Points Strategy: One-way Business Class Nonstop Houston to Tokyo Haneda on ANA (75,000 points + $55 tax/fees) [Mar 2023, Feb 2024] – Chase Ultimate Rewards® / Air Canada Aeroplan / ANA

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There is a good chance that the limited award availability listed in this post will be gone by the time you read it, but it should provide you with a way to consistently find this award on your own, without my help.

Hi! Ren here.

In this “points strategy” session we’re going to cover getting from Houston (IAH) to Tokyo (HND) on ANA by transferring 75,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points into Air Canada Aeroplan via the Chase portal. If you don’t currently have Chase or Aeroplan points, I’ll also go over some basic point earning strategies later in this post. The taxes and fees for the redemption is $76 Canadian, which is about $55 USD.

We know that ANA flies both “Houston – Haneda” and “Houston – Narita” flights. We will be concentrating on Haneda because it is closer to Tokyo and you can avoid the extra transit costs incurred getting from Narita to Tokyo. 

Understanding ANA award availability: 

Understanding ANA’s award availability is often the hardest part of getting a good deal and you’ll need to know the following key points before you begin your search.

  • The first and most important point: Business Class award availability on ANA is rare, but it’s predictable, to an extent, if you know when ANA releases availability.
  • ANA likes to release award availability “close-in” and “way-far-out”. Which is to say, the 14-days before whatever day today is and also 11-months away from whatever day today is.
  • Award availability can exist in other date ranges, but it’s very rare. I’m just saying that dates “close-in” and “way-far-out” will have a far better chance of having the discounted award available.
  • ANA doesn’t offer “First Class” for Houston to Tokyo. “Business Class” is the highest fare class they offer for Houston. It’s a lie-flat seat in the front cabin.
  • You can book ANA award availability via other Star Alliance award portals. For example you can book this same award fare with 88,000 United MileagePlus points +$5.60 tax/fees.

Knowing these key points should set your expectations on when and how you can find discounted availability. This way you aren’t wasting time searching mid-season for discount award availability that isn’t there.

Isolating ANA flights:

Before we spend time searching for Aeroplan award availability, we need to know the exact dates that the Houston – Haneda flights fly. 

In my opinion, all of the following fare research is easier to do on a Laptop or PC, but you should also be able to get this done on a mobile phone if that is what you prefer.

First, we will use Google Flights (link) to pull up a fare calendar for ANA.

  • Select “NONSTOP”, “One way”, and “ANA Only” for the airline on the Google Flights search box. Select a date that is “close-in”. For example if Today is March 9th, then select something for next week, like March 15th.  The exact date isn’t critical.

 

  • Pull up the fare calendar by clicking on the date.

  • Wait for the calendar fares to load.
  • Scroll down to see the filtered results. These are the cash-price fares for nonstop flights on ANA.

This screenshot was taken on March 9th, so adjust accordingly if you are seeing this post at a later date.

Based on what this calendar shows, you can see that the prospects are March 12, 15, 16, 19, 22, and 23. These dates are “close-in” meaning that they are within the 14-days before whatever day today is (in this example Today is March 9th). You may want to write those dates down, because we will use them when we begin our search on Air Canada’s website.

How to transfer points into Aeroplan from Chase Ultimate Rewards:

If you’re like me, you don’t have Air Canada Aeroplan points. I don’t fly Air Canada often enough to have the kind of points required for this, but I often have a boatload of Ultimate Rewards points that I earn from my day to day spending. So my plan here is to transfer points from Ultimate Rewards into Aeroplan at a 1-to-1 basis.

You’ll also need an Aeroplan account to transfer the points into. If you don’t already have an account, go to Air Canada’s website (aircanada.com) and sign-up for an account. If you’re making a new account, wait a day before transferring points into it. This is to make sure the new account is setup and established.

Let’s step through the transfer procedure:

You’ll need a Chase credit card with the perk that allows point transfers into Aeroplan, which is only allowed on the following cards:

You can also move points between other Chase cards that don’t allow transfers into one of the cards that allows point transfers.

If you are self-employed or own a business, then you may want to pick up the 90,000 point sign-up bonus before it expires this month. See Related Article.

Related Article: An amazing 90,000 Ultimate Rewards sign-up offer via Chase Inc Business Cash® / Chase Ink Business Unlimited® ends this month.

Applying for the Aeroplan® Credit Card for the sign-up bonus may also be worth it: “Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus 40,000 points after you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open.

  • Then select the “Air Canada Aeroplan” option from the list.

  • Enter in the recipient and the Aeroplan account number that the points will go into.

  • Wait for your transfer to complete. According to Chase, transfers take may take between 1 to 7 days.

Booking award availability for ANA via Air Canada’s Aeroplan website:

Now that we have Aeroplan points, it’s time to search for ANA award availability on Air Canada’s website.

  • First, login to your Aeroplan account on Air Canada (aircanada.com).
  • Next, plug in your search options. We selected, IAH, HND, and March 12 to start. Make sure to tick the “Book with points AEROPLAN” check-mark box.

  • There is a good chance that the dates you select won’t have any award availability. If that happens, plug in the next date that you wrote down.

  • The next date in our list is Mar 15, so let’s try that. In this case, we have a good result. We’re seeing the flight for $76 Canadian Dollars and 75,000 points. Only two seats. We’re also seeing some availability on Mar 16.

While you’re on this screen, you may want to change the filter to show the Flight Number, Aircraft Type, and “Business Class” fares. You’ll want the flight information for later so you can research the seat selection.

  • Let’s take a look at Mar 16 now. Same deal as before, just two awards available at 75K +tax/fees.

  • Next, let’s run through the rest of that list we wrote down earlier: Mar 19, 22, 23. Uh oh. Not looking good.
This screenshot will be hard to read on a mobile phone, but you should be able to read it if you zoom in.
This screenshot will be hard to read on a mobile phone, but you should be able to read it if you zoom in.

You may be thinking “these close-in dates should have availability“. Why don’t they have any? Well, it probably has to be due to the fact that Sakura season starts around March 22th and lasts until the start of April. Those dates are popular enough that they’ve most likely already been sniped as soon as the award availability went online. Some award dates are very competitive.

From this point on in the calendar, your chance of finding any more award availability on any month except the “way-far-out” dates is going to be very poor.

  • So, let’s look at the “way-far-out” dates for next year, 2024.
This screenshot will be hard to read on a mobile phone, but you should be able to read it if you zoom in.
This screenshot will be hard to read on a mobile phone, but you should be able to read it if you zoom in.

Pretty good! We’re seeing multiple dates with availability, usually one or two business award seats on any given day. The con being that you’ll need to reserve a flight 11-months out.

Here’s something to consider: If you want to book Tokyo during the March Cherry Blossom season for 2024, you can wait and see if availability comes online next month (April 2023). Or, if you think you’re fast and lucky enough, wait two weeks before the date you want to travel and see if there is availability.

  • One last thing to point out before we wrap this up: While we’re focusing on HND here because it is convenient, keep in mind that NRT is an option. Here’s a screenshot that shows three award seats for NRT available for similar dates.

That’s basically all there is to booking business class out of Houston on ANA via the Ultimate Rewards points transfer into Aeroplan.

Handling the return flight:

You can try to find the Business class returns using the same type of search we just did, but with the origin/destination reversed. Keep in mind that finding Business class returns follows the same rules with “close-in” and “way-far-out” dates that we discussed earlier. In the case of this particular example, there weren’t any good prospects. Probably due to the popularity of the dates during Cherry Blossom season.

If you’re not seeing any HND availability, you’ll need to be flexible and consider flying out of NRT.

Paying cash for a one-way return flight is an option, but it’s usually an expensive option. One-way flight prices tend to cost almost as much as round-trip flights on most International routes.

It’s easier to use points to book an economy fare for the return than it is for booking Business awards. In that case, you’ll want to consider moving Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus because their Economy fares are a good value and they have good availability.

  • Here’s an example of a United return in Economy for about 36.9k miles. March 22nd out of NRT.

 

Additional research:

In the earlier section of this post I mentioned that writing down the flight number and aircraft type was a good idea for research. So let’s do some additional research on the March 15th IAH-HND Business class flight.

  • You can download the Business Class food and drink menu on ANA’s website (linked) by plugging in your route. The spirits menu seems pretty good. Hibiki or Suntori Ao, drink as much as you want. As for food, it’s a course selection between Japanese menu (sashimi, Amberjack main) or International (Cod, steak main). Menu is subject to change, depending on which way the wind is blowing.
  • ANA has multiple types of Business class seating configurations. You’ll need to know which aircraft type you are flying on to see the exact type of seat. (in our example 789 is shorthand for “787-9”). Here’s a link to the type used in our example. “Per ANA: These are lie-flat seats with a staggered arrangement. All these seats have direct aisle access.
  • Use Seatguru (linked) to preview seats by plugging in the flight details. This is good so you know which seat numbers to avoid when picking your seat. It’s good at showing you which seats are problematic.
Seat guru is a good resource to help you avoid seats near the restroom.
Seat guru is a good resource to help you avoid seats near the restroom.

Before I end this post, a few thoughts:

So I generally don’t do points content. It’s usually not my cup of tea, but I wanted to expand this type of coverage a bit. With a Houston focus obviously. Let me know what you think, I’m sure there is room for improvement. I’ll be targeting more “over priced” routes that are above their 6-month moving price averages and business class fares that have a point discount.

The goal: to avoid paying cash on expensive routes.

Have a good one!




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