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There’s a 30% bonus on transfers from Amex to Virgin Atlantic right now and Virgin offers the cheapest US-Asia first class awards on their partner ANA.
So it seemed worth taking a look at ANA first class availability. And right now the Houston and Chicago routes especially have great availability beginning in 2019 through end of schedule.
This space is actually accessible using miles from a variety of programs — in the Star Alliance and through other airline partnerships as well. ANA offers one of the best and most consistent first class products in the world. It’s not as flashy as Emirates or Etihad, but the service and food are fantastic.
I’ve written a bit about availability on ANA the past several months, including on the Washington Dulles, Houston, and Chicago routes. New York space usually exists but isn’t quite as generous, same with Los Angeles, though the San Francisco Coast route can be tougher at times.
Here’s ANA first class availability for two passengers, Houston – Tokyo, in April:
Booking ANA first class awards:
- Roundtrip first class between the US and Japan on ANA for 110,000 – 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles From the West Coast it’s just 110,000 miles for first class (90,000 in business class).
You can put the award on hold for 24 hours. Points transfer from partners instantly. Roundtrip travel is required, Virgin Atlantic awards have a $50 per passenger change fee, and a cancel/redeposit fee of $50 as well. No changes are permitted within 24 hours of travel.
- United on the other hand charges 110,000 miles each way.
- Aeroplan charges 105,000 miles each way.
- Avianca LifeMiles charges 90,000 miles each way.
With United, Aeroplan, or LifeMiles you can easily add ANA connecting flights beyond Japan to destinations throughout much of Asia albeit for additional miles if your destination is in South Asia.
Notably Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to United — or to Virgin Atlantic. Chase’s annual fee Ultimate Rewards cards transfer to miles, for instance:
- Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card has the best signup bonus — 80,000 point signup bonus after $5000 spend within 3 months. That can even be enough for a roundtrip business class award ticket between the US and Europe.
It earns 3 points per dollar on travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and 3 points per dollar on shipping and advertising on social media and search engines, so great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google. It also comes with $600 protection against theft or damage when you use it to buy your cell phone.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
The card earns two points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The card has an introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95. I suggest it as the number on card to get started with in miles and points. Get Sapphire Reserve later, perhaps, the card’s annual fee makes this the one to get first.
American Express points transfer to Aeroplan or to Virgin Atlantic. And Citibank points transfer to Virgin Atlantic as well.
For the Chicago and Houston flights (as well as San Francisco) you even get access to United’s Polaris lounge prior to departure. And I’m just a huge fan of ANA’s first class meal service onboard.
United Polaris Lounge Chicago O’Hare
I consider ANA first class to be a top 10 product, notably it’s not Singapore, Etihad or Emirates first but it’s a great way to get between the US and Asia.