Tokyo has been on my list of places to visit since I started travel hacking. North America to Asia also has some of the best award availability for premium class (i.e. business/first) flights. Thus began my adventure to figure out the perfect routing to Tokyo. I should also add that my wife insisted that if we were going to visit Asia again she had to see the Great Wall of China.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
So essentially I needed to find flights to Tokyo and then onward to China. I obviously wanted to fly in business class, but didn’t feel the need to splurge for first class. After doing some preliminary research I settled on booking and flying with ANA.
I spent several hours trying different routing combinations. In total, I came up with 14 different routing options, but I’ll just highlight the four primary options that I was considering including the one I settled on. All the prices that I quote are for two people so if you’re just looking for the cost of one person divide it in half.
Option 1: Direct to/from Tokyo
My first routing option was pretty straight forward. ANA offers a Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo (TYO) flight on the Boeing 787-9 (Dreamliner). This route in business class for two people costs 170,000 ANA miles round-trip plus about $340 in taxes/fees (85k + $170 per person). This would normally cost $12,000 (for two business class seats). That means you’re getting a value of roughly 6.8 cents per miles!
The issue here is that I would still have to book round-trip Tokyo to Beijing (PEK) flights. The best option I could find here was 20,000 British Airways Avios + $40 in taxes per person. This route would also be in Japan Airlines economy, which I wouldn’t really mind since it’s just a ~4 hour flight, but I figured I could do better.
Option 2: Adding in Beijing Flights
Next, I figured I might as well see what it would cost to add flights to Beijing in business class. ANA only allows one stopover on their award tickets. So I figured I would search SEA – TYO, stay in Tokyo for six days (which would constitute a stopover), then TYO – PEK, and PEK – SEA. What I found was interesting:
If we only flew on ANA metal, the routing would look like this and cost 180,000 ANA miles plus $780 in taxes/fees (90k + $390 per person):
SEA – NRT // NRT – PEK // PEK – NRT – SEA
The main issue I had with flying on ANA flights back and forth through Tokyo is that they charge quite a bit in taxes and fees.
Option 3: Adding in Partner Flights (pt. 1)
After realizing how high the taxes and fees were flying ANA metal, I decided to try and figure out if Star Alliance partners charged the same sort of fees.
The first route I found costs 190,000 ANA miles plus $502 in taxes/fees (95k + $251 per person):
SEA – YVR – NRT (Air Canada) // NRT – PEK // PEK – NRT – SEA
All the flights listed without an airline are ANA flights. The SEA – YVR leg was in economy class, but only a 50 minute flight. This routing was 10k more miles, but lowered the taxes and fees by 35% since Air Canada doesn’t charge surcharges on ANA award tickets.
Option 4: Adding in Partner Flights (pt. 2)
While searching through Star Alliance flights from Beijing to Seattle, I also found this gem. This second partner route costs 190,000 ANA miles plus $330 in taxes/fees (95k + $165 per person):
SEA – YVR – NRT (Air Canada) // HND – PEK // PEK – TPE (Air China) // TPE – SEA (EVA Air)
This routing lowered taxes/fees even more. After playing around with ANA’s multi-city tool I was able to find an earlier Air China flight from Beijing to Taipei. This will give us a 12 hour layover to explore the city of Taipei. In addition, I’ve been wanting to fly EVA Air’s business class. EVA Air offers one of the best business class products out there. This is the award ticket routing we ended up booking.
How do you get ANA miles?
I earned all of my ANA miles by transferring them from my American Express Membership Rewards account. The transfer from AMEX to ANA takes a couple days so plan accordingly. I earned most of my AMEX Membership Rewards from the signup bonuses for my Business Gold Rewards and Premier Rewards Gold cards.
Waiting till November
We won’t be flying this route until November so until then I will just salivate over the pictures of the airplanes that we’ll be flying.
I wanted to book these early since we’re traveling during peak season. In addition, ANA’s cancellation/change policy on award tickets is pretty good. If I need to change or cancel the flight, it’ll only cost me 3,000 ANA miles per person.