Great Use of Amex (or Starwood) Points: Booking Awards on Virgin Atlantic Through Their Partner All Nippon

Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program adds some extortionate taxes and fees, not unlike the British Airways program. Expect to pay about $550 from the US to London and back in a premium cabin.

Fortunately, All Nippon’s program is often less expensive in terms of miles and for some reason they don’t add fuel surcharges onto awards using their partner Virgin Atlantic. So taxes are a more reasonable ~ $275.

I don’t really understand why this is the case. ANA hits redemption bookings on their own metal and on Star Alliance partners with fuel surcharges. Why not Virgin bookings? I really don’t know, but I’ll take it.

The ANA website doesn’t show Virgin award availability. It lists Virgin flights as ‘on request.’ You put the request in on the website, then a couple of minutes later it’ll show up as confirmed if the flights are available. I just did my research on the Virgin Atlantic website, found the available award seats that I wanted there, and then requested those specific flights via the ANA site. Request confirmed quickly.

I just wish that American Express points transferred to ANA instantly instead of taking a couple of days. Could have avoided the fuel surcharges by booking the seats through Continetnal, of course, and miles transfer instantly to Continental (at least until the partnership between Amex and Continental ends in a year!). But Continental wants 105,000 miles for roundtrip business class, compared to 68,000 for an ANA-issued award from Washington-Dulles to London and back. (Virgin’s chart requires 90,000.)

So… because I like saving 37,000 miles per ticket… I transferred to ANA and held my breath that the seats I wanted would still be there in a couple of days. They were.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yeash – its a good tip that I’ve seen published elsewhere. Virgin are far better than Continental for flights where they overlap, would always choose them.

    If you have the Virgin Black Amex in US you do get 1.5miles/$spent however, against 1mile/$1 for Starwood or Amex, so thats 50% extra miles, which more than covers the difference. But… Transfer in the right quantities, and you get a 25% bonus from Starwood, which closes the gap, then factors in that $275 saving in fuel charge, and its worth it for sure.

    Wish I flew ANA more to help the whole thing along.

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