Flying in First Class can be one of the most spectacular uses of your miles, but also tends to be some of the most difficult awards to book. That’s precisely why we at Prince of Travel endeavour to empower you to fly in the best products at the lowest cost.
Previous editions of this guide covered the booking strategies for Lufthansa First Class and Japan Airlines First Class, and today we’ll have a look at how to go about securing an ANA First Class seat with your name on it.
The ANA First Class Experience
ANA First Class is one of the world’s best, featuring warm and personalized service, the most expensive whiskey in the air, and extremely private rectangular suites – almost to a fault, since it’s so private that you can’t easily see your travel companions.
By all accounts, the onboard catering is also industry-leading, although I personally didn’t get to sample the full dining experience when I flew ANA First Class in 2018, as I had travelled aboard an overnight flight with a reduced menu.
- 1 of 4
- 2 of 4
- 3 of 4
- 4 of 4
In 2019, ANA also refreshed its First Class cabin on specific routes, where it offers its flagship product: The Suite, a cutting-edge, world-class First Class product by all measures.
You’ll have an entire suite to yourself, complete with a 42-inch entertainment system and incredible food and drink.
ANA operates the updated aircraft to New York JFK, London, and Frankfurt, although not on every scheduled flight – and occasionally on other routes like San Francisco or Los Angeles as well.
You can ascertain whether or not you will fly on a new cabin by searching on ExpertFlyer for the business class seat chart.
If there are 20 rows, you’re in luck, whereas if there are 17 or 21 rows, you’ll be seated on the older (but still perfectly acceptable) First Class product.
If you’re departing from Tokyo, or if you’re connecting onwards to other destinations with a layover in the Japanese capital, you won’t want to miss the ANA Suite Lounge at either Haneda or Narita Airports.
The noodle bar in these lounges is a particular highlight – it was so good that I went back for three or four portions during my visit.
- 1 of 2
- 2 of 2
Which Routes Offer ANA First Class?
The first step to booking a First Class trip of any kind is to ascertain which routes actually offer it. That’s particularly true nowadays as airlines are drastically cutting down on the number of routes that offer First Class, having determined that business class tends to represent the sweet spot in terms of profitability.
Currently, ANA only operates First Class onboard the Boeing 777-300ER and, on a single route to Hawaii, the Airbus A380. ANA First Class is offered to the following destinations from Tokyo:
Flights to/from Tokyo Narita
Flights to/from Tokyo Haneda
For North American travellers, the good news is that there are a number of routes to/from the US that offer First Class.
In particular, Chicago, New York JFK, and Los Angeles all have multiple frequencies a day to either Narita or Haneda, increasing your likelihood of nabbing a coveted award seat over any given period.
You’ll want to keep an eye on the scheduled flight times, as an overnight departure in either direction may hinder your experience due to ANA’s limited menu offerings on late-night departures.
If you’re paying a premium in points to fly ANA First Class, you’ll certainly want to ensure that you can maximize as many waking hours as possible.
How Many Points Does ANA First Class Cost?
There are a variety of ways to book ANA First Class using points, each with a few trade-offs to consider.
For Canadians, the easiest way to book ANA First Class is by redeeming Aeroplan points on its Japan-based Star Alliance partner.
Flights between North America and Japan are subject to the North America–Pacific chart. With the exception of the route to Honolulu, all other routes to North America fall into the second distance band.
As most destinations fall in the second distance band, a flight in First Class would cost 110,000 Aeroplan points. Most Canadians will be able to connect to an American hub city to catch one of these flights without crossing over to the third distance band.
Both of ANA’s flagship flights to Europe also fall under the second distance band of the Pacific–Atlantic chart, meaning that a flight between Tokyo and London or Frankfurt would cost 100,000 points.
Given the exorbitant mileage cost, it can often be hard to justify booking a First Class award on both the outbound and return on your trip, which is why I typically make First Class redemptions on a one-way basis. To maximize the experience, you could consider adding a stopover in Japan for 5,000 Aeroplan points, and then continuing onward to your destination.
If you’d like to combine ANA First Class with Lufthansa First Class, you could consider an advanced maneuver and combine a flight from North America to Frankfurt and then onward to Japan. While you’d be subject to 130,000–140,000 points, you’d be sure to have an incredible ground and in-flight experience.
Of course, given Aeroplan’s vast partner network among the Star Alliance, you can incorporate ANA First Class into a wider trip around the world, whether that’s to Europe, Australia, or the Middle East – just keep in mind that you’d have to pay the full First Class mileage cost for that region.
As a reminder, you can easily rack up Aeroplan points by signing up for the American Express Membership Rewards credit cards and transferring miles at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan. Only one or two credit card applications should give you enough miles to book ANA First Class, so it’s a luxurious flight experience that’s well within reach for anyone hoping to attain it.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
A few other frequent flyer programs – including ANA’s own program, Mileage Club – might charge a lower amount of miles for ANA First Class redemptions, but those miles wouldn’t be quite as easy to earn here in Canada. There is, however, one program you might want to look at in more detail, and that’s Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
Virgin Atlantic partners with ANA and offers an incredible award chart that allows you to book First Class starting at 110,000 miles for a round-trip. That’s pure insanity when you crunch the numbers – after all, Aeroplan charges 110,000 points for a one-way!
In 2021, this sweet spot became even sweeter, when it became possible to redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club for one-way bookings with ANA. Flights from the Western United States cost only 55,000 miles, and flights from the Eastern United States cost only 60,000 miles.
There are a few downsides to the Virgin Atlantic option to keep in mind:
- Earning miles is relatively difficult for Canadians, with your options being limited to dabbling in US credit cards or transferring Marriott Bonvoy points at the optimal ratio of 60,000:25,000.
You also can’t book any added connections without paying more miles for those segments individually, so the ideal scenario here is to book a “pure” round-trip to Japan from the US gateway city of your choice. This also means that if you were originating in Canada, you’d need to pay a little extra in order to position yourself to said US city.
If you’re interested in flying to Japan in style, there’s a strong argument to be made that it’s worthwhile getting into US credit cards for the specific purpose of taking advantage of this sweet spot, since US-issued Amex MR points can be transferred to Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio.
To sweeten the deal even further, the Amex MR program on the US side regularly puts on 30% transfer promotions for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, meaning that you can often snag an ANA First award for as low as 43,000 US-issued MR points!
ANA First Class Availability: Somewhat Unpredictable
Once you’ve got the miles in your account, it’s time to hunt for availability and book the award.
ANA’s partners should all be able to see the same availability across the board, so if you’re booking with Virgin miles, for example, you can still use the Aeroplan search engine to look for space.
Availability on ANA First Class tends to be reasonable if you’re looking for one passenger. As with most hotly-contested awards, you want to book as far advance as possible in order to secure your desired seats. But given how many North American cities ANA serves, you should be able to locate space if you’re flexible among gateway cities and departure dates.
Two passengers is rare, but possible as well. Ideally, you’d need to look as far out in advance as possible and be extremely flexible in terms of your travel date to snag two ANA First Class seats on the same flight.
Many airlines employ a practice of releasing unsold seats as last-minute awards in the lead-up to the departure date, although I haven’t found that to be particularly the case with ANA.
The airline’s modus operandi seems to be that only a fixed number of First Class award seats are released at the start of the schedule, and only occasionally do any more get made available later on – and even when they do, it’s on quite a random and unpredictable schedule.
Therefore, the strategy for finding availability on ANA First Class is simple: look 9–12 months in advance and maintain some degree of flexibility, and you’ll have the best odds of finding something that works for you.
Logistics of Booking ANA First Class
Booking ANA First Class awards through Aeroplan is relatively straightforward, and corresponds with how you’d book any other award.
If you have in mind a simple itinerary involving ANA First Class, you might be able to book it online by entering the origin and destination of your desired itinerary and hoping it shows up among the results. Otherwise, you’ll have to work with the Aeroplan call centre, incurring a phone booking fee of $30 plus tax.
(If you book online and then call Aeroplan to make a change, you can take advantage of the generous free change policy, although it’s unlikely that it will continue indefinitely as it has since the onset of the pandemic.)
If you’ve gone down the Virgin Atlantic route, the bad news is that you can’t book ANA awards online at all, but the good news is that the Virgin call centre is quite impressive and a real pleasure to deal with.
You don’t even need to transfer miles beforehand, since they can place holds on awards for up to 48 hours, and you can enjoy the rare privilege of only transferring miles into the program once you’ve secured your desired award seats.
If you’d rather not call in, you can also make a booking with Virgin Atlantic through their WhatsApp chat service, although be warned that response times may be quite slow and your coveted First Class award seat may be snapped up by someone else while you’re waiting!
Redeeming miles for ANA First Class comes with a few challenges – in particular, the mileage cost through Aeroplan is relatively high, and the limited and unpredictable award space means it’s in your best interest to book as far in advance as possible.
Given enough flexibility, though, ANA’s comprehensive Boeing 777 route network in the US should give you plenty of options to work with, and you’ll find yourself sipping on Hibiki 21 over the Pacific Ocean no time.