Thank you for waiting. I’m so sorry. ANA is releasing a lot of first class award space. I’m so sorry.
ANA first class is fantastic
There aren’t many things that make me smile more than the service culture in Japan. And ANA encompasses just about everything I love about the Japanese service culture. I love ANA first class.
They have a fantastic product.
Awesome amenities (including Rimowa amenity kits!).
An onboard bidet-style toilet (one of the coolest airplane amenities, if you ask me). 😉
And perhaps most importantly, ridiculously good service. ANA is the only airline where I’ve been given a new set of pajamas upon our descent after I changed out of the ones I was wearing the whole flight… along with an apology. I’m not sure which was crazier — that, or on Japan Airlines, when I received an apology for a complimentary upgrade to first class.
Anyway, for the past several years ANA has been quite stingy when it comes to releasing first class award space. They’ve mostly released space:
- For travel between January and March, in the off season
- Last minute, usually within a week or two of departure
That’s a stark contrast to ~2008, when they used to release space more consistently. With the economy improved, airlines as profitable as ever, and record load factors, that’s not something you’d expect to change.
ANA is releasing a lot of first class award space!
For reasons I can’t explain, there’s a really good amount of ANA first class award space, and not just last minute or for travel in January through March.
I’m seeing excellent ANA first class award space across the board. Just pulling up some random dates, let’s look at availability next June. These are totally random dates, and I’ve found them to be fairly representative of overall award availability.
Per the ANA award search tool, here’s what first class award availability looks like between New York and Tokyo:
And between Los Angeles and Tokyo:
And between Chicago and Tokyo:
And between San Francisco and Tokyo:
And between Washington and Tokyo:
As you can see, on average about half of dates have award space, which is possibly the most ANA award space I’ve ever seen. A couple of things to note:
- If you have the choice, you’ll want to book a flight coded as a “77W” and not a “777.” The 77Ws feature the new first class product, while the 777s feature the old first class product (which is still very good). In other words, if possible avoid the second daily Chicago flight and the Washington Dulles flight.
- Availability isn’t amazing for two passengers. Most space seems to be just for one person, though I am seeing a fair amount of first class for two people with some flexibility.
How to redeem miles for ANA first class
As a refresher, award redemption rates for some of the most popular partner airlines are as follows, one-way:
- Air Canada Aeroplan between the US and Asia 1 — 105,000 miles
- Avianca LifeMiles between the US and North Asia — 75,000 miles
- United MileagePlus between the US and Japan — 110,000 miles
However, this is a case where ANA’s Mileage Club program can be quite lucrative (and they’re partners with American Express Membership Rewards as well). They have a distance based award chart, as follows:
- Roundtrip first class between Los Angeles or San Francisco and Tokyo would cost 110,000 miles
- Roundtrip first class between Chicago, New York, or Washington, and Tokyo would cost 120,000 miles
If you book through ANA or Air Canada Aeroplan, there would be fuel surcharges totaling $580 roundtrip.
So if you have the choice I’d definitely book either through ANA’s Mileage Club program or through Avianca’s LifeMiles program. If booking through the latter, be sure to do so before October 15, 2014, since they’re devaluing their award chart then. As of October 15, 2014, that same award will cost 90,000 miles one-way.
Earlier I wrote about how Air China is releasing a lot of first class award space out of New York. That can be practical, though isn’t aspirational. In other words, I would fly Air China first class if I really valued a direct flight, and not because I really want to fly Air China first class.
This is different. ANA first class is one of the world’s best first class products, so I’d go out of my way to book ANA first class while it’s still available. It’s arguably among the best first class products in the world.
(Tip of the hat to MEOW)