This is the creme de la creme of points and miles…

There’s something so satisfying about booking an award ticket and knowing you used a few miles as possible. If for no other reason, this is why booking an ANA Round The World (RTW) award is kind of a bucket list item for many miles and points enthusiasts (obsessives?).

While many airlines no longer offer round the world awards, ANA continues to do so at very reasonable rates using points. However, taking advantage of the ANA RTW award chart requires a good understanding of routing rules, surcharges and some flexibility on travel dates.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at everything you need to know to book one of these fun awards. It’s worth the effort!

How To Earn ANA Mileage Club Miles

For my fellow Americans, American Express clearly provides the best way to get your hands on ANA Mileage Club miles thanks to an array of cards that earn Membership Rewards points including:

  • American Express Gold Card (Learn More)
  • American Express Business Gold Card (Learn More)
  • The Platinum Card From American Express (Learn More)
  • The Business Platinum Card From American Express (Learn More)

You can transfer Membership Rewards points to ANA at a 1:1 rate and transfers usually process within a couple of days. Because of this transfer time, you’ll want to run a final search once your points have transferred. Since space could get swiped while you wait on the transfer, it’s best to have alternative flight options.

If you don’t quite have enough Amex points, Marriott Rewards points can serve as a backup in a pinch. You can earn Marriott points from your stays booked directly with Marriott and with any of several Marriott credit cards (Learn More).

Lastly, First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO) issues a co-branded ANA card that earns ANA miles directly. Unfortunately, the earn rate on the card is pretty poor.

ANA Round The World Routing Rules

Before you run off and transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to your ANA Mileage Club account, please make sure you understand the routing rules for Round The World awards. They’re not terribly complicated but you don’t want to build an itinerary that you can’t book!

Here’s what you need to know:

  • You must choose to fly east-west or west-east — you are NOT allowed to backtrack
  • You must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans — only once each as per the rule above
  • Include up to 12 segments and include 4 ground transfer segments
  • Up to 8 stopovers are allowed
    • Up to 3 in Europe
    • Up to 4 in Japan
  • Your trip must span at least 10 days from the date of your first international departure
  • Flights may be operated by ANA or Star Alliance partners
  • Your itinerary must touch all three zones — what ANA calls “Areas” and return to the one from which you start the trip

If there’s one rule that’s bound to cause you an issue, it’s the first one. Not being able to backtrack can make things quite frustrating but there’s still plenty of fun to be had.

There are also two important points to remember with the ground transfer segments. First, even if you change airports within a city — think Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Tokyo Haneda (HND), this will count as one of your ground transfers.

Additionally, ground transfers will count as 2 stopovers. For example, if you fly into Munich (MUC) and out of Frankfurt (FRA), that will take up 2 of your 8 allowed stopovers.

Second, the ground transfers do not add to your Total Basic Sector Mileage — your total flight miles — which determines how many ANA Mileage Club miles are required to book.

While I guess requiring that your trip be no less than 10 days could be an issue if you just wanted to spend the whole trip flying, I can’t imagine that will be an issue for just about anyone.

ANA Round The World Award Chart

As with simpler round-trip awards that include Star Alliance partners, you don’t have to worry about low, regular and high season award rates. Simply use the chart below to determine the required ANA miles based on your itinerary’s total flight miles.

The highest class of service you book during your trip will dictate which award rate governs your award. This means a single first class segment could jack up the redemption rate even if the rest is in business class. Similarly, you won’t get a discount for including an economy segment on a business class award.

How To Find Award Space and Book

Unsurprisingly, ANA doesn’t provide a way to search for RTW awards online but do you really want to call and ask a phone rep to search for award space day by day. Pass.

I’d suggest starting your search with United’s site as it provides a flexible date search option that allows you to see economy and premium cabin award availability across two months of dates. Just ignore the award rates and cash cost that United shows.

Start by searching the long-haul segments and then find the shorter flights to piece the trip together. Write down the details of each flight:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Flight number
  • Class of service

Once you have done that, you can call ANA (800-235-9262) and feed the flight details to a phone rep so they can help you complete the booking. You must create an account for each person. You cannot book seats for others using your points, so you need to transfer points separately for each traveler.

If you want to include a segment on ANA, know that ANA does release more award space to its own members. In this case, if you don’t see space when you search with United, you’ll want to hop over to ANA’s site to check. Just make sure it’s confirmed space and not waitlisted space.

Booking Like A Pro

You have the basics down, so let’s cover a few things to help you book like an award booking pro.

Use ExpertFlyer To Avoid Phantom Award Space

On occasion, United has shown phantom award space. When it comes to award booking, I’m not sure if there’s anything more frustrating than piecing together an amazing RTW award only to find out that the award space wasn’t really there.

While it’s a rare occurrence, I still like to double check with one of two methods. My favorite is to use ExpertFlyer to check each route a final time as I’ve found it to be the most reliable. If you don’t have an ExpertFlyer subscription, you can search each route with Aeroplan.

Use GCMap To Determine The Total Flight Miles

Rather than putting together all the flights you want and hoping you have enough ANA miles — or Membership Rewards points to transfer, you can use GCMap to calculate the total flight distance.

By entering your route with the respective airport codes, you’ll be able to quickly find how many ANA Mileage Club miles you’ll need based on the total flight miles.

Remember, you don’t need to ground transfer segments in this calculation.

Calculate Surcharges

If you want to estimate the total cost of taxes and fees, you can use ITA Matrix to search each segment. Specifically, the surcharges will be marked as YQ and/or YR — as you can see below.

Keep Surcharges To A Minimum

While ANA does pass on surcharges on award tickets, there are ways to avoid them or keep them to a minimum. It just takes remembering which carriers tack on these annoying surcharges before you get started with your search.

If you want to keep the cash cost down, you’ll want to a few European carriers which will charge more than $200 — sometimes much more — in surcharges:

  • Air India
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Lufthansa
  • South African Airways
  • SWISS
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways

Carriers that will require more reasonable (if any) surcharges on long-hauls include:

  • Air Canada
  • Air New Zealand
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Avianca
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines — except to/from Asia

Surcharges can vary a bit by the country from which you’re flying, but this should give you a general idea. In this case, I checked surcharges between the U.S. and the airline’s home country.

Business Class Is The Sweet Spot

When you factor in the cost of surcharges and the miles required for an ANA Round The World award, I find that business class is the true sweet spot. For those trying to use as few miles as possible, economy class is an option but I think business class is the better value.

While a RTW first class award would be an amazing trip, there are a couple of things to consider. First, award space can be much more difficult to find, especially if you want to bring your significant other or a friend.

Second, a number of carriers don’t even have first class cabins so you’ll be flying business class on some segments at first class award rates.

Finally, you can’t even use ANA miles to book SWISS first class and you have to wait until two weeks from departure to even have the option of booking Lufthansa first class.

ANA Round The World Example Booking

Now that you have all the necessary info to book, let’s take a look at an example of what you could do with an ANA RTW award.

  • Chicago (ORD) to Seoul (ICN) on Asiana — stopover (1)
  • ICN to Taipei (TPE) on Asiana or EVA — stopover (2)
  • TPE to Hong Kong (HKG) on EVA — stopover (3)
  • HKG to Addis Ababa (ADD) on Ethiopian — stopover (4)
  • ADD to Cairo (CAI) on Ethiopian or EgyptAir — stopover (5)
  • CAI to Istanbul (IST) on EgyptAir or Turkish — stopover (6)
  • IST to São Paulo (GRU) on Turkish — stopover (7)
  • GRU to Buenos Aires (EZE) on Turkish or Ethiopian — stopover (8)
  • EZE to Bogota (BOG) on Avianca — layover
  • BOG to ORD on Avianca

As you can see from the map, this trip travel west to east and doesn’t backtrack at any point. Additionally, we’ve maxed out our stopovers with 8 and kept the total segments under the max of 12 at 10 total.

Talk about a massive trip!

The total flight distance on this trip comes out to 28,518 miles and will require 170,000 ANA Mileage Club miles to book (plus taxes/fees). For some context, United MileagePlus would require 180,000 miles for a round-trip to South Asia (with one stopover and one open jaw) on Star Alliance partners.

Final Thoughts

In early/mid-2018, I decided I was going to book one of these RTW adventures. After a fun Iberia Avios promo (June 2018), an awesome Hong Kong Airlines business class fare deal (August 2018) and an otherworldly Cathay Pacific first class (December 2018), I don’t really have the time this year.

If you have the time and the miles and points to make it happen, I highly recommend booking yourself a business class RTW with ANA miles. You’ll not only get to visit some amazing places along the way, but you’ll get there comfortably — perhaps with a nice glass of champagne (or two).

Perhaps, I’ll have to book one of these trips in 2020. Until then, I’m going to have to live vicariously through you so tell me if you book one!

Spencer Howard

Spencer Howard is a credit card rewards and award travel expert. He’s living proof that points and miles can unlock many of the greatest travel experiences and uses his skills to tick off new bucket...

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47 Comments

  1. Wonderful post. Thank you!

    One question: Can your final destination overshoot your departure point? IE: if I’m traveling E-W, and I start at EWR, can I finish at IAH?

    1. That’s a great question! I don’t believe it would be a problem

  2. Informative, valuable post! Good step-by-step and good analysis of related options whilst considering booking (business class sweet spot)! Bookmarking for future RTW ticket reference for when I do it! Well done, Spence!

    1. Thanks, Nancy! Let me know if there are any other step-by-step guides you’d like to see.

  3. Wow, didn’t know ANA has a WTR program! That’s awesome! 2 quick questions if I may: 1) Would I need to search each segment separately? 2) If I start with JFK and go westbound: JFK–San.Francisco–Japan–HKG–KUL–Paris–JFK work (my only concern is if HKG–KUL would be considered a westbound as it dips South but still westward. Just wanted to confirm). Thanks!

    1. North-South/South-North segments are totally fine. You should be able to backtrack to connect from a Star Alliance hub — not sure how far you can push that, but a short flight shouldn’t be an issue.

  4. Thank you so much for all of the info on how to book the RTW ticket using Amex points! I was incredibly skeptical, but it works! Truly one of the best ways to use AMEX points. I booked 2 RTW tickets using 230k points (115k x2), SEA-NRT, NRT-BKK, BKK-HAN-IST, IST-ATH, ATH-MUC-ARN, ARN-ORD. Amazing! I added a few things that I learned:
    1. If flying with your spouse it is much easier if you book the 2 tickets under one reservation. If you have enough points to cover both tickets just call ANA and book 2 tickets under the same reservation. However, in our case, my wife and I both have AMEX points. What you need to do is get the AMEX points from yourself and AMEX points from your wife into your ANA account which makes booking flights much easier. To do this, have your spouse add you as a secondary AMEX card holder. Then create two ANA accounts with ANA and link the AMEX and ANA accounts. Then transfer AMEX points from your wife’s AMEX into your ANA account. ( AMEX allows you to transfer AMEX points into your ANA account AND into those that are secondary card holders under the primary AMEX account.) Once all the points are in your ANA account you are good to go Call ANA and books 2 tickets. I made the mistake of having AMEX transfer points into my ANA account AND into my wifes ANA account. I then had to make 2 separate reservations with ANA. And although it worked, booking 2 separate reservations is much more complicated.
    2. Book as early as possible to have the most choice of flights. For me, I had a plethora of choices 12 months ahead of time, but dragged my feet and didn’t book until 10 months out. Several of the flights that were available 12 months out were not by the time I booked. I missed the EVA flight from SEA-BKK that I had my eye on. So have backups and book early!
    3. As stated above you have to fly EAST or WEST. However, if you have a connecting flight that flies in the opposite direction for a small amount of time, I was told by ANA that it’s not a problem. For example we are flying west from SEA-NRT. Then NRT-BKK. All good. However, when leaving BKK, the direct flight from BKK to IST was sold out. The only flight available was from BKK-HAN-IST. Although the flight from Bangkok to Hanoi was in the opposite direction, the overall flight was still headed westward. ANA said no problem.
    4. I used the United.com site to check for availability. Keep in mind that its not 100%, so write down all the flight info for when you call ANA and have alternatives also ready to go. Be flexible and organized!

    Thanks AGAIN! Jon

    1. @Jonathan Amick, Wow, that’s really awesome!! Now my situation will proof a bit more challenging but I hope it’s still doable: I will need to book 3 tickets as we have a small child. I do have a couple questions for you if I may. Your idea of combining my spouse’s Amex pts and mine sounds great. But I’m slightly confused, so let me see if I get you right. Sorry if I’m not understanding. If I want to transfer my wife’s Amex pts to me, I would:
      1) have her add me as a secondary card holder on her Amex acct.
      2) create 2 ANA accts (assuming one for me and one for my wife) and link it to Amex accts. Which Amex accts, mine or my wife’s? This is the step I’m confused on.
      3) transfer my Amex pts to my ANA acct? then transfer my wife’s Amex pts to my ANA acct too? I may be confused with this step due to not fully understand my step 2) as outlined above.
      One other question is, did you search on United EACH SEGMENT separately? Did you also use Aeroplan as mentioned on the blog? Thanks so much!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Let me know what other guides you’d like to see and will try to add them to the already massive list 🙂

  5. Great article! I’m planning to.do this in the summer of 2020. How far out can I book the tickets? 12 mo? Looking to travel with my family of four. Any additional tips for four? Thanks. Brett

  6. Great piece! However, ITA YQs doesn’t mean squat as long as ANA YQs on COMPLEX itineraries are concerned. As someone who’s in love with ANA Business Class awards, I’ve found it the hard way (tons of manual research). They are completely, totally and utterly out of whack; they don’t seem to have rhyme or reason for the amounts added (or not added) — to the point when polite and usually competent ANA agents would admit they have no idea why this is happening. Hell, I’ve seen YQs added to airlines that don’t add YQs to their own award flights (SAS)! Hopefully, RTW tickets won’t have these issues, but I wouldn’t necessarily count on this.

    1. Hey Andy – Thanks for reading! You certainly are a master of ANA. That’s a good flag. I’ve definitely seen some oddities with ANA taxes/fees. In the case of SAS, I didn’t see YQ issues the last time I checked a simple round-trip. Perhaps they’re getting better? Confirming taxes/fees on RTW awards, just another excuse for me to book one.

    1. No limit on the time you can stay in one place. You just need to be able to book the whole journey at once. If you were to book with a flight that departs the following day, you’d have about a year to take the whole trip. You cab change the dates of flights if you can find award space on the same airline and same class of service. Might even be able to extend the trip beyond a year doing that but I haven’t tried doing so.

  7. Great post. For a ANA RTW starting in Asia can i take a open jaw in USA (say land in SFO and depart from ORD)? I know that would be counted 2 stopovers. Read somewhere (think it was millionmilesecret) that openjaws aren’t allowed in north america. Can you or anyone else confirm this? thanx in advance

  8. BE CAREFUL!!! I just transferred 250,000 Amex points thinking I could book a round the world trip with my girlfriend as this article mentioned bringing a friend you just have to make sure there was enough business class savor for. Sadly you can’t book for a friend with your ANA points!!! I’m not sure if I could have transferred my Amex points to another ANA account if my girlfriend creates one though?

    1. Jonathan, I’m sorry your award booking didn’t work out. The article clearly states that you should transfer points to each person individually, so the barrage of comments was not warranted. In extreme cases such as this one, ANA may likely be able to reverse a transfer for you so that you can then transfer points to your girlfriends account. Best of luck next time.

      1. Can you clarify if it is just friends you can’t book, but spouse is ok? Someone (Jonathan) in the above comments mentioned that it is better to create just 1 reservation for 2 tickets.

        1. Hey BML – You can book for family members so spouse will be fine. Believe there are some simple steps to add a family member. Haven’t had to do it myself yet.

  9. Does the availability have to be “saver awards” or can it be in “everyday awards” (United Airline terms)? What fare code should we be searching for in ExpertFlyer?
    Thanks

    1. Needs to be saver level. United will only show you “Everyday Awards” for its own flights anyway.

  10. What code fare should we search for on ExpertFlyer in order for these to be booked? Does it have to be “saver” fares or can it be “everyday” fares? (United Airlines terms)

    1. Thanks, Shank! This RTW option is specifically for ANA miles but there are plenty of great ways to use LifeMiles. I’ll try to put together a piece on some great LifeMiles redemptions soon!

  11. Great job as usual, Gilbert. Wife and I are planning a trip to Bali in 2020 but it seems like we might as well plan a RTW and hit a few more places as the cost in miles will be less anyway.

    1. The ANA RTW option could really help you build an epic trip that includes Bali. Would love to hear all about what you end up booking!

      So glad you liked the post.

  12. Thanks for the great article Spencer. I have two questions if you could help. Would this work for a trip orginating in London and secondly how much did the taxes equate to in your example trip? Many thanks in advance!

  13. Dear Spencer, wonderful post. Planning a RTW trip instantly makes me forget everything else happening around me (although I am far away from accumulating all the miles…). I might not be able to accrue more than 90k miles per person, so my limit is set to 14k statute miles. Do you know if this routing would be valid?

    http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=DOH-BOM%2CBNE-WLG-HNL-LAX%2CBOS-LIS&MS=wls&DU=mi

    It starts and ends in area 2, it is strictly “east-bound”, Atlantic and Pacific ocean will be crossed and in my opinion the ground transfer segments are not limited with regard to distance.

    Best regards and thx a lot
    R.

    1. Hey Rolf – Interesting idea! I don’t see anything that would prevent you from doing this.

  14. Hello! Thank you for your informative post! I had a question on booking timelines. United shows award availability on their side 337 days out, but many of the airlines I am looking into are 355 days. If i want to book as far out as possible for best chance at availability, should I target 355 days out from my last day of travel? For example if my last day is planned to be July 1, 2020, I should call ANA to book on July 12, 2019?

    1. Hey Jordan – So glad you enjoyed it. If you’re looking for award space on a United flight, you’ll still have to wait until you’re within 337 days as that’s when United releases award space. If you’re looking for award space on another Star Alliance carrier beyond 337 days, I’d just use Aeroplan to search so you can call ANA when you have all the award spcae lined up to book.

  15. Thanks for the advice and detailed post, Spencer. Great article! When calculating mileage to determine “cost”, does ANA count total miles flown (including layover mileage), or do they only count the mileage between stop overs? Example: Planning a RTW from …NRT-MNL-CAI…etc. The flight between NRT and MNL has a 1.5hr layover in BKK. Do the miles from NRT to BKK, BKK-MNL add to travel distance or does ANA only count miles between NRT and MNL?

    1. Hey Dez – So glad you enjoyed the post. My understanding is that the total miles flown includes each flight so, in your example, the mileage would be calculated for both NRT-BKK-MNL.

  16. I’m based on the East Coast. Could I end in Hawaii and that count as crossing the Pacific since it’s zone 1 still? If so, that makes my desired trip much less costly. If not, I’m guessing LAX would work and then grab a transcon economy home?

    1. I believe flying to HNL will work but I’m not 100% sure. Would love to hear about your experience if you book it!

  17. Hi – Great article

    Need some help . Last leg of my RTW is from Lima to Fco and I cant find any of the flights that united shows on ITA to calculate the taxes. Most likely flying on TAP via GRU.

    Any other sites to determine the taxes on an RTW ticket?

    thanks

  18. Hi. Thank you!

    Is there an award booking service you could recommend to do this?

    I would love to book 2 Tix for my parents. Thank you!

  19. For a fee will you help us plan and book an RTW. We have around 800,000K points and miles with various credit cards and airlines. We have flown round the world several times before, but frustrated with trying to book a current trip. Please, let us know, if you can help.

  20. Hi
    Rule says it must not be less than 10 day, but what is the longest time to span this trip? If you wanted to spend substantial amount of time at each location. Can I spread it in 6 months? 1 yr? with stopovers and open jaws?

  21. Picking this up around COVID times: if you book a set of tickets and are unable to take the trip due to visa issues, do you know the procedure and penalty for redeposit or rescheduling the entire trip? Would they allow you to simply move the date of the entire itinerary forward? (I’m guessing not.) Can you redeposit and if so what does it cost?

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