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Buying miles is often controversial. Some readers might think that collecting miles is something you do through paid flights, credit cards, shopping, etc. and they would never contemplate buying miles. Others might analyse the opportunity and realise that you can buy heavily discounted tickets in a premium cabin. This post is for that second group of “travel hackers”.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about the opportunity to buy miles from Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. At first glance, the price seems rather high, at over 1p per mile. But what if you fancied a trip to Japan?
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club partners with All Nippon Airways, and the award chart is simply amazing.
You must book a return flight, and ALL CONNECTIONS are priced separately. But I’m sure that you wouldn’t mind flying to Tokyo (return!) for:
- 95,000 miles in Business Class
- 120,000 miles in First Class
Calculating the Total Cost
Let’s start with the assumption that you don’t have any Virgin miles; nor do you have any recent Virgin Atlantic flights on which you could apply “Miles Booster”. But during November you can simply buy miles with a 40% bonus.
To get 120,000 miles, you would need to buy 86,000 miles for £1,305. Once the 40% bonus is added, you’d actually receive 120,400 miles.
When booking awards on ANA via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, you will need to pay ANA’s fuel surcharges along with the usual collection of taxes and airport charges. For a First Class flight from London to Tokyo you’d pay this:
Those items total roughly £385. Add in the £1,305 you paid for your miles, and your return trip to Tokyo in First Class would cost you just £1,690.
If you prefer Business Class, the taxes and surcharges would be the same, but you’d simply require 25,000 fewer miles.
How to Find Award Space
Finding award space often requires some flexibility, perhaps “positioning” to a different ANA destination within Europe. ANA flies these premium cabin offerings (along with an economy cabin of course) between Tokyo and:
- London Heathrow (First Class and Business Class)
- Frankfurt (First Class and Business Class)
- Paris (Business Class)
- Dusseldorf (Business Class)
- Munich (Business Class)
- Brussels (Business Class)
- Vienna (Business Class, starting in early 2019)
I believe you are able to open-jaw (i.e. fly out of Frankfurt and back to London) and to mix cabins (one-way in First and the other in Business, splitting the mileage cost difference).
The best way to search for award availability on ANA is to use the United Airlines website – you don’t need to be a MileagePlus member to make award searches. United has a helpful calendar function where you can limit the search to non-stop flights.
An interesting element to keep in mind is that it is often EASIER to find First Class award space (than Business Class) on ANA, but unfortunately you will usually only find one seat available in First.
ANA’s flights to Brussels, Germany and Vienna often have decent availability in Business Class, if you can’t find availability from London and/or find it more convenient / cheaper to hop over to the Continent…
How to Book
You cannot book most partner rewards online at Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Instead, you must call Flying Club to book. Fortunately the agents are usually very competent; in particular, most agents in the US are very familiar with booking ANA partner rewards.
The Bottom Line
If an airline offered First Class flights to Japan for £1,700, I suspect that a fair few readers would rush to the booking page. Unfortunately this travel hack requires a bit more effort, but you can still receive a great deal on First or Business Class flights to/from Japan, simply by buying Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles during the month of November 2018…
P.S. ANA First Class would be one of the highlights of your travel hacking life. 😉