If you would have told me 3 years ago that I’d be flying First Class to Tokyo, I would have told you that you were crazy.
But that was all before I learned about the crazy points world and Credit Card Reward Points
My love for the game continues to grow, and with that, we have slowly advanced our style of trips we are taking. We got a slight taste of business class when we flew home from Galapagos Islands.
Having a freshly broken leg in 5 places though, I did not enjoy my lay-flat seats one bit. It was a pretty rough flight of constant pain.
Anyway, I’ve always dreamed of flying first class. Always hoping I would get a free upgrade. But life doesn’t always work like that and you typically have to W-O-R-K for it.
Now, that work can be as simple as earning a few airline miles!
In the points world, we heard of a deal about flying First class ROUND TRIP for only 120,000 airline miles with Virgin Atlantic.
There are a few ways to earn the points with Virgin Atlantic, which I will go over in a bit. But first, let me breakdown how this works.
When booking award flights with your airline miles and points, you usually have two options. One is to book direct with the points/miles you are using. Two is to transfer these points to other partner companies.
For example: Chase Ultimate Rewards has a portal that you can book flights/hotels/cars and other activities.
You can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points to a MULTITUDE of airlines/hotels. This includes Southwest, United, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, IHG, and more! You can see the full list when logging into your Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal and clicking “Transfer to Partners”.
When transferring points, just because you transfer them to one company, does not mean you have to actually fly on that carrier.
For example: You can book a flight using Virgin Atlantic miles for a flight on All Nippon Airways.
The reason we utilize these tricks is that the points value can be wayyy less than booking directly with the main company.
A one-way flight on United’s website in Business or First Class will cost you 80,000 – 110,000 United Miles. But with our travel tips, we are going to be paying that amount for a ROUND TRIP flight
To book this deal, you have to use Virgin Atlantic Points, but book the flight as an ANA flight.
Easy enough, right?
Now, I’m going to throw one tiny wrench into this.
Searching on Virgin Atlantic or ANA’s website to find award availability is not easy. Luckily, we don’t even have to look on their website to find availability.
Enter Airline Partnerships
Virgin Atlantic, United, and ANA airlines happen to be Star Alliance Partners.
Star Alliance happens to be one of the Worlds Largest Global Airline Alliances.
Simply put, you can book a flight on United’s website, but fly on United, as well as many other airlines, including All Nippon Airways.
What this also means, is you can search other airlines websites to find award availability easier.
Enter airline number THREE into the picture.
United has a pretty simple to use the website to search for award availability. You can also see what airline you are flying, which makes it super simple to pinpoint the ANA flights. After you find dates that work for you, you then book with Virgin Atlantic to get a cheaper fare.
Okay, so now that I gave you a quick rundown, let’s go over the simple steps to break this out further.
Steps to booking a Round Trip Ticket with Virgin Atlantic
Step 1: Get points.
Virgin Atlantic flights can be booked by transferring points from various points cards. There are a few types of points you can transfer. You can simply pick your poison here on the flexibility of where your points come from.
For us, we used mostly Citi ThankYou Points and threw in a few Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
Citi ThankYou Points-
These points come with a Citi ThankYou Credit Card. Typically you will get about 50,000 Thank You points after spending $4,000 amount in 3 months.
Other Citi cards you can get for some Thank You points:
- Citi ThankYou Prestige
- Citi ThankYou Premier
Every so often Citi ThankYou Points offers a 30% Transfer bonus for transferring your points over to Virgin Atlantic.
Instead of a 1:1 ratio, it is a 1:1.3 ratio during these promotions. So for 1,000 Thank You points, you’d get 1,300 Virgin Atlantic Points!
Knowing we were most likely going to be booking flights to Japan, and a 30% bonus ending on June 15th, Dave & I jumped on the chance to transfer some points to get a bonus. I transferred over 75,000 of my Citi ThankYou points to get 97,500 Virgin Atlantic Points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points are some of our FAVORITE points to earn. They are super versatile and can be transferred to a multitude of partners.
You can also transfer these to Virgin Atlantic as a 1:1 ratio.
There are also a TON of ways to earn the Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. Credit Cards include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Business Ink Preferred
- Chase Freedom Flex
- Chase Freedom Unlimited
Two cards you can get the best bang for your buck for sign up bonuses:
$550 Annual Fee
$95 Annual Fee
One thing to note is that you need to make sure with all rewards programs, you have your name the same on all of them. Dave’s name on his Chase account was just his first and last name, and did not include Jr. But, when he signed up for Virgin Atlantic, it included the Jr. So we had to call to transfer the points. Which isn’t a big deal, but it is easier/faster to transfer online without having to call in.
American Express has a rewards program called Membership Rewards. Their current Platinum card comes with the below offer:
$695 annual fee (Rates & Fees
Other cards to earn MR points:
$295 Annual Fee (Rates & Fees).
AMEX recently had a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic as well. So again, instead of 1,000 Virgin Atlantic points for 1,00 AMEX MR points, you’d get 1,300 Virgin Atlantic points for 1,000 AMEX MR points!
If you didn’t have enough of any one points, you could always do a combination of the three as we did. They all would go to your Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account.
Now while you are waiting to get your bonuses, be sure to sign up for the below three rewards programs if you have not already. This will just make it faster when you are actually searching and booking with the points.
- United MileagePlus
- Virgin Atlantic
- All Nippon Airways
Be sure to write down your user ID and account number/IDs.
We like to keep a google sheet as we can have access to it no matter where we are.
Here is an example of our spreadsheet. We like to keep both on one for easier accessibility to book flights/hotels. You can create your own copy by clicking “File, Make a Copy”. Then you can edit and add/remove whatever columns you need.
Step 2: Find availability
After you have the points, now is the time to find availability.
As a quick recap:
- You are looking to fly on an ANA flight.
- You are booking using Virgin Atlantic Points.
- BUT to find availability on the flight, you are going to be using United.com’s website.
Start by going to United’s website and click on “advanced search”.
You need to search one route at a time. You can search for both Tokyo airports by using TYO. The below routes are what you can search for availability.
- HNL to TYO
- IAD to TYO
- IAH to TYO
- JFK to TYO
- ORD to TYO
- LAX to TYO
- SEA to TYO
- SFO to TYO
What to fill out:
- Be sure to click “Yes” for using MileagePlus Award Ticket
- One way Ticket
- Check “My dates are flexible”
Leave everything else and click Search at the bottom.
The next screen will pop up with a calendar like dates for two months. The 3 dots mean that there is Business or First class seats available. Click on a date on the calendar to get a breakdown of the flights available.
You have to find the ones that say “Flight operated by All Nippon Airways” and a “Business Saver Award.”
So in the example below I found on August 18th, 2019 there are 4 seats available for All Nippon Airways in Business class.
I would write down a few flight options for dates to see what works best for you.
You also need to find return flights. Again, write down a few to be safe.
Note- you will need to find ROUND TRIP flights for booking. You cannot book one-way flights with Virgin Atlantic.
Step 3: Hold the flights!
Once you find the roundtrip flights you want, call Virgin Atlantic to “hold” your flights. This enables you to transfer your points without it getting taken!
US Virgin Atlantic Phone Number: +1 800 862 8621
They are open 24/7. I found if I called at like 2 am, there were no wait times.
Other phone numbers if you need are located here on their website.
Virgin Atlantic is wonderful to talk to and super easy to book.
You can even TEXT them, which is pretty cool! Probably easier to call, I haven’t tried texting to hold flights.
Remember to have your routes ready.
Even have a backup in mind just in case.
Tell them you are looking for availability on flights and give them the flights you found wrote down.
Once they do, they will place a “hold” on the flights and give you a confirmation number. They will give you the points price as well as how much the taxes will cost.
Again, be sure to have ROUND TRIP flights ready as they will not just hold one leg.
Note: They will only hold flights for 48 hours. Sometimes up to 72, but they told me they can be released after 48 hours. I wouldn’t play around with this if its a flight you really want to book!
Be sure to write down the confirmation number they give you to hold the flights!
Step 4: Transfer those points!
Since you already created accounts, this part is easy.
Log into whatever portal it is you have the points.
There should be a spot to transfer the points. If you are doing a 1:1 transfer, transfer whatever amount you need.
If its a 1 to 1:3 transfer, I’d figure out how many points you need so you can only transfer what you need. (You cannot transfer back to the original form. So once you transfer to Virgin Atlantic, you cannot transfer back to UR, Thank you or MR points.)
Usually, you can just transfer the points online quickly!
Log into your Virgin Atlantic account and verify the points posted.
Step 5: Complete the booking!
Give your friends Virgin Atlantic a callback. Reference the confirmation number they previously gave you. They will then get your credit card details and book your flights!
I always like to log in and make sure my flights are thereafter they are booked. Here is what we originally booked below.
And there you have it!
A simplified broken down version of how to book ANA flights using Virgin Atlantic Miles.
So you booked your flights, but now maybe you have to make a change on your flight? Decide to stay longer, or find availability on a flight that works better for you?
Virgin Atlantic lets you change your flights for a $50 fee, and whatever points difference there may be (if switching flight class).
To change the flights, it is simple!
Find availability like in Step 2 for the flight you want to change to.
Call Virgin Atlantic with your confirmation number ready to change the flights.
Change the flights.
Tip Sheet for rules to booking an ANA flight with Virgin Atlantic:
- Must book Round Trip Fares.
- Can ‘mix and match’ class of flights. So you can fly First one way and Business the return. Doing so they will take half the point values for each booking.
- Ex: Lets say you book First Class One way which would typically be 120,000 round trip VA points, and Economy the way home which is typically round trip 65,000 points. They would take half the value of each. So 60,000 and 32,500 for a total of 92,500 points. Typically an airline like United would charge 80,000 or MORE for ONE WAY in first class. This sweet spot basically gets you buy one get one free for First or Business.
- Flights can be booked about 355 days in advance
- You can change an award booking as long as it is 48 hours prior to take-off. You will be charged a $50 fee per person as well as the points and tax difference if there is any.
- In the example above- you book one way First Class and the other way on economy for 92,500 points.
- Now you found a business class seat available.
- The good news is you can ‘upgrade’ it for the points difference! So since business class seats are 95,000, they will take half of that (47,500), and minus what you already paid (32,500) so you will owe another 15,000 points.
Once you start searching and finding availability, you will be able to piece it all together quite easily. It didn’t take me long to actually find the flights and book. The process is super easy if you just follow along!
If you want to check out the flights we booked for a last-minute trip to Japan, check it out here! We would have spent over $41,000 on our trip flying First & Business class round trip!
Have you flown the coveted ANA First Class flights before? Drop us a comment on what your favorite is!
Want to start your own Basic Travel Journey? Check out the articles below to get started!