Treating yourself to business class doesn't have to cost a fortune – and when flying with All Nippon Airways (ANA) from Sydney to Tokyo and beyond, there are plenty of ways to swap your economy or premium economy seat for a fully-flat business class bed.
Among them: using frequent flyer points via ANA's own Mileage Club program, spending miles through other Star Alliance schemes like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, or even enjoying that upgrade for free as a reward for your frequent travel aboard ANA>
However you approach it, here's what you need to know to get yourself a business class upgrade with ANA.
ANA business class upgrades: the basics
As is standard of most airlines, business class upgrades on ANA are all subject to availability. They can certainly be confirmed in advance – up to 355 days before your flight departs – but upgrades can be limited, so even though the airline may still be selling business class seats on your flight doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to upgrade.
Should your business class upgrade prove successful, you'll also pull in frequent flyer points at the rate applicable to your original, economy booking, rather than at the higher business class rates.
Passengers flying with ANA can upgrade to business class from both premium economy and economy: upgrades aren't restricted to one class above the fare originally booked as with some airlines.
That's good news for Sydney-Tokyo fliers where ANA sells business class, premium economy and economy, so you may be able to upgrade straight from economy to business class.
Just note that you can't upgrade from economy or premium economy to first class on flights with this service – that's a perk exclusively reserved for travellers booked on paid business class tickets.
Upgrading to ANA business class using frequent flyer points
Unlike Oneworld, members of all Star Alliance frequent flyer programs can upgrade to business class using miles when travelling on all other Star Alliance airlines.
That means you can either use miles from ANA Mileage Club for your upgrade, or from others programs like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus and Air New Zealand Airpoints – perfect if you have credit cards that can earn points with these airlines.
Exactly how many points (or miles) you'll need for an upgrade varies based on the length of your ANA flight and also which frequent flyer program you're spending points from.
Additionally, some frequent flyer schemes allow their members to upgrade with ANA from a broader range of fare types, while others restrict these to a few select fares only, and some allow upgrades with ANA only closer to departure.
We've cut through all the laborious fine print – here's how many miles you'd need for a one-way business class upgrade between Sydney and Tokyo using those key schemes above, including which fare types you can upgrade from and any timing restrictions that may apply:
- ANA Mileage Club: 25,000 miles from economy and premium economy Y, B, E, G, M and U fares
- Air New Zealand Airpoints: $1,660 Airpoints Dollars from Y, B and E fares only, within 28 days of departure
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer: 65,000 KrisFlyer miles from Y, B and E fares only, within 56 days of departure. No KrisFlyer upgrades are possible on Japanese domestic flights.
- Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus: 60,000 ROP miles from Y, B and E fares only
As you can see, the best-value upgrades from the options above are through ANA Mileage Club: allowing you to upgrade from more fare types than the other program and requiring less than half as many miles for the same.
We should highlight that business class upgrades are only available from the fare types listed above from each program – all other economy and premium economy fares are not upgradeable using points or miles.
There are no credit cards in Australia that can directly earn points with ANA Mileage Club, so a workaround could be to convert your credit card points into Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints (such as from American Express or Diners Club).
Then, those Starpoints can be converted into ANA Mileage Club miles at a 1:1 rate, with 5,000 bonus ANA miles for every 20,000 miles converted – elevating the 'real' SPG:ANA conversion rate 1:1.25 if you convert your miles in bulk.
If SPG isn't a transfer partner on your credit card or your flight is sooner and you can't wait for two rounds of transfers to be processed, you could instead convert your credit card points to Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways (as available) to request your upgrade.
Upgrades using ANA miles can be requested and confirmed online or over the phone, and when using points or miles from other Star Alliance programs, you'll generally need to call the airline that operates your frequent flyer program to process your ANA upgrade (not ANA).
Using ANA 'Upgrade Points' for a business class upgrade
Regular travellers who are also members of ANA Mileage Club can earn 'Upgrade Points' as a reward for their frequent travels with ANA.
Note that this isn't a benefit offered to frequent flyers of other Star Alliance programs (such as KrisFlyer), nor can Upgrade Points be earned via ANA Mileage Club when travelling with airlines other than ANA.
The number of Upgrade Points given depends on the number of 'Premium Points' earned over a 12-month period: Premium Points being ANA's version of status credits or tier miles.
Earning 1-9,999 Premium Points on ANA flights in a year delivers four Upgrade Points, while at the top end of town, accruing 250,000 Premium Points aboard ANA Group flights unlocks 100 Upgrade Points.
Additionally, Diamond Service, Platinum Service, Bronze Service and Super Flyers cardholders are given an extra four Upgrade Points each year, over and above those awarded based on their Premium Points tally.
To put those numbers into context, a one-way economy to Premium Class upgrade on Japanese domestic flights requires just four Upgrade Points, while a one-way upgrade from economy to business class on ANA's Sydney-Tokyo flights commands only 10 Upgrade Points.
Here's how that looks across ANA's other routes:
For Aussie travellers, that means you could enjoy up to five complimentary return business class upgrades between Sydney and Tokyo each year, with the bonus four Upgrade Points getting a better seat aboard an ANA domestic flight of your choosing.
On international flights, upgrades using Upgrade Points can be requested from the same fare types as when spending regular ANA Mileage Club miles to upgrade, being the Y, B, E, G, M and U economy and premium economy fare types.
Diamond Service members can also upgrade from H-level economy fares at the same cost, and from any other paid economy fare type for twice the usual number of Upgrade Points. Between Sydney and Tokyo, that's 10 Upgrade Points for Diamond members on Y, B, E, G, M, U and H fares and 20 Upgrade Points from all others.
As with miles-based upgrades, these bump-ups can be confirmed instantly if availability permits or waitlisted for consideration closer to departure.