My final ANA sweet-spot award booking

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I just booked what may be my last ever ANA flight award. I booked Newark to London, Dublin to Toronto, Toronto to Detroit all in business class and all for 88,000 ANA miles plus $72.87. That’s an awesome award booking. But I don’t plan to fly it as booked. Let me explain…

Background

Many years ago I transferred a bucketload of Amex Membership Rewards points to ANA in order to book ANA first class to Tokyo for my family of three. But then we made other plans and I paid 3,000 ANA miles per person to cancel the award and redeposit the remaining miles. Year after year the points sat there waiting to be used. ANA miles are awesome for the right circumstances, but those circumstances were slow to reveal themselves. The only reason the miles didn’t expire was that they were extended a few times during the pandemic. I finally used the majority of those miles to book a Star Alliance Round the World Award for two as part of the 3 Cards 3 Continents Challenge in 2022 (read about the trip here, and about the ANA booking here). But I still had 86,000 ANA miles left over, and they were set to expire very soon…

When we learned about ANA’s upcoming award devaluation (details here), I wasn’t concerned for myself. The award chart changes won’t happen until April 18th. My 86,000 ANA miles were set to expire March 31st. And with ANA, there’s no good way to extend the validity of expiring miles. I needed to find a use for my miles ASAP, but the devaluation wasn’t a factor.

The Award Placeholder Plan

I tried and tried to find a good use for the miles with my planned travel, but I failed. Instead, I decided to book flights that I can hopefully use in the future.

The good news is that I can book an ANA award now and change it for free later. The bad news is that I can only change the date or time of the flights, but I can’t change the carriers or the route. If I cancel the award after March 31st, I won’t get any miles back because they’d all be expired.

I considered many options for my miles. Ultimately I decided to book a Star Alliance business class round trip to Europe for 88,000 miles. That’s one of ANA’s many great sweet-spots that’s becoming a little less sweet on April 18th (it will then cost 100,000 miles round-trip, which is still a great price, but not as great).

Having decided to book a round trip to Europe, I transferred 2,000 additional Amex points to ANA so that I’d have exactly the required 88,000 miles. That transfer took a few days to complete (as expected). Then I had to decide where I wanted to fly to, and where I wanted to return from (those are not necessarily the same answer!). And I had to find award availability far into the future so that I’d have plenty of time to find a date that works for me and to change the flight to then (yes I could have alternatively kept pushing the flight back, but that would be a hassle).

Outbound to London

Where to fly to was the easy part. I have a trip to London planned where my wife and I are already planning to fly separately and I have a freely cancelable AA award booked for my outbound flight. United doesn’t yet have award availability for the flight I want, but I’ve noticed that they open up a lot of award availability within two weeks or so of each flight. At least that appears to be true for the Newark to London flight I’m eying. So, I picked an open date in February 2025 with the expectation that I can move the departure to the date I actually want if award space opens up. I didn’t include the Detroit to Newark positioning flight with the ANA award for a reason: it’s possible that the Newark to London award will open up but that the Detroit to Newark flight will not then be available for partner award bookings. If so, I’d be stuck. I wouldn’t be able to cancel the first leg to Newark and I wouldn’t be able to change the second leg of the trip to happen before the first leg. I’d hate to lose out on the important part of the award just because of this otherwise cheap little flight! So, I separately used 6,900 United miles to book Detroit to Newark on the day I’m hoping to fly.

If the flight to London doesn’t open up in time (according to ANA, I need to make changes at least 96 hours before departure of the flight I want), I’ll cancel my 6,900 point Detroit to Newark award and I’ll simply wait for another opportunity to fly to London in the future. Fortunately, my wife and I go to London often, so that shouldn’t be too hard. Plus, it’s easy to get to pretty much anywhere else in Europe from London if we want to end up somewhere else.

Return from Dublin, Stopover in Toronto

Figuring out the return flight plan was the harder part. ANA requires booking round trip awards and so I couldn’t simply book two separate one way awards. But for our London trip, we already have not-easy-to-refund plans for our return, so booking a return from London didn’t seem like a great idea. Plus, the UK imposes a large tax on passengers departing the UK in premium cabins. I didn’t want to pay that if I could help it. I ultimately decided that the ideal departure airport was Dublin. My wife and I have been eager to visit Ireland but it hasn’t yet fit into our plans. Maybe by having this return flight on the books it will force us to finally book something! And, if not, we could potentially use the flight later by returning from elsewhere in Europe, through Dublin.

I couldn’t find any business class award availability from Dublin on United except very close-in, but Air Canada had plenty of availability from Dublin to Toronto in February 2025. Toronto is close to my home airport, Detroit, so that should work well.

I could have booked Dublin-Toronto-Detroit all-together. The award space was available like that. But… I didn’t want the Toronto to Detroit leg tied to the Dublin-Toronto leg. When I find a Dublin to Toronto flight that I actually want to fly, it’s possible that the Toronto-Detroit leg won’t then be available. I don’t want to lose out on the more important flight if that happens. Instead, I added a free two day layover in Toronto to the award. That way, when I find a good real-world use for the Dublin to Toronto flight, I can go ahead and make that change even if the Toronto to Detroit leg isn’t available. And then I can continue to monitor that final leg to see if award space opens up and then grab that. That’s the plan anyway!

More about why I added a stopover in Toronto: I learned the hard way in the 3 Cards 3 Continents trip that if Air Canada considers two legs to be a single multi-segment flight, you may not be able to break them up. As part of that trip I had booked Newark – Toronto – Detroit without a stopover in Toronto. I wanted to change the Toronto to Detroit segment to another flight for later the same day, but I couldn’t. ANA tried and tried but Air Canada wouldn’t let them separate the connection between the two segments. See details here: Greg’s very stressful not-so-good last leg (3 Cards 3 Continents). By including a layover on this new trip, I believe that I forced Air Canada to ticket the two segments separately. And I have some evidence of that: when I priced the flight without a layover, the taxes were about $30 cheaper than when priced with the layover. I was willing to pay the extra $30 to avoid what happened to me previously.

Summary

I finally used up the last of my ANA miles just in time before they expire at the end of this month. I booked placeholder business class flights that I hope to use. It’s very likely that I’ll at least use the flight to London, but I’m less certain about the return from Dublin. That’s OK. Even if I only use the outbound flight, I’ll have at least gotten decent value from those near expiring miles. And if I manage to use the whole award, I’ll have wrung out great value one last time.

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39 Comments
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h1h0

Anyone had experience to use ANA Sky COINs?
I was browsing ANA website to see if there’s any way to spend 3000×2 miles in my and P2 account and found a page mentioning exchange the miles to Sky COIN as a way to extend it for another 12 month. Probably gonna do it any way since I really don’t have any other usages but curious if others used it before.

Ben

You can’t change the new travel date to one year later after ticketed.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ben
Jana

How far can you change it?

Ben

Within one year of originally ticketed date

JohnC

I have been so struggled to book tickets to tokyo since pandemic. ANA biz tickets before pandemic was relatively easy to book. Then things changed dramatically. All the biz ticket are waitlisted and then cancelled. Ana made the business tickets extremely hard to get. Book 2 reward business is impossible. At this point, i still have 400K Miles in the acct. 220k will be expired in a week. Called Ana customer service to book reward ticket from sfo to tokyo. From June to aug, no single ticket available, even econ class ticket. They simply do not release tickets. The way ANA restrict the reward ticket indirectly makes miles useless and they domd to expire.
I am thinking to file a lawsuit in this. Any thought?

Joel A.

searching on ana website, perhaps united business class for asia (ie SFO – BKK roundtrip etc) then do another ANA business class (ie BKK – HND roundtrip etc). search different combinations and cities.

Matt

Hey Greg! Just wanted to caution that in my experience, ANA will not let you change your flight to a date that is 1 year past the date of original ticketing. So for example, you would not be able to change your Toronto to Detroit flight to March 21, 2025 even if you find availability in the future.

David

The title sounds so dire, with this being your “final” booking! Are you leaning away from ANA altogether as a program, given the recent devaluation plus all the other difficulties (points transfer times, 3-year points expiration, etc.) inherent in the program?

Dugroz Reports

“Come and see the difficulty inherent in the program!”

(Holy Grail voice. 🙂 )

Neil

Same boat. 202K points expiring 3/31 from a failed COVID trip to Africa in 2021. ANA is frustrating when it comes redemptions beyond the RT requirement. I am west coast based and they impose massive surcharges, even in economy, on United metal on routes to Japan and PPT which makes those redemptions less attractive. That makes Europe, ANZ, or South America more likely but business availability is so sparse, unless you can fly close in. I was eyeing a plan similar to Greg’s in booking a RT biz to Europe for 2025 and then reevaluating the route down the road.

The appeal of the low price sounds great but If I had to do over I would have transferred to Aeroplan.

Neal

I am So Cal based and feel the same way Neil. Let me know what you come up with.

Matt

Can I chime in even though my name isn’t Neil / Neal? My dad’s name is Neil, so does that count?

Joel A.

perhaps try seats.aero – air canda aeroplan – north america to asia – sort business class. then use result available dates in ana website.  i always do award reservation – multiple cities/mixed classes and not roundtrip. yes, it needs a lot of patience and practice in doing searches.

Joel A.

i had success flying doing EVA for asia and Lot for europe. Successful search too on United for asia and europe. if no business flight, i also search premium economy. i always do award reservation – multiple cities/mixed classes and not roundtrip. yes, it needs a lot of patience and practice in doing searches.

JohnC

Joel, thanks for the suggestion. I have tried all i can try, include air canada. The thing is ANA is waitlisted almost all seats beyond 14 days. Their 14 days rule made oversea ticket impossible unless you want to cut trip within a week. I live in san francisco bay area. There are 5 daily flights from california(lax +sfo) to tokyo. If you search flights within 14 days, you can find tickets available in all classes. They release award tickets only 14 days beyond. That says, if you plan a 14 days trip, that means your return flight will likely still waitlisted on your departure day. Their system will automatically cancels your reservation.
The scheme they are practicing is literally impossible for us to use the miles. Eventually forfeit the miles per their deadline.
I have talked to an ANA customer service supervisor today. She was sympathetic on my situation. She told me that on the japanese website, member can have a way to convert miles to sky coin before expiration. Any one familiar with their sky coin system? Why it is not available for US customers. I am offended.

Joel A.

i usually try fly non ana metal (coz it is very hard for me to find) and non hnd/nrt as final designation and just do re position to hnd/nrt. like search i did now SFO-TPE on 3/31 TPE-SFO on 4/6 business class (95k ana points + $551.70). i always do award reservation – multiple cities/mixed classes and not roundtrip. yes, it needs a lot of patience and practice in doing searches.

Last edited 2 months ago by Joel A.
Neal

I am in the same situation I have a 120k ANA miles that expire 3/31. How is the redemption value for ANA hotels? I have multiple trips to Europe on the books. Was thinking of using the points for hotels. May be a good way to help with stays for non chain point redemptions.

Thoughts??

Mike

Never did a trip to Ireland?! You’re missing out! 🙂

Marco

ANA bumped me up to ” the room” on a long haul over the Pacific……… NICE

stvr

This is really a cautionary tale about speculative transfers or using ANA at all.

Lee

^^^ THIS ONE ^^^

Jinxed_K

It’s an annoying point when transfers take 1+ days to go through from your CC, you need the points to be there while you’re searching for seats or they’ll usually be gone by the time your transfer goes through.
So far I’ve been lucky with two trips, but hopefully I don’t run into a 3 year trip drought after placing miles in AMC.

Joel A.

thank you for sharing. i did this for my sister doing cruise – embark at london and disembark at copenhagen. used ANA 88k + $201.40. LAX-WAW (LOT), (*), CPH-WAW (SAS), WAW-YYZ (LOT) using ANA points. * WAW-LHR (BA) using BA points 22k + $1.00. all flights are business class.

AC

not quite following the part about the 2 day layover in Toronto. if you find an earlier date flight for DUB – YYZ then you can modify that segment and keep the YYZ – DTW leg intact or shift that up if there is availability. but if the DUB – YYZ flight you want is later than the final segment, then you would have to shift back both DUB – YYZ and YYZ – DTW simultaneously into future dates in order to preserve both segments right?

worst case there is no availability for the last leg you would just give it up and book a separate flight from Toronto to detroit then?

Maisie

Does this mean the sweet deal we did around the world will no longer be an option? Should I scramble to transfer points to ANA to book something similar before devaluation happens, even if I have no idea of how to use the tickets yet?!

Carolyn

What award search tool and your method to find those flights did you use, please.

Kajetan

NH’s own booking tool used to be excellent, so it probably still is.

Maria

I don’t understand the layover in Toronto – isn’t that where your flight ends? Why would ANA care how long you stay? Also, is not using the return flight the same thing as skiplagging?