ANA Mileage Club Platinum status holders can apply for ANA Super Flyers credit cards which come with semi-lifetime Star Alliance Gold status. For a long time, I wanted to do a mileage run to earn the status and subsequently get the credit card. I finally decided to do so in November 2022.
This is the first article in a three-part series about the mileage run. In this part, I cover the planning of the mileage run and in the subsequent two parts, I will write about what the mileage run itself was like.
ANA Super Flyers: Semi-Lifetime Star Alliance Gold Status
As I wrote in one of my previous posts, Japan is most likely the world’s only country where getting semi-lifetime statuses with all three of the major alliances is fairly easy:
- Star Alliance Gold: ANA’s Super Flyers cards (11,275 yen per year for the cheapest one) which ANA Mileage Club Platinum or higher status holders can apply for offer Star Alliance Gold benefits by default; once the credit card is issued, there is no need to maintain the ANA status
- OneWorld Sapphire: JAL Global Club cards (11,000 yen per year for the cheapest one) which JAL Mileage Bank who earn 50,000+ FLY ON points (FOP) or fly 50+ times and earn 15,000+ FOP can apply for offer OneWorld Sapphire benefits by default (the criteria are expected to become stricter); once the credit card is issued, there is no need to hit the FOP/segment numbers again
- SkyTeam Elite Plus: Japanese Delta Air Lines American Express Gold card (28,600 yen per year) comes with the airline’s Gold Medallion – it is awarded automatically for the first year and extended each year the cardholder’s spend hits 1,500,000 yen (~12,000 USD)
Over the last couple of years – during the COVID-19 era – earning the first two of those became easier. To attract customers, ANA offered double Premium Points (points needed to earn a status) and JAL offered double FLY ON points on their flights.
While I resisted those offers for a long time, thinking about it as an investment into this blog among other things, I decided to do a mileage run to earn ANA Platinum status – and thus become eligible to apply for an ANA Super Flyers card – back in November.
Currently, it’s possible to get an ANA Platinum status by meeting either of the two conditions below in a year:
- Earn 50,000 Premium Points (including at least 25,000 earned on ANA group-operated flights)
- Earn 30,000 Premium Points on ANA group-operated flights + spend 4,000,000 yen (~30,000 USD) using an ANA credit card + use seven ANA Life Solutions Services
Having met the minimum credit card spending and used five ANA Life Solutions services by the time I started the mileage run, I decided to go with the second option.
The one disadvantage of this option is that the status doesn’t reflect until next April (the start of Japan’s fiscal year). That was not a big issue for me, though, as I have Star Alliance Gold status via TAP until the end of January 2023 and do not plan to do much flying in the first half of 2023 due to my daughter just having been born anyways.
Planning the Mileage Run
Once I finalized the decision to earn ANA Platinum status through the “Life Solutions Services” route, the next step was to plan how I would earn the required Premium Points and use the seven services.
For both of those, I wasn’t starting at zero. I had 2,542 Premium Points that I earned through ANA flights earlier in the year. I also used five ANA Life Solutions Services earlier in the year including:
- ANA Furusato Nozei: I donated to some local municipalities in exchange for gifts through ANA’s aggregator of furusato nozei offers. Local taxes are reduced by the donation amount up to a certain limit.
- ANA Festa/ANA Duty Free Shop: I probably bought a bottle of tea or something at one of ANA’s airport stores.
- ANA Traveler’s: I booked an ANA A380 joyride through ANA’s travel agency.
- ANA Card Mile Plus: I used one or more stores that participate in the program where extra miles are earned for shopping.
- Use of Other Stores Where ANA Miles Are Earned: Similar to the above.
With that, I had to find a way to earn 27,458 Premium Points and use two more ANA Life Solutions Services.
For the latter, to be on the safe side, I used three more services: ANA Store A-Style (I bought the cheapest thing available in the store), ANA Mileage Mall (I shopped at one of the participating stores), and ANA Mileage Clube Mobile Plus (I signed up for the service which costs a couple of dollars a month).
Planning the flights I should take to earn the missing Premium Points – now that was a lot more fun. There were two basic conditions I was trying to meet with my itinerary:
- Earn the Premium Points in as few days as possible as my wife was in late pregnancy and I didn’t want to be away from home for too long
- Do something more fun than just flying back and forth between Tokyo and Okinawa – the most popular route for mileage running due to its length
Taking those two conditions, I spent hours and hours playing around with different itineraries, different dates, and so on.
I even tried creating itineraries where I would include both the northernmost (Wakkanai) and southernmost (Ishigaki) airports with airline service in Japan or fly in and out of all of the main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Okinawa). Neither of those was, unfortunately, possible in the short amount of time I was hoping to spend on the mileage run.
Finalizing the Itinerary
After hours of playing Tetris with different flights, I was able to put together an itinerary that earned me the required Premium Points in two and a half days and also took me from Memambetsu in Hokkaido all the way to Naha in Okinawa. It consisted of a day trip and a one-night trip with an overnight stay in Naha.
The day trip was – with just four flights – fairly leisurely. The itinerary was as follows:
- 6:40AM – 8:35AM | Tokyo Haneda – Kagoshima | A321 | Economy Class
- 11:55AM – 1:05PM | Kagoshima – Osaka Itami | 737-800 | Economy Class
- 1:55PM – 4:15PM | Osaka Itami – Naha | 787-8 | Premium Class
- 7:05PM – 9:25PM | Naha – Tokyo Haneda | 777-200ER | Premium Class
The first day of the second part of the mileage run was, with six flights and some fairly short connections, considerably more packed:
- 6:25AM – 8:25AM | Tokyo Haneda – Fukuoka | 737-800 | Economy Class
- 10:05AM – 12:20PM | Fukuoka – Sapporo | 737-800 | Economy Class
- 1:20PM – 2:10PM | Sapporo – Memanbetsu | Dash 8 Q400 | Economy Class
- 2:40PM – 3:30PM | Memanbetsu – Sapporo | Dash 8 Q400 | Economy Class
- 4:10PM – 6:30PM | Sapporo – Osaka Kansai | 737-800 | Economy Class
- 8:10PM – 10:25PM | Osaka Kansai – Naha | 737-800 | Premium Class
Finally, all that I had to do after one night in Okinawa was take a flight back to Tokyo to earn the last missing Premium Points:
- 8:00AM – 10:15AM | Naha – Tokyo Haneda | 777-200ER | Economy Class
During “normal” times, the 11 flights would have earned me 13,692 Premium Points. With the double Premium Points campaign, though – and with some segments being on routes where extra 500 points were offered – the itinerary earned me 28,884 Premium Points. That got me 1,426 points above the 30,000-point minimum I needed to reach.
In total, the flights cost 175,900 yen (~1,400 USD) for a cost per point of 5.6 yen.
The cheapest flight yen per point-wise was the last flight from Naha to Tokyo. The flight cost 9,910 yen and earned me 2,952 Premium Points at just 3.36 yen per point. On the other end of the spectrum was the flight from Kagoshima to Osaka which cost 13,040 yen and earned me 1,486 Premium Points at a whopping 8.78 yen per point.
In Naha, I stayed in Hotel Gran View Okinawa. Thanks to an ongoing government campaign to promote travel, it cost just 3,480 yen (~30 USD) for the night. As part of the campaign I also got 3,000 yen worth of shopping vouchers, though, so the actual cost of the hotel was just a few dollars.
I made the decision to go on this mileage run fairly abruptly. I decided to act as I realized that I won’t be hitting the “Life Solutions Services” spending goal for a while (I switched my primary credit card) and that next year ANA (and JAL) most likely won’t be running the double points campaign.
While I enjoyed the planning process – looking for various flights and putting together “random” itineraries is one of my favorite activities after all – taking the trip was, of course, more fun. In the next installment of this series, I will cover the first part of the mileage run and in the last installment, I will cover the second, two-day part of it.