Virgin Atlantic Flying Club No-Notice Devaluation of ANA First Class Awards Virgin Atlantic Flying Club No-Notice Devaluation of ANA First Class Awards

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club No-Notice Devaluation of ANA First Class Awards

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We figured it would happen sooner or later. One of the sweetest sweet spots in the points and miles world was bound to be devalued eventually. And today it happened: Virgin Atlantic Flying Club just increased ANA First Class award rates by up to 42%.

Without notice, the best way to book ANA first class just got a lot more expensive. Yet — as a sign of just how good of a deal this sweet spot was — Virgin Atlantic Flying Club likely is still going to be your best option for booking ANA first class awards.

Let's dig into the changes and what they mean for award travelers going forward.

The Bad News

Flying Club increases ANA First Class award rates by up to 42%

Obviously, the worst part of these changes is that Flying Club increased the award rates for ANA First Class awards. Affected routes include all U.S. routes as well as ANA's route to London.

Technically, this change also affects awards to Europe, Canada, Mexico, Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. However, ANA doesn't currently operate first-class flights to any of these countries.

For years, Virgin Atlantic has used a region-based award chart for award flights on ANA. Although Virgin Atlantic now uses a distance-based award chart for most partners, it seems to be sticking with a region-based chart for ANA awards — at least for now.

So, the “only” thing that's changed is the award rates. For reference, here are the prior rates:

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award chart for ANA awards before March 7, 2023.
Previous Flying Club award chart for ANA awards. Prices listed are for round-trip awards.

And here's what the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award chart currently reads for ANA awards:

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club award chart for ANA awards effective March 7, 2023.
New Flying Club award chart for ANA awards. Prices listed are for round-trip awards.

We will save you from squinting to find the differences. Here's a recap of what's changed:

Between Japan and...Prior Award Rates
New Award Rates
% Increase
Malaysia / Myanmar / Singapore / Thailand / Vietnam40,000 points52,500 points31%
Hawaii / India / Indonesia45,000 points57,500 points28%
Western USA / Australia / Canada55,000 points72,500 points32%
Central & Eastern USA / Europe / Mexico60,000 points85,000 points42%

Still no online booking option

Besides finding award availability, one of the main frustrations of booking ANA awards through Flying Club is having to call to book awards through a Virgin Atlantic agent. And that's especially true as phone wait times at Virgin Atlantic can stretch for hours.

When Virgin Atlantic joined SkyTeam this week, it immediately added online award booking for many of its new SkyTeam partners. So, we were hopeful that Virgin Atlantic would also add the ability to book ANA awards online. Alas, ANA awards still aren't bookable on Virgin Atlantic's website.

Virgin Atlantic gave no advance notice of this change

Unfortunately, award chart changes are par for the course in the points and miles ecosystem. However, when loyalty programs are set to make a change, it's nice for them to give travelers advanced notice so we can plan accordingly.

For example, Hyatt is increasing award rates at 214 properties on March 28, and Etihad announced that it will overhaul its sweet-spot-packed award chart on March 10. Travelers still have time to take advantage of sweet spots in both programs before changes take effect.

Providing advanced notice shows loyalty to travelers. So, it's a bad sign is that Virgin Atlantic made this change without telling travelers ahead of time.

The Good News

No changes to ANA business class award rates

In today's change, Flying Club didn't increase the award rates for ANA business class. That means you can still book ANA business class — including the top-tier “The Room” — between Japan and the U.S. at the following rates:

  • Honolulu for 35,000 Virgin points each way.
  • Western U.S. for 45,000 Virgin points each way.
  • Eastern and Central U.S. for 47,500 Virgin points each way.

However, I'd recommend booking these awards soon if you want to take advantage of this sweet spot. After all, Virgin Atlantic proved today that it won't necessarily give advanced notice of award chart changes.

One-way ANA First Class awards are still an option

In April 2021, Virgin Atlantic began allowing travelers to book one-way awards on ANA. This meant that award travelers no longer needed to find both outbound and return award availability to book an award. Instead, we could jump on booking a one-way award when availability popped up.

One silver lining in today's Flying Club award chart changes is that travelers can still book one-way awards. As stated on the ANA partner page:

One-way trips are permitted at half of the round-trip mileage shown below.

To help compare apples-to-apples, we will continue to reference one-way award prices.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club may still be the best option

Usually jacking up award rates by up to 42% would turn a sweet spot into a dud. But, this sweet spot was so sweet that Flying Club could still be your best option for booking ANA first class awards.

ANA Mileage Club might provide a cheaper award rate — depending on the season and your route. Low and regular-season awards between the U.S. and Japan cost 150,000 miles round-trip vs. 170,000 Virgin points round-trip for flights to Central/Eastern U.S.

However, ANA Mileage Club doesn't give travelers the option to book one-way awards. And you'll likely struggle to find round-trip award availability.

Air Canada Aeroplan charges 90,000 Aeroplan points for ANA first class between Honolulu and Tokyo or 110,000 Aeroplan points each way from the mainland U.S.

United MileagePlus charges 121,000 United miles each way for ANA first-class award flights — or even higher within a couple of weeks of departure.

Ways of Accumulating Virgin Points

Still interested in flying ANA business or first class? In addition to still being one of the best ways to book ANA awards, Virgin points are some of the easiest points to accumulate. Flying Club is a transfer partner of practically every transferrable points program.

Transfers to almost all programs are 1:1 — meaning you'll get 1 Virgin point per bank point transferred:

Even better, two ongoing transfer bonuses can help reduce the sting of the award chart increase. Now through March 18, you can transfer Citi ThankYou points to Flying Club with a 30% transfer bonus. And now through March 30, get a 30% transfer bonus when you transfer Capital One miles to Virgin Red — which you'll need to link to your Flying Club account to use for flights.

During these transfer bonuses, you can transfer just 56k Citi ThankYou points or Capital One miles to have enough Virgin points to book ANA first class one-way between the western U.S. and Japan.

Screenshot showing transferring 56,000 Citi ThankYou points to 72,800 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points

Bottom Line

We figured that this devaluation was coming. Savvy award travelers breathed a sigh of relief when Virgin Atlantic left ANA award rates intact when it joined SkyTeam earlier this week. However, it seems Virgin Atlantic saved the gut punch for today — likely so this devaluation wouldn't overshadow its good news.

There's no getting around it: Increasing rates by up to 42% without any notice is a bad look. But this devaluation could be so much worse. Flying Club is still going to be the best option for booking ANA first class awards for most travelers. And we are happy to see that ANA business class award rates haven't been affected — at least yet. Hopefully the other shoe won't drop soon.

H/T: Thrifty Traveler

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  • I just booked this in J this morning for an early 2024 departure because of this devaluation. I changed gears and built this trip around this flight while I still could. I did so from work after the first meeting, and the hold time was under 15 minutes, and I was done in 5 minutes. There was only one seat each from ORD to both HND and NRT, and I booked it with Virgin Points, and my brother booked the other with United miles. Looking at the seat map, there’s only 3 people in the whole cabin at this point, so I’m hoping that more space will open up by January 2024 so my brother & sister in law can switch to my flight (HND). I’m expecting Virgin to raise prices on business eventually, but hoping that it’ll stay stable at least for a few months. I’m kicking myself for not booking the first class seat when ThriftyTraveler notified subscribers about the floodgates opening about 7 weeks ago, but I’m quite happy flying in “The Room” at least once while I could.

  • But here’s the thing ANA first class award seats are almost impossible to find. ANA used to routinely release 2 first awards seats at 355 days prior to your desired flight date. Now they may release 1 seat. But about 2 weeks prior to departure, ANA normally releases more award inventory. But that has not been the case for the last 6 months since Japan opened its borders. And until the surge of visitors to Japan begins to slow, awards on ANA and JAL are proving to be scarce. Especially first class seats, which are always difficult to find on any airline.

    With ANA there are 2 other monkey wrenches with award seats. ANA allows their own Mileage Club members to waitlist for flights. So if there is a waitlist for your desired flight, those seats will probably never be available for you to book with Virgin miles. Plus ANA opens awards inventory 355 days prior to flight date. Virgin allows award bookings for all partners (and their own metal), 331 days in advance of flight date.

    The change to Virgin’s ANA first class awards was a shock, but most of us expected it. Given that Virgin was only paying ANA about $1400 for a roundtrip award, it was bound to change.

    • JT Genter says:

      Excellent additional information. I’ve also noticed that ANA first class availability has been harder to find, but you’ve clearly been tracking this closely!