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Via Travel is Free, it seems that ANA has some pretty big award chart changes coming for us. So far the changes are just written in Japanese, so I am going off some very basic Google Translate features here with this interpretation. For example, Professor Google has taught me that ビジネスクラス means “business class” in Japanese, and that was enough to tell me that North America – Europe will be 72,000 miles round trip in business class, which was enough to get my attention. However, there are going to be holes in my Japanese translation abilities since Google Translate is far from perfect, and I am very much lacking basic comprehension skills in Japanese.
First things first, ANA is a Japan based Star Alliance airline that is an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, so you need to care about these award chart changes even if you don’t know Japanese any better than I do. In fact, the current distance based ANA award chart offers some of my very favorite award chart sweet spots. These sweet spots will be changing pretty dramatically when they move to a zone based award chart, but new sweet spots will emerge so isn’t all bad news.
Here is the current ANA award chart:
Domestic flights start at just 20,000 miles round trip on the current award chart (with up to four stopovers!) and you can fly from NYC – Western Europe starting at 43,000 miles round trip in economy, 68,000 miles round trip in business class, or 100,000 miles round trip in first class on Star Alliance partner airlines (like United). However, if you live on the West Coast, those Europe flights will cost you more since that are considerably longer distance. For example, SFO – Frankfurt – SFO is over 11,000 miles in distance, so would cost 60,000 miles in economy, 90,000 miles in business class, and 140,000 miles in first class.
Via the new award chart, all of the contiguous United States appears like it will be treated equally in the same zone. This means that in terms of Europe, the East Coast will pay a little bit more and the middle of the country and the West Coast will pay less. Looking just at prices to Europe is a simplistic view, but it gives a good example of distance based vs. zone pricing.
New ANA award chart as of April 2015:
Ignore the Japanese unless you are more gifted in different languages than I am, but note the Zones over the various regions. Also, once you know the zones as Google translated for me below, this award chart with mileage prices will make a lot more sense. Thankfully, numbers translate just fine without Google assistance.
Zone 1: Japan
Zone 2: South Korea
Zone 3: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Manila, Guam
Zone 4: Other Asia
Zone 5: Hawaii
Zone 6: North America, Alaska, Canada, Mexico
Zone 7: Europe, Russia
Zone 8: Africa and the Middle East
Zone 9: Central and South America
Zone 10: Oceania and Micronesia
Winners and Losers via new ANA Chart:
The biggest award chart winners I see for many of us are United States to Europe or Australia. There are other good prices as well, but those are two routes that are pretty popular for award redemptions. In business class, US – Australia would be 105,000 miles round trip. Business class would be 72,000 miles round trip US – Europe. The US – Europe on Star Alliance partner United is 140,000 miles in business class on Star Alliance partners, so clearly the ANA award chart offers a much better mileage price, but…
ANA charges fuel surcharges on most awards, so the lower mileage cost will often come at the expense of a sometimes hefty fuel surcharge. These fuel surcharges can run $500 or more on an award ticket, but they can also be much more minimal. ANA does not let you price out the fuel surcharges/taxes on an award unless you have enough miles in your account to book the award, so I can’t give you up-to-date amounts directly from ANA, but I can tell you that flying on Trans-Atlantic United operated flights will result in very minimal cash outlay on top of the mileage price. The best resources I have found for getting an idea for taxes and fuel surcharges on top of ANA mileage prices is via this post by The Points Guy.
These fuel surcharges are not new for ANA, but they are not an issue when you use ANA miles to fly United in the United States, Canada, Caribbean, etc. as is often very lucrative via their current distance based award chart. You will still be able to use ANA miles to fly domestically, but at a price of 25,000 miles per round trip, and with just one stopover, instead of the previously allowed four.
On the whole, the award chart changes could be much worse, but I think most of us who like to travel with family on miles with minimal cash outlay likely had more opportunities via the current ANA award chart than the one that appears like it is on its way in April 2015.
If you want to see a more detailed breakdown, I recommend checking out this post by Travel is Free. He seems to be much more excited about the award chart changes than I am. I don’t think it is horrible, and it will potentially open up some new sweet spots, but the current award chart where you can get to the Caribbean and back for just 22,000 miles and no fuel surcharges is more my speed, and I plan to keep using it as long as it sticks around!