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The basics of ANA routing rules to get the most out of awards and stopovers

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ANA Mileage Club is a great program for getting big value out of your miles. It lets you fly any Star Alliance airline like United, Lufthansa, or Thai at attractive prices, and allows a free stopover on all roundtrip awards that begin outside Japan, letting you visit two cities for the price of a single roundtrip.

But ANA has unusual routing rules for how you can fly across regions.

To get a sense, first here are the 10 zones ANA uses to define award travel prices.

And these are the basics of what you can’t do.

  • You can’t fly from North to South America via Europe or Japan (a very, very long route like New York to Rio via Paris)
  • You can’t fly from the Americas to Asia via Europe, as well as Africa, or the Middle East. (this is a frustrating one, since United MileagePlus, for example, lets you fly from the Americas to Asia via Europe)
  • You can’t fly from Europe to Asia via Hawaii.

On the flip side, ANA allows you to fly some very creative routings from North America.

  • You can fly to anywhere in Asia via Australia, Oceania, or New Zealand, making for an epic trip when you use a stopover.
  • You can fly to Australia, Oceania, or New Zealand via Asia, a riff on the above for a stopover.
  • You can fly to Asia via Hawaii, getting a free visit to Hawaii in the process.
  • You can fly to Africa or the Middle East via Europe.
  • You can fly to Europe via Africa or the Middle East.

Here’s an example of going to Asia via Australia, Oceania or New Zealand to get two expensive trips for one price. Here, you can spend time in Auckland and Hong Kong on the same ticket for 75,000 miles in Economy Class.

You can also visit New Zealand and Japan on the same ticket with no fuel surcharges at all and fly home in an ANA First Class suite, which is one of the best First Class products in the world. This trip from Los Angeles gives you 10 days in New Zealand and 9 days in Tokyo.

Advanced routing rules

When trying to piece together a complicated award on the ANA site or with a phone agent, there are some arcane things to keep in mind (but most trips won’t break these rules)…

You can backtrack (connect through a city you’ve already had on your trip), but not on the same leg.

In other words you can pass through your origin city (Tokyo) on the way *back* from your destination (Seoul).

But you can’t pass through your origin city on the way *to* your destination. In the example below you leave Tokyo, stay in Sapporo, then try to fly via Tokyo again to your final destination Frankfurt. In this case you’re passing through your origin city on the same leg.

You can’t have a stopover (or layover) in a more expensive zone than your destination.

So you can do this (stop and visit Honolulu on the way from New York to Tokyo, since a Honolulu – Tokyo award is cheaper than a Tokyo – New York award):

But you can’t do that (stop and visit Seoul on the way from Tokyo to Los Angeles because an award from Los Angeles to Seoul is more expensive than one from Los Angeles to Tokyo):

  • If your departure and return cities are different (an ‘open jaw’), they must be in the same country; however, with that in mind:
    • The U.S. and Canada are treated as the same country, so you can start your trip in Chicago and return to Toronto.
    • Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are treated as the same country.
    • All Europe is treated as the same country unless all your flights are in Europe.
    • China, Hong Kong, and Macau are treated as different countries.
  • You can have up to two layovers on outbound and inbound flights each outside Japan – so you can’t connect via more than two cities each direction
  • If you use your miles for a partner that’s not part of Star Alliance you can’t fly any other airline on the trip, even ANA. You must stick with one non-alliance partner for the whole trip.

Cost saving tips

ANA adds fuel surcharges to most of its partners, but there are four ways to avoid or minimize them:

  • Fly simple roundtrip flights on ANA, since they aren’t currently adding fuel surcharges (that’s dependent on the cost of fuel and can change).
  • Route your multi-city flights to or via cities with no or low fuel surcharges, like Hong Kong, Jakarta, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Kuala Lumpur, and Taipei.
  • Fly partner airlines known not to add surcharges, such as United, Air New Zealand, Air China, and Air Canada. Also, there are no surcharges for flights in the Americas.
  • Fly airlines with low surcharges, such as Asiana, LOT and, to some extent, Turkish.

Putting all this together, ANA let you get lots of great ‘2 in 1’ trips that let you see two continents for one good price. Getting creative is a great way to take advantage of good award prices and generous routing rules.


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