Tips for booking ANA’s Round the World award

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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.  In response, many readers offered up useful tips.  In this post, I’ll summarize the tips that apply to booking ANA’s Round the World awards (leaving out tips specific to my journey).

ANA’s Round the World Pricing and Rules

Before getting to our reader-inspired tips, here are the basic rules for booking these awards as found on ANA’s website:

ANA’s Round the World award chart. Add up the mileage of all flown segments (do not include open-jaws) to determine the distance band for the award. The columns labelled “Required Mileage” show the number of ANA miles that are required for that Round the World trip.
  • 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

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.

A reader named Will backed this up with additional observations:

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.

No holds allowed

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.

Book economy segment & later switch to business class

Assuming you’re booking a business class Round the World award, it’s often the case that a flight you want will have economy rather than business class award seats available.  Will tells us that you can gamble that business class will open up later: book the trip with that segment in economy class and later bump up the segment to business class when space opens up. ANA won’t charge any additional miles, but might charge additional taxes and fees if applicable.

This is a great tip because 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 business class award space may never appear for that particular flight.

This tip also applies to first class Round the World awards: you can book segments in economy or business class with the hopes of later upgrading to first class.

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.

Go west to reduce jet lag

Jetlagged on a train after flying east

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 (maybe)

Multiple people 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.

The question I have is whether ANA will count flying between Hawaii and the South Pacific or Asia as crossing the Pacific ocean (which is a requirement for Round the World awards).

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.  According to a reader going by “AS,” though, ANA calculates distances differently.  In AS’s experience, ANA calculated fewer miles flown than did Great Circle Mapper.

That said, Great Circle Mapper is a great tool for getting the ballpark distance measurements.

Don’t use ANA’s main call centers

Oldporkchops suggests calling into a smaller ANA call center:

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).

Fly airlines with low (or no) fuel surcharges

This one comes directly 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 fuel surcharges (on most routes)

  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air New Zealand
  • Avianca
  • Copa Airlines
  • Ethiopian
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) [see this post for details]
  • United Airlines

Star Alliance airlines with low fuel surcharges (on most routes)

  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • LOT Polish
  • Singapore Airlines
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)

Avoid these airlines with notoriously high fuel surcharges

  • Austrian
  • Lufthansa
  • Swiss Air
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Aditya

I want to do the RTW with ANA. Amex Plat’s 150k SUB is just enough for my RTW points 🙂
Doesn’t Star Alliance RTW planner give the actual RTW miles along with the price? Do we really need to use GCmap to estimate the miles?
Is there a group / social media to discuss RTW route planning and booking with points?
Thanks

Frank

I calculated nautical miles with the circle mapper tool and ANA’s calculation was 2000 miles more! Maybe use the circle mapper and add 10%? Have a plan for dropping a shorter connecting flight to get to a lower redemption level.

Frank

I included everything. ANA’s total had me several hundred miles into the next band (145k vs 125k) so I lopped off a short flight on one end that is easy to replace, but a bit of a bummer because I’ll have the dreaded split itinerary. On a positive note, I was initially quoted $30 higher in surcharges than it ultimately was. Super nice agents, used U.S. #, never had to wait.

Reader known as AS

Greg – thanks for the HTs. I wanted to clarify a couple of things.

  1. The GCmap is a fantastic way to get a ballpark idea of the miles that ANA will charge you. I don’t want to make it sound like ANA will deviate far from gcmap.com. However, I was charged 20K less by ANA than I thought I would be charge by gcmap.com, so it’s been a bit of a pain to get rid of these. But I’m not sure how you get around this issue.
  2. 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.
  3. Under the right circumstances you might be able to add another segment. I had a flight time change from CAI to FCO. So they let me change it to CAI-ATH-FCO. This was my ninth segment.

Feel free to ping me direct if you have questions.

L M

Good set of tips overall!
Saying this as someone who booked one of these (125K ANA miles in J) and flew most of it before the full brunt of the pandemic struck. Technically, I have yet to complete the RTW trip since I opted to stay in Europe while things calmed down and didn’t fly my last segments back to the US.

– I didn’t use the Star Alliance tool, but as mentioned in Nick’s post, used a combination of UA and ANA’s website. It’s a bit cumbersome going back and forth fiddling with dates to check availability but it works, sort of.
– 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.
– Be prepared to call back again if you have to rework part of the trip’s itinerary, but don’t wait too long, since the seats you were eyeing can get snatched away in the meantime, causing the process to repeat itself.
– As already pointed, you can call them up and change the date/time of flights without problem or additional cost, as long as there is inventory available, and you are flying the same segment with the same airline. I made use of that a couple of times both after booking and during the trip itself.
– When countries started closing their borders, ANA automatically rebooked me to accommodate the cancellation of my last segments (Europe to US, via Toronto). This was a rare instance where a change to the layover city/booked itinerary was allowed.
Later attempts to change the date of these flights and, because of lack of inventory due to most flights being grounded, connect through another city were not permitted. So, even in pandemic times, ANA stuck to the ‘not changing the itinerary’ rule.
I ended up cancelling these last 2 segments, and ANA refunded me a portion of the fees/surcharges and also the miles (about 1/5 of the 125K miles).

Totally looking forward to booking another one of these once things get back to normal; especially since, just like Greg, I now have a small stash of ANA miles I need to use up.

WR2

Starting my own RTW search, thanks for the inspiration!

I’m still seeing saver J award space on Asiana as far out as early next year. Given the pending merger with Korean Air, what are your thoughts on including an Asiana segment? On the one hand it could be good to lock it in before their likely *A exit, but on the other hand it may cause disruption to the itinerary later if they don’t honor it or wipe out their scheduled flights.

LarryInNYC

While the rules require you to book “Round the World”, this is a valuable program even if your primary goal isn’t a circumnavigation. ANA’s RTW price in miles is easily competitive with most programs US to Asia round trips, for instance. So consider adding a brief stop in Europe to your next Asia round trip and getting a great deal.

WR2

For those over-optimizers out there like me, maximum value is at exactly 22k miles. That’s where the ratio of spent miles to flown miles is the lowest (on the ANA J chart, didn’t check others bc it’s just about impossible to piece together RTW F anymore, and no desire to fly RTW in Y…yuck). At 22k you’re paying 5.68 ANA miles per mile flown. It’s possible on the chart (maybe not irl) to pay up to 15.7, so choosing the right itinerary and route length can make a big difference in value.

Last edited 1 year ago by WR2
Abby

Can this be done in First?

DSK

Confused- Scandinavian is listed as no fuel surcharge and SAS is listed as high fuel surcharge. Isn’t that the same airline?

Another Jeff

Not that one would want to burn ANA or it’s even economical points wise…but assuming Hawaii is ok you could go Hawaii> oceania> South east asia>open jaw for multiple months EU>east coast? Potentially throwing the EU segment away

Will

Hi Greg,

Excellent sum-up of the best tips. Couple of thoughts:

  1. Just wanted to strengthen the case that an open jaw between Hawaii and North America should be OK: The last RTW I booked and confirmed (booked Jan 2020, departure was supposed to be Oct 2020, LOL) had a gigantic open jaw between Hawaii and Orlando (which I of course covered with a United-via-Turkish booking thanks to being an FM reader). Perhaps a stray agent might see it differently, but I never seemed to have a problem when I ran multiple itineraries through the call center. Another reason to believe that it’s OK: Though a segment from Asia to Hawaii does not by itself cross the entire Pacific, it does get you from “Area 3” to “Area 1.” I have a feeling that many agents may view the Area transition as satisfying the ‘cross the Pacific’ requirement.
  2. Agreed that GC Mapper will use slightly different mileage calculations. I also was wondering what data source ANA is getting their numbers from.
  3. One other tip that seems noteworthy: You are also allowed to change the date of a segment without penalty, so long as the airports (and carrier?) remain the same. That can come in handy if you are booking a lower-class cabin on a certain segment, and then the cabin you want opens up on a flight on a slightly different date. Helps to mitigate the risk of getting stuck in economy.
  4. FWIW, I can add a few other data points that the agents have to do a lot of manual application of the rules, which makes for inconsistent results at times. (I was mostly calling the Japan call center.) For example: I ran 9 different itineraries through the call center trying to get a routing with reasonable surcharges, and with some almost identical itineraries, various agent would give different mileage totals. One agent calculated it so low that I actually would have been charged fewer miles! Once or twice, an agent came up with a number that bumped me up into the next tier, telling me I owed dozens more miles than I had calculated. In the end, I was able to walk through it with the agent, and they came back with the (almost) same amount of miles I expected. On the last booking I made, one agent (after initially accepting the itinerary and telling me to call back later for the fees) concluded that a Toronto-Mumbai segment did not cross the Atlantic Ocean. She was probably just looking at a flat map. I called back and asked them to look at it again using a tool like GC Mapper or similar, which would show the actual direct flight path. They accepted that and straightened it out. Bottom line, once you know the rules, don’t give up if the agents don’t see it your way at first.
Honolulu Lulu

If the flight path is over the North Pole – from Toronto to Mumbai – maybe it doesn’t actually cross the Atlantic Ocean 🙁

Al C

Nice tips. But I’m guessing for the foreseeable future, you’re going to need a <72 hr negative COVID test before entering any new country. That’s going to be a huge hassle when trying to fly around the world- visiting multiple different countries.

THEsocalledfan

European Union has a proposal to fully open to those vaccinated; that is where this is going. https://www.euronews.com/travel/2021/03/02/eu-plans-to-boost-summer-travel-with-its-proposal-for-a-digital-vaccine-passport

whocares

may that die in a dumpster fire.

DaveS

I sure hope so. It will soon be time to let vaccinated people have full access to many things, including international travel with proper documentation. It will be shown that we are of very low risk of getting COVID or of passing it on. If some people choose not to get vaccinated, they simply are choosing not to do those things, but we can’t keep everyone hostage to the virus. I do fear it will be a while, though, before those ANA round the world awards are a viable option for a good range of itineraries.

THEsocalledfan

Well said. Could not have said it better myself.

Al C

Even with the vaccination, you’ll still need a negative COVID test to enter these countries.