Guide to Booking Award Flights with ANA

The reward program for ANA has some very valuable sweet spots for both economy and business class redemptions to pretty much every corner of the globe. In addition, it’s pretty easy to rack up ANA miles from transfer partners making it a solid option for redemptions. However, the booking rules can be a bit confusing to comprehend. Here’s a guide for booking flights with both ANA and ANA partner airlines with ANA miles.

Star Alliance

ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance out of the big three (One World, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam). This means that you can use your ANA miles to fly on any of these other airlines (subject to availability).

Star_Alliance logo and members

The trick is to find availability for seats that can be booked with Star Alliance partners. The good news is that ANA is one of the best sites to perform searches for Star Alliance partner availability. Read about how to find Star Alliance availability here.

ANA Partners

ANA also has several non Star Alliance partners that you can book with.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 10.22.32 AM
ANA non-alliance partners

How to Get ANA miles from credit cards


Aeroplan is a transfer partner of  two major reward programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 ratio)
  • Starwood Preferred Guests (1:1)*

*Remember, when you transfer Starwood points in increments of 20,000 you receive an additional 5,000 in miles, so 20,000 points will earn you 25,000 Aeroplan miles. In addition, Starwood will often run promotions where you can earn additional bonuses on your transfers, such as up to ~25%!

Just don’t

There’s also the ANA Card USA. It has an annual fee of $70 and offers 5,000 miles upon your first purchase. This abysmal sign-up bonus should be a last resort and I would only consider it if you just had to have the 5,000 miles and had exhausted all opportunities with American Express. 

Unique program policies

ANA has a few unique program policies. For example: 

  • You can book trips for up to 10 family members but they must all be registered
  • You can pool points with other family members but they must be registered and you must “apply” while paying for the application fee with 1,000 ANA miles
  • You can put reservations on hold for 24 to 48 hours by calling in (although YMMV)
  • Cancellations cost 3,000 ANA miles per person

In addition to these unique policies, there are several other booking policies. I don’t wont to bog down readers with all of them, so here are some of the important ones:

  • You must begin your trip within one year of ticket issuance
  • You can apply from 9:00 a.m. (Japan time) of 355 days before your boarding day (not including the date of departure) until 96 hours before departure.
  • You are able to change the boarding date or flight up to 24 hours before departure.
  • The name of the passenger, and the name of the individual supplying the miles cannot be changed.
  • The airline, passenger, sector, and route cannot be changed. (However, in certain cases where both ANA and Air Japan operate flights over the same sector, passengers may switch between the 2 airlines.)
ANA definitely implements some unique booking policies

Fuel surcharges

You are almost always going to incur fuel surcharges when using ANA miles to book award flights. However, United Airlines is an exception, and thus can be a very valuable partner to redeem miles with. Air Canada and Air New Zealand are also great partners to use to avoid or mitigate charges.

The surcharges imposed by ANA aren’t the highest in the industry and many can be quite reasonable, but they are often pretty much impossible to avoid unless you book United Airline/Air Canada flights. For a closer look on fuel surcharges, keep reading further.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 6.11.32 PM


Stopovers and Open Jaws

The rules section for “transfer partners” on ANA’s website is a little unclear but after playing around with bookings on the website and calling in to verify, I realized that the below rules apply to both ANA bookings and bookings with Star Alliance partners

1) One stopover is allowed on either leg

2) One open jaw is allowed subject to the following rules:

  • When the point of departure and final point of destination differ, both locations must be within the same country.

This means you can fly out of Chicago and come back to Houston, for example. (Confusingly, many regions like Europe and the U.S./Canada are considered one “country.”)

  • If the destination of your outbound trip and the point of departure of your inbound trip are different, they must be within the same area.

This is what confused me because they use the  term “area” versus “zone” and then they provide a small chart that doesn’t completely describe the areas. (See the chart below.) Thus, if you’re wanting to explore options for open jaw for inbound flights, I suggest experimenting with the website or calling in to see if the destination of your outbound trip and point of departure of your inbound trip fall within the same “area.”

November 25, 2016 update: the website is clearer on this point now.  

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 1.34.31 PM

  • For zones in which the destination of your outbound trip and the point of departure of your inbound trip are different, the required number of miles will be calculated by halving the required number of miles for each zone and adding them together.

The stopover can be combined with the open jaw rules for pretty flexible routing that can somewhat make up for the lack of one way redemptions in some cases.  For example, I was able to book the following on the website:

  • Outbound trip:
    • IAD -> LHR [stopover] -> CDG
  • Inbound trip:
    • LHR [open jaw]-> IAH [open jaw]

I called in just to make sure that this was a valid booking and didn’t get a 100% yes — it was more like, “we are pretty sure you can do that but the only way we can tell you for sure is if you transfer miles to ANA…” Thus, while this route should work according to the rules above, I’d always try to double check with ANA before planning on such a booking.

ANA sweet spots

ANA has several sweets spots that are worth mentioning.

Here’s a summary of the sweet spots for ANA:

  • North America to Europe
    • Business class: 88,000 miles
    • Economy: 55,000 miles
  • North America to South America
    • Business class: 88,000 miles
    • Economy: 55,000 miles
  • North America to Africa and the Middle East
    • Business class: 104,000 miles
    • Economy: 65,000 miles
  • North America to Japan 
    • Business class: 75,000 miles
    • Economy: 40,000 miles
  • North America to Asia 1
    • Business class: 80,000 miles
    • Economy: 45,000 miles

Keep reading below to see details on booking these sweet spots and to see how much you would pay on fees.

North America to Europe

ANA offers one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to get to Europe with award bookings. Take a look at the award chart below.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 6.27.02 PM

Notice the sweet spot from North America:

  • 88,000 in business class

Compare that to the following

  • Aeroplan: 110,000 miles
  • American Airlines: 115,000
  • Delta: 125,000
  • United: 115,000 miles (140,000 miles if booked with alliance partner)

Here’s a real world example of a flight between IAD and LHR. First, you can see how much this trip would cost on United’s website.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.15.16 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.14.37 AM
United offers flights from North America to Europe for 115,000 miles but only if you fly with United. Partner airlines require 140,000 miles!

So you’d be looking at 115,000 miles assuming you were able to find United availability. If you booked the same trip on another partner airline, you’d be looking at 140,000 miles!

Now, take a look below at how much this same flight would cost with ANA miles.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.09.55 AM
ANA requires only 88,000 miles and $183.70 to fly business class roundtrip to London from North America

88,000 miles plus $183.70 in fees to fly business class from North America to Europe is an absolute bargain, espcially given the product level of ANA.

And the deal is even sweeter when you book with Air Canada because the fees go down to $68!

But remember, those low fees are with flying United and Air Canada. Here is an example of what you’re looking at if you can’t get around the fuel surcharges

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.24.44 AM
North America to Europe with TAP Portugal requires $613 in fees
Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.26.08 AM
North America to Europe with Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa requires $497 in fees

As you can see, the fuel surcharges can be pretty hefty and so I’d try my best to find availability on a United or Air Canada flight to avoid the charges.

Getting more value with stopovers 

Now let’s say you wanted to add a bit more value to the prior trip from D.C. to London  by making London a stopover en route to Paris, and let’s just throw in an open jaw back to Houston so you can see how it works.

So this flight path is going to look like this:

  • IAD -> LHR [stopover] -> CDG
  • CDG -> IAH [open jaw]

This route is legal because it has one stopover in the zone of your destination [CDG in Europe] and you are returning to the same zone of your departure [United States and Canada]. (You could also make your second leg depart from anywhere within the same “area.”)

So let’s see how much more we’d pay in fees.

ANA booking ANA booking

So that’s $155 more in fees to get the extra addition of Paris to your London trip.

If you searched long enough you could probably find better stop over deals than this but I noticed that a lot of the stopovers in Europe would incur pretty significant fees. For a true budget flyer, it might make more sense to just buy a one-way ticket on a budget airliner to your desired stopover location and then open jaw back from there to North America.

For example you could do:

  • IAD -> LHR
  • London -> Paris [with budget airline]
  • CDG [open jaw] -> IAD

And finally, don’t forget about economy flights from North America to Europe… at only 55,000 miles, that’s not a bad deal at all.

Therefore, ANA is one of the best options for getting to Europe from North America! 

North America to South America

Getting to South America can be a lucrative way to redeem ANA miles, too. In fact, with the potential for lower surcharges, I’d argue there’s even better value in flying to South America than to Europe in business class.  For example, Houston to Rio De Janerio is only 88,000 miles in business class and the fees are only $62!

Here are the miles required by other airlines or this route.

  • Aeroplan: 110,000 miles
  • American Airlines: 115,000 miles
  • Delta: 150,000 miles
  • United: 110,000 miles
Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 11.57.59 AM
88,000 miles and $62.24 for North America to Brazil in business class!

Getting more value with stopovers 

Let’s say you were planning a larger scale trip to South America where you wanted to see Rio de Janerio, Santiago Chile (and maybe take a flight to Easter Island), and Lima, Peru (and take a short flight to Cusco to get to Machu Picchu).

For the same amount of 88,000 miles you could get to Rio de Janerio, Santiago, Chile, and Lima, Peru. You’d still have to cover your tickets from Rio to Santiago, Easter Island, and Cusco, but having everything else worked out with business class tickets for only 88,000 miles would be great.

A sample flight path would like this:

  • Outbound: IAH – YYZ -> GIG
  • Inbound: SCL[open jaw] -> LIM [stopover] -> IAH

This is all legal because your inbound leg departs from the same area (SCL in South America) as the destination of your outbound leg (GIG in South America) and you only have one stopover on your route (LIM which is also in the area of your destination).

The best part of this routing is that your fees would only come out to $101.25.

Take a look at what this itinerary looks like booked on the ANA website. Again, when I called in to verify this route I got the same “we’re 99% confident you can book this route but you’ll need to transfer your miles to ANA for us be sure.” 

Note: you could probably find better routings not flying through Canada but I just wanted to show  how much value you could get from 88,000 miles!

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 5.36.05 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 5.36.15 PM
Total fees number to only $101.25!

Also, economy awards from North America to South America can really be bargains at only 55,000 round trip!

North America to Africa and the Middle East

104,000 in business class to Africa and the Middle East in business class is another bargain, in my opinion. Availability might sometimes be an issue, especially without the added flexibility of one way awards but being able to get to places like South Africa and Dubai in business class for 104,000 miles round trip is pretty phenomenal.

  • Aeroplan: 165,000
  • American Airlines:  140,000
  • Delta:  170,000
  • United: 140,000 (160,000 on partners)

Just keep an eye out for those surcharges, as you can see on the routes below they can be quite pricey. (Partner Etihad is known for having little to no surcharges, so seek availability with them.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.24.14 PM
$498 in fees with Turkish Airlines
Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 1.53.20 PM
$593 in fees with Ethiopian Airlines

Also, economy awards from North America to Africa and the Middle East can really be bargains at only 65,000 round trip!

Getting more value with stopovers 

Don’t forget that Africa and the Middle East are part of the same zone (Zone 8). That means you would be able to combine a trip to the Middle East with your trip to South Africa. I struggled to find some availability for this trip so I wasn’t able to price out the fees but with enough time and willingness you could probably secure this route for a mere 104,000 miles.

Partner Restrictions

There are some restrictions when booking with certain partners that you should be aware of:

  • There are unavailable periods during which flight awards may not be used.
  • Even if your itinerary includes ANA flights, the Chart of miles required for Partner Flight Awards will apply if the itinerary includes even one flight partner airline.
  • Flight award passengers cannot use Suite Class, First Class and Business Class on certain aircraft flown by Singapore Airlines (A380, A380 and B777-300ER).
  • Flight awards for Hawaiian Airlines flights can only be used only be used for flights within the Hawaiian islands.
  • EVA Air Elite Class cannot be used.

Check here for more specific rules.

Sweet spots booking directly with ANA

When you book directly with ANA you are subject to different rules. They operate with a different map and on a seasonal basis.


Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 6.38.12 PM

They have low season, regular season, and high season, which change for different years. Take a look at the season chart for North America/Europe and Japan.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 6.40.06 PM

There are some real sweet spots for getting to Japan and Asia 1 (China, Guam, Hong Kong, Macau, Philippine, Taiwan).

The following rates apply during low season:

  • North America to Japan 
    • Business class: 75,000 miles
    • Economy: 40,000 miles
  • North America to Asia 1
    • Business class: 80,000 miles
    • Economy: 45,000 miles

The drawback is that you’re going to have to pay fuel surcharges for ANA flights. The good news is that they really aren’t that bad. In fact, as you can see below, the total fees for flying ANA from North America to Japan are actually cheaper than those including a United flight!

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 6.45.21 PM
Since there is one partner leg on this trip, the partner rate of 90,000 miles apply
Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 6.45.09 PM
Only 75,000 miles and $85 in fees for round trip business class to Japan is great!

Remember, that while one stop over is allowed on ANA  flights, no stopovers can be made for flights departing from Japan.

Final Word 

So there you have it, ANA is one of the most valuable transfer partners of American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood and should definitely be considered an option if you’re planning a trip from North America to any of the zones discussed above. 

Cover Photo by lkarasawa via Flickr. 




How to Find Star Alliance Reward Availability

The Star Alliance is the largest of the three major airlines alliances (Star Alliance, Sky Team, and One World). If you’re not unfamiliar with airline alliances, they are programs that allow you to book tickets on partner airlines with miles from another program. So, just as one example of many, the Star Alliance allows you to book United flights with Singapore Airline miles.

One of the biggest issues with booking alliance partners is finding availability, avoiding surcharges, and knowing how to execute the booking. This article will focus on finding Star Alliance reward availability but will shed a little bit of light on the other two factors. 


List of Star Alliance Partners

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all of the different Star Alliance partners right off the bat. Here’s a list of all of them to date.

Star_Alliance logo and members

As you can see, there are 27 different airlines that make up this alliance. That means that for each airline, you could potentially book up to 26 different airlines with their miles. With so many options, searching for availability might sound overwhelming.

The good news is that you can pretty much find all of the Star Alliance availability by just focusing your searches on a few websites. These are the the websites for: United, ANA, and Aeroplan (Air Canada), and Singapore Airlines. After reviewing these websites, you should have a thorough idea of the different routes you can book.

Searching United Airlines

Boeing | 747-422 | United Airlines | N119UA | Hong Kong | HKG | VHHH
Photo by Christian Junker

United’s website is one of the best to use for a few reasons. For one, I think it’s pretty simple and the layout will show you a full two months of availability for all classes. This is far superior to those sites that force you to look at one day at a time, or even sometimes one day and on air fare at a time. It’s also easy because United doesn’t even require you to have a MileagePlus account and to log in to view reward seats.

To get started, simply go to the United website and begin your search. Be sure to select “Search for award travel” to ensure that you’ll be pulling up results for awards. On United’s site, you can search for one-way, round trip, and multi-city trips. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.14.54 PM

When searching on United’s website you will be looking for “Saver Awards.” These are going to be the only potential seats that you will be able to book with alliance partners. You’ll easily see “Saver” listed for business and first class seats but pay close attention to the economy seats because the “Saver” designation is in a different area and in green. 

United to book Air Canada

United has a nice color system that makes viewing these at quick glance pretty easy.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.13.56 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.13.24 PM

As you can see, United provides an easy way to view the availability for each class of Saver Award over a time span of two months. Don’t forget to check the white boxes for availability that “may” be there.

If there are multiple legs, be sure to double check that each leg of the trip is the kind of class that you want to fly. If the class is different for different legs you should see the red “mixed cabin” as seen in the image below. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.18.55 PM
57.5K United miles for a one way flight to London from Houston

To get more details regarding the class fare, simply click on the “Details” icon and full details will drop down on the flight. As seen below, you can see everything from the types of meals offered, the class for each leg, the exact flight time, which airline operates which leg, etc.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.58.32 PM

As you scroll through the different flights, you’ll see the airlines noted right beneath the departure and arrival times and locations. As seen below, the flight is operated by Air Canada, a Star Alliance partner. Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.35.49 PM

Multiple legs

I don’t ever have trouble finding reward flights with two legs but some people have trouble finding flights on United’s website with three or more segments. I’ve been able to find 3 segment rewards flights a number of times on United’s website, so it might just depend on the route. However, it’s never a bad idea to search for your flight leg-by-leg, just in case you might be missing out on something.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.00.25 PM

Important reminder: If you hold a United Mileage Plus Explorer Card or have status with United there’s a chance that you might see more reward availability than is actually available to other alliance partners. To ensure that you aren’t viewing increased availability, do not log in to your MileagePlus account when searching, or better yet, search the United website while browsing from Google Chrome Incognito or a similar private browser.

In addition, be on the lookout for “phantom reward” space, which are reward spaces that show up on a website but actually are not available to you. This happened to me recently when I tried to book United saver awards with Singapore Airlines. I called up Singapore Airlines about 4 times but each time they told me there was no availability. After I checked ANA, I saw that there was no availability and realized I must’ve seen the dreaded phantom rewards. 

Searching ANA (All Nippon Airways)

Boeing | 777-281/ER | All Nippon Airways | JA707A | Hong Kong | HKG | VHHH
Photo by Christian Junker

Unlike United, ANA requires you to have a rewards account with them before viewing reward availability. So first make sure that you sign up for their program. Their “application” appears a bit more daunting than any other frequent flier program I’ve encountered and they even have signage on their website as if you were applying for a credit card and were going to get a hard pull on your credit. But don’t worry, it’s nothing serious, just your standard contact information.

To get started on searching for rewards on ANA, make sure you select “Award Booking” in the bottom right corner when you input your search criteria. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.21.27 PM

No one-way flights

The functionality of the search tool isn’t bad but note that you can only search for round-trip or multiple-segment trips — you cannot search ANA for one way reward flight any longer. If you try to you will get an error screen popping up telling you that you are not allowed to book to single legs.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.01.24 AM

Thus, I suggest just picking a random date for your return date on a roundtrip in order to view reward availability segment by segment.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.35.12 AM

Once you select your search criteria you’ll be able to see the availability based on a weekly timeline if you select the “+/- 3 days” option. Click the dates with seats available to move forward with the booking process.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.53.16 AM

ANA allows you to view the final fees and mile requirements even if you don’t have the requisite miles to complete the booking, so it’s easy to see exactly how much you’d pay were you to book through ANA. 

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 7.29.59 AM

The biggest advantage to searching the ANA website is that it usually shows all of the alliance partners (with some exception mentioned below), which is very handy for airlines like Singapore Airlines which don’t usually show up on United or Aeroplan.

Multiple Legs

Most of the time, ANA is pretty good about showing multiple legs for rewards flights but just be careful when trying to find certain airlines, such as South African Airways.

I tried to find the same route from DFW to CPT that I found on United’s website but none of the routes showed up on ANA. Even when I broke the flight down into segments, the only leg that showed up was from DFW to EWR. Thus, not only was there nothing showing up for a multiple-leg trip, even nonstop South African Airways flights that showed availability on United and Aeroplan weren’t showing up.

That’s why it’s always good practice to check each of these websites when looking for your flight. You want to make sure that you fill in all of the gaps.

Searching Aeroplan (Air Canada)

Air Canada A320-211 C-FKCO
Photo by Caribb

In the past Aeroplan’s website has caused many frequent travelers a bit of grief due its slow speed. However, recently speaking I haven’t had much trouble with it and actually consider it to be among the best.

Aeroplan does require you to sign up but that takes all but two seconds so it shouldn’t be an issue. Once you get your log-in information, sign in and click on “Use Your Miles” and then on “Travel.”

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.10.22 PM

You should find the search process pretty straight forward.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.12.42 PM

Similar to United, you can scan for airline carriers on the left and also click on “Details” for full specifics on your flight.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.14.08 PM

When booking partner airlines with Aeroplan, you always want to be cautious to ensure that you’re not incurring unnecessary fuel surcharges. For example, take a look at the next two flights below.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.54.22 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.22.44 PM

Notice anything different?

There’s a huge difference in the price. It’s a difference of $190 USD vs  $834 USD due to fuel surcharges. United is one of the Star Alliance partners that Aeroplan does not force you to pay fuel surcharges. So always do your best to book with a partner that does not incur fuel surcharges when booking with Aeroplan. The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United
Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.29.32 PM
United requires 30,000 more miles to get to Paris from Toronto than Aeroplan!

There’s another difference you should be made well aware of when booking as well. Above is the cost and fees for that same flight from Toronto to Paris but it shows what you would pay if you booked on United’s website. As you can see, you’d be paying about the same in USD but you’d be using 30,000 more miles for the booking!

I’ll have much more to say on maximizing your redemptions on Aeroplan later but this is a prime example of the things to be aware of when booking through alliance partners. If you’re not “in the know,” it can be really easy to lose out on thousands of points.

Multiple legs

Aeroplan is known to have good multi-segment search features, but again, I think you should always check on all three websites when trying to search for multi-leg flights. In addition, I would still break the flight down and search segment by segment to ensure that you’re seeing the maximum availability.

As an example, the screen shot below shows only two Star Alliance flights departing on this day but United’s website showed more than that. Granted, the additional flights on the United website included an airport change (JFK to EWR), it still goes to show that you need to be thorough with your research.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 8.59.45 PM

As an added note, check out the redemptions for DWF to CPT on economy on United versus Aeroplan. This time, United has the cheaper option, only requiring 40,000 miles for a one way economy ticket versus the 50,000 miles required by Aeroplan. This is another reason to make sure you check with the different websites: you can double check that you’re looking at booking the best rates for your trip.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 9.00.25 PM
United is 10,000 miles cheaper than Aeroplan from Texas DFW to South Africa CPT

So that’s it. It can be a bit time consuming to go through three different websites to search for different flights but if you really want to make sure that you’re not missing any availability, then searching all three of these websites for Star Alliance reward availability is a must! 

Cover Photo Christian Junker