The $21,000 Flight I just Booked for $266

Japan has been on my bucket list for a long time. I’ve only ever flown through the Narita airport on the way to other places, but have always wanted to stop and check out Tokyo and the rest of the country.

I was really excited to maximize a couple of really good deals in the points and miles world to help cross Japan off my bucket list; and I scored some pretty epic value for money!

The Big Reveal

Ok, so first I should probably share how I will be getting to Japan. In May, I’ll be flying from LA to Tokyo in ANA First Class round trip! That’s over 20 hours of luxury, champagne and caviar!

These flights really do cost north of $20K if you were to pay cash:

I was able to book these flights for 110,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and just $266 in taxes – sweet!

Virgin Atlantic? I thought you were flying ANA

Virgin Atlantic may seem like an unlikely airline to use to book a flight from the US to Japan, considering they only operate flights to and from the United Kingdom. The airline’s rewards program, however, has some sweet partner redemption options.

This means you can use Virgin miles to book flights with other airlines, including Delta, Air New Zealand, and of course ANA. What makes the flight to Japan such a sweet spot is that the fixed pricing in miles is for a round trip flight; it’s common to see other airlines charging the same amount of miles (or more) for a one way! Virgin have a sweet award chart for ANA, especially for business and first class flights to/from the US and Asia.

The one slight challenge in all this is finding availability. There are a few ways to search, but ironically using Virgin Atlantic’s website isn’t one of them. I found the flights using ExpertFlyer, which I have posted about before. I searched for ‘O’ award space for ANA, and was lucky to come across round trip dates that worked well together!

Sweetening the Deal with American Express

You may be asking yourself how to earn Virgin Atlantic miles. Flying the airline is of course one option, but there are some other ways to earn the points needed.

I used two methods. First, I opened the Virgin Atlantic credit card, issued by Bank of America. The annual fee is $90, but they offer decent sign-up bonuses of between 30 and 50,000 miles. I timed my application poorly and only received the 30,000 miles, but that made a good dent in the 110,000 needed for this redemption. I also earned about 4,000 miles through spend on the card.

For the remaining 76,000 miles I transfer American Express Membership Reward points. These points are very useful as they can be transferred to a number of different airline and hotel programs. What sweetened the deal was that Amex is currently offering a 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic! This means that instead of transferring 76,000 points I only needed to move 59,000. This means I received a little over 17,000 ‘free’ miles by transferring.

Wrapping Up

I’m super excited for my trip, and even more excited that I didn’t have to pay much out of pocket. My advice to all is to keep an eye out for sweet spots in award charts and also to time your point transfers with offers from Amex! Happy holidays everyone!