
- Up to 8 total
- Up to 3 in Europe
- Up to 4 in Japan
- Up to 4 ground transfers (include transfers in the same city)
- There should be at least 10 days between your first and last international departures.
- Must book on the phone.
Oh, my, where to begin?
Stopovers and open jaws: experiment!
Look, I know what ANA rules say. One stopover and one open jaw, but I’m telling you from experience: sometimes you can get up to 2 open jaws, and other times none at all. It defies logic why it works or doesn’t work (at least my logic, perhaps not ANA’s), but it is what it is. In my experience, ANA agents have never been able to fix things that I couldn’t book on my end, even when they couldn’t explain why the routing wasn’t working. But it doesn’t hurt to try, I guess.
Oh, and what I’ve said about open jaws doesn’t apply to stopovers. You can never get more than one, so don’t even try to beat the system. 🙂
Booking for others
ANA only allows you to book an award for yourself or a family member (must be registered), but they never ask for any documentation that would prove your kinship. Greg from Frequent Miler had this predicament once, but seriously, you just call and give them the name and the family connection, and that’s all that takes. And no, your last names don’t have to match.
Fuel surcharges where there should be none
Take a look at this screenshot and you’ll see immediately that something is wrong with it. Why is there a fuel surcharge on United?
You’ll say, but it’s just $38, that’s not a big deal. Sure, but there shouldn’t be any “deal,” big or small. ANA isn’t supposed to add any YQ to United, period!
Take a look at this. This is a flight that includes both United and Air Canada. It departs from Toronto and arrives in New York, which is perfectly fine as far as ANA is concerned (U.S. and Canada are considered the same country when ANA’s routing is concerned). And ANA doesn’t normally add any surcharges to either United or Air Canada. So why are we seeing surcharges that amount to $226? Does anyone know what I’m not seeing?
Every time I write about ANA, it feels as if I’ve barely scratched the surface, so covering this terrific but reasonably complicated program would be overly ambitious. Questions? Datapoints? Please share in the comments.