ANA Award Ticket Booking Experience: US – Japan
ANA (All Nippon Airways) is a Japanese airline which offers amazing service and premium seating options. I was fortunate to have some miles left over in my account even after my Round The World trip. They are the only airline where your miles expire 3 years from earning them and you can’t extend the expiration date. Most airlines allow you to extend the expiration as long as you have activity once every 12-24 months. I had to use these miles or else they would expire so I decided to plan a trip to Japan. During my initial search, I was very limited as to which ANA flights had award seat availability. My award redemption had to contain only ANA flights in order to use their amazing value ANA International Awards in First Class. Flying roundtrip in First Class on ANA only costs 110,000 miles from the West Coast which is 50% of the required miles that United charges for the same flights.
After hours of searching I finally found SFO-NRT and NRT-JFK in First Class on the dates I needed. The only issue is that since I was flying to the East Coast on the return it would cost 120,000 miles roundtrip. I decided to transfer the 10,000 extra miles I needed from AMEX Membership Rewards which would take 2-4 days for the transfer to occur. At this point in time, I was taking a risk since the seats might not be available once the transfer completes. Sure enough, 48 hours later the miles posted but the NRT-JFK leg was no longer available. It was back to the drawing board… I ended up finding a flight from NRT to HNL in Business Class. The total cost for SFO-NRT (First Class) and NRT-HNL (Business Class) would be 75,000 miles and $364.50 in taxes/fees. The US call center was closed so I used Skype to call Japan to book the flight. During the call, the representative mentioned she could hold the reservation for 3 days and give me time to decide. I was shocked! Everything I read online stated they don’t allow holds on award reservations. This is not the case as of February 2015. I went ahead and booked the reservation and waitlisted the flight directly back to SFO in First Class but I don’t mind having the 35,000 extra miles for a future trip later this year.
-Put your award reservation on hold then transfer AMEX points
-Don’t restrict yourself to just mainland flights as the flights JapanHawaii offer a great value
-Utilize Skype to call Japan directly as they are super helpful on the phone (~$0.03 per min)
-Waitlist a flight as there is a chance it will become available
*Update as of 2/23/15*
My waitlisted flight from NRT to SFO cleared this morning. I was able to change my ticket but was charged a 3,000 mile penalty for changing it which I didn’t mind. For 113,000 miles & $457.50 in taxes/fees it will be well worth it to fly First Class roundtrip. Originating at NRT will give me a feel for the best hospitality ANA provides it customers as that’s their home airport.