For the 3 Cards, 3 Continents Challenge, I’ve been busy finding and pricing various ANA Round the World awards. As a result, I’ve learned some new things since originally publishing this post. The post below has been updated with info about putting awards on hold, which changes are allowed after booking, how and when to call ANA, and updates to which carriers impose fuel surcharges….
One of the best deals in travel is ANA’s Star Alliance Round the World award. We previously covered this award here: Around the world in business class for 115K [Sweet spot spotlight]. More recently, I wrote about my initial planning for an expected-to-be-awesome Round the World trip (that trip never happened due to COVID). In response to our previous posts, many readers offered up useful tips. And, in researching booking these awards, I’ve developed some tips of my own. Below you’ll find a summary of tips for successfully booking ANA’s Round the World awards.
ANA’s Round the World Pricing and Rules
Before getting to our tips, here are the basic rules for booking these awards as found on ANA’s website:
- Required mileage is calculated according to the total basic sector mileage for the entire itinerary. (Calculations exclude ground transportation sectors.). In other words, add up the distances of every segment flown. Do not count open-jaw distances. For example, if you take alternative transportation, such as a train, to get from one city to another, that distance is not included in the calculations.
- Mixed classes: The required mileage for the highest class of travel in the entire itinerary will apply. In other words, if you fly some segments in business class and some in economy, the entire trip is priced based on business class pricing.
- You must fly in one direction (either east to west or west to east). Backtracking is not allowed.
- You must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
- You can have a max of 12 segments and a max of 4 “ground transfer” segments (like “open jaws” — for example, fly to Copenhagen and then take a train to Madrid to catch your next flight instead of flying).
- A maximum of 8 stopovers are allowed. A stopover can be:
- A city where you fly and stop to spend a few days
- Either end of an open jaw. For example, if you fly into Copenhagen and take the train to Madrid to catch your next flight, both Copenhagen and Madrid count as stopovers. However, you do not count the distance from Copenhagen to Madrid when determining the price of your ticket
- No more than 3 stopovers in Europe
- No more than 4 stopovers in Japan
- Your trip must last at least 10 days from the departure of your first international flight.
- Flights may be operated by ANA or Star Alliance partners
- Your itinerary must touch at least one country in each of the three following “areas”:
- Area 1: North America, South America, Central America, Hawaii
- Area 2: Europe, Middle East, Africa
- Area 3: Japan, South Korea, China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Southwest Pacific
- You have one year from the date of your first flight to complete your Round the World trip.
Some backtracking is possible
While the rules are clear that backtracking is not allowed, a reader named Bill reported that agents may have some leeway to allow it within a region. For example, Bill was flying from Vienna to Bangkok and got the impression that they would have allowed him to book it as Vienna to Zurich to Bangkok — which technically backtracks westward from Vienna to Zurich before going east to Bangkok.
Their backtracking rule seems to be applied by the agents, and it’s very broad. It’s basically that you can’t cross from one of the IATA-defined “Areas” like Europe, then into Asia, and then back to Europe. Other than that, you have a lot of flexibility. I believe IATA calls them TC1, TC2, TC3.
And this is from a reader known as AS:
You can definitely deviate and backtrack if you need to. I talked to a rep and he explained it this way. If you’re going from the US to Australia, then that’s hard to find award space so you will probably need to go to Asia first and then route to Australia from there. The rep told me they know this and don’t have a problem with it. I think the spirit of the rule is they don’t want you zig-zagging all over the place, but within zones there is flexibility. I traveled SIN-PER and I was traveling west, so I definitely backtracked.
Up to 72 hour hold is allowed, depending..
In a previous version of this post, I wrote that holds were not allowed, but I was wrong. I’ve put two different trips on hold in the past several weeks. For the first one I was told that it could be held up to 24 hours. For the second one, I was given 72 hours. Apparently, the timing is dependent upon the airlines in your booking. I was told that some specific carriers don’t allow holds or only allow shorter holds and so your mileage may vary.
Here is what I wrote when this post was first published:
Despite a reader named Bill telling us that you can place the award on hold for 3 days, I and other readers have been told that no holds are allowed. This is really unfortunate because transfers from Amex Membership Rewards to ANA often take a couple of days to complete. By then, the award space you found could be gone.
I suspect that in my previous failed attempt to put a RTW trip on hold I may have included an airline that doesn’t allow holds.
Some changes allowed for free
According to agents I’ve spoken with, there are three changes that can be made for free:
- Change the flight time (but keep exact same carrier and route)
- Change the flight date (but keep exact same carrier and route)
- Change the class of service upward to the one you paid for (for example, if you booked a business class Round the World trip, you can change an economy segment to business class once a business class seat opens up). You may have to pay additional taxes and fees when doing this.
These free changes make it possible to book something now that is close enough to what you want and to later change it to what you really want. There are many flights where business class awards reliably open up only near departure. If your heart is set on a particular flight, this can be a great way to make it part of your trip. Obviously, though, it is risky because the award space you want may never appear.
1 Year Limit: Note that there is a limit to how far into the future you can move your flights. I was told that the Round the World ticket is valid for 1 year from the date of your first flight.
96 hour rule: I don’t know if this rule is strictly applied, but at least one agent told me that changes must be made more than 96 hours in advance of your scheduled flight.
Award availability may not match expectations
Multiple readers offered up this advice. If you find award space via one tool (for example, I often use United.com to find Star Alliance award availability), ANA might not be able to find the same award space. This is most likely due to something known as “married segment logic”. This is where award space may be available from point A to C with a layover in point B, but it might not be available if you look for award space individually from point A to B or B to C.
Here’s an example: when searching for award space to Africa, I found an award from Newark to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) with a layover in Lisbon in-between. It’s possible (or even likely), that if I looked for award space only from Newark to Lisbon that it wouldn’t be available. The work around, then, is to make sure to tell the ANA agent that you want to travel from Newark to Addis Ababa rather than Newark to Lisbon. Hopefully, then, they’ll be able to find the route you want.
Reader L M points out that it’s very helpful to have alternate options ready to go when speaking with an ANA agent:
Still had phantom inventory display, so it really helped to have back up dates/flight options to propose to the ANA rep. when booking the itinerary. They’ll also be able to check inventory for options in that case, but the process is much smoother for coming in with your own alternatives.
ANA offers better award space to elite members
If you want to fly ANA itself, you’ll have better access to awards by booking with ANA miles than by booking with miles from an ANA partner. And, if you have elite status with ANA, you’ll find even better award availability. This applies only to flights flown by ANA.
Go west to reduce jet lag
Multiple readers suggested that it was better to fly westward around the world rather than east. Presumably this is because people believe that there’s less jet lag when flying west (and there seems to be some scientific evidence for this). There’s a downside to this, though: eastbound flights are faster…
Go east to reduce time in air
If you prefer to minimize flying time rather than jetlag, then it makes the most sense to go east. Eastbound flights take advantage of the jet stream whereas westbound flights fight against it.
United’s non-stop route between Tokyo (ANA) and Newark (EWR) is a good example. Above, you can see that the westbound flight is scheduled for 13 hours 45 minutes whereas the eastbound flight is scheduled for only 12 hours 15 minutes. If all else was equal, you would cut an hour and a half off your in-flight schedule by flying this route eastward.
Start or end in Hawaii
Multiple readers have suggested starting in Hawaii and ending on the east coast U.S. (or starting on the east coast and ending in Hawaii) as a way to greatly reduce the total flight distance calculated into the award cost. One could then use Turkish miles (transferred from Citi ThankYou Rewards) to fly between Hawaii and the US mainland very cheaply.
I’ve confirmed directly with ANA that this trick does work. In other words, it’s possible to start your Round the World trip on the east coast of North America (e.g. from Boston, Quebec, New York, etc.) and end the trip in Hawaii in. This will reduce the total number of miles flown and so may mean far fewer ANA miles required to book it.
Use the Star Alliance Round the World Tool
Star Alliance offers a Round the World planner (found here). It is intended for piecing together a paid Round the World trip, but it is also useful for finding flight options and identifying fees (taxes, fuel surcharges, etc.) that would be imposed on an award.
Hat Tip: AS
Don’t count on Great Circle Mapper distance calculations
Great Circle Mapper is a terrific tool for visualizing trips and calculating flight distances. Unfortunately, the distances reported by this tool (and every other tool I’ve tried) do not match the distances that ANA uses. In my experience, ANA usually uses slightly lower numbers, but not always.
That said, Great Circle Mapper is a great tool for getting the ballpark distance measurements.
Call at 9am Eastern
Unfortunately, Round the World Awards can’t be booked online. You have to call. And, unfortunately, you’ll often encounter very very long hold times. I’ve had the best success by calling at 9am ET.
ANA’s website lists this U.S. number for Mileage Club related calls:
If you have Platinum status with ANA (thanks to the status match, perhaps), call this number instead:
When I’ve tried calling the Platinum desk mid-day or in the evening, I’ve been on hold forever. When calling at 9 in the morning eastern time and during a weekday, I’ve gotten through within 10 or 15 minutes.
If the line is dropped or if you need to call back for whatever reason, you have a higher chance of speaking with the person you spoke to, or the person who you believe has the best service attitude… I was looking through my phone’s contact list and found numbers for ANA Hong Kong (+852 2810 7100) and Singapore (+65 6323 4333).
I tried Oldporkchops suggested numbers (timed so that it would be morning in those countries), but without success. I also tried calling the Japanese call center at what would be 8am or 9am their time. No luck.
Fly airlines with low (or no) fuel surcharges
This one comes from Nick’s original post about ANA’s Round the World award. Even though the mileage price for these awards is extremely low compared to alternatives, the cash component can be extreme if you fly segments on airlines that charge outlandish fuel surcharges.
Star Alliance airlines with no or low fuel surcharges (on most routes)
- Aegean Airlines
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air New Zealand
- Copa Airlines
- EVA Air
- Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) [see this post for details]
- TAP Air Portugal
- United Airlines (most routes)
Star Alliance airlines with medium fuel surcharges (on most routes)
- LOT Polish
- Singapore Airlines
- Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
- United Airlines (certain routes)
Avoid these airlines with notoriously high fuel surcharges
- Swiss Air
Use United.com to find awards
Unlike ANA’s website, United’s website makes it easy to search for Star Alliance awards and to view results a month at a time. I always start my searches there.
It’s important, though, to note several limitations:
- United will show results for United’s own flights which are not available to book via ANA.
- United won’t show some ANA award space that is available only to ANA’s own members.
- United will show award space for its partners that are not Star Alliance carriers (Hawaiian Airlines, for example). ANA will not be able to book these flights.
- The award pricing and taxes and fees shown on United are meaningless when booking through ANA.
Tips for using ANA’s award search
- Find the search tool: On ANA’s home page, click “ANA International and Partner Airline Flight Awards,” and then “Flight Award Reservations.” The system will prompt you to log in if you haven’t already. If you don’t have an ANA Mileage Club account create one (bonus tip when creating your account: It will ask you to create an AMC password. This can be any 4 digit number, but you need to remember it. It is used to verify yourself when you call ANA).
- You can’t search for individual one-way awards. Instead, use either the round-trip search or the “multiple cities / mixed class” search. Below are tips for when to use each…
- Round trip
- Allows searching 7 days at a time (make sure to check the box titled “Compare seat availability +/- 3 days.”
- Only searches the selected class of service (e.g. economy, business class, etc.). If there is availability in other classes, the system won’t tell you that.
- Can be used to estimate award taxes / fees for each segment. Do a round trip search with your segment of interest as the outbound, and try to find availability for both directions and on the same carrier. When you select the flights, ANA will show the total taxes and fees for the round-trip. Divide the result by two to get a very rough estimate of the cost of the segment that you’re interested in.
- Multiple cities / mixed class
- Shows results for all classes of service at once. This is very helpful since you may want to book some segments of your trip into economy if there’s more availability that way.
- Does not let you search 7 days at a time. If there’s no availability for the first segment on the date you entered you won’t get any results.
- Requires at least two segments.
- Won’t show taxes and fees unless you build a round-trip. Unless you design the segments to be a round-trip, you can’t get the system to price the award. Instead it will say “This service is not available for the specified itinerary. Please amend the flight criteria and try again.”