Your ultimate guide to using miles and points to travel from the UK to next summer’s Olympic Games in Japan.
The Olympics begin on Friday 24th July 2020 and finish on Sunday 9 Aug 2020. Although it’s still over a year away, British Airways releases Avios seats 355 days before departure. That means at some point in the next month or so, there’s going to be a mad rush for those Avios tickets.
While redeeming Avios for direct BA flights might be your first thought, those seats will be in super high demand and it’s well worth having a number of alternatives up your sleeve.
Here’s a look at some of those options:
Use Virgin Atlantic miles to fly ANA Business/First Class
One of the best ways to redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles is to use them with partner airline All Nippon Airways (ANA).
I’ve written previously about the outstanding value you can get by redeeming just 95,000 Virgin miles return for ANA business class to Tokyo or 120,000 miles for First Class.
Better still, ANA recently released details of their brand-new business and First Class products which will debut on the London-Tokyo route from September 2019.
How to book
You can’t search for availability or book ANA flights on the Virgin website. To book, you’ll need to call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
The best way to check availability online is with an ANA partner such as United Airlines.
Visit united.com and put in your preferred route and dates. You’re looking for Business/First Saver Award availability.
Ignore the prices quoted by United – you just want to locate the award space. Generally speaking, the availability that Virgin phone agents can see will match saver award availability on the United website.
If you’re only after one ticket, First Class award availability out of London is relatively decent. Finding more than one seat in advance though can be nigh on impossible.
With two daily flights, Frankfurt is another option and currently a better bet for securing availability. From my searches, availability seems best 5+ months out and I saw an abundance of dates through the first half of 2020 with one business/First Class seat available. Again, if you need 2+ seats your best move is probably to book one seat and then check back regularly to see if they make further seats available.
For business class, you can also expand your search to include ANA flights from Paris, Dusseldorf, Munich, and Vienna.
Start your journey in HEL
Finnair also operates direct flights to Tokyo from Helsinki. A one-way Avios redemption costs 77,250 Avios + £181.
Japan Airlines is another fantastic way to get to Japan, and while they do offer direct flights from London, you can bet those flights will be snapped up just as quickly as the BA flights.
However, JAL also flies from various other European cities including Helsinki ( as well as Paris and Frankfurt). The cost for a one-way Avios redemption is 77,250 + £76 – so you’d save about £100 versus the Finnair option.
Star Alliance with Lufthansa, SWISS or Austrian
Availability using Miles & More miles seems to be excellent with both business class (71,000 miles each way) and First Class (110,000 miles each way) available on many dates, especially in 2020.
Remember that Lufthansa typically only releases First Class award space to partner airlines like United and Singapore Airlines within 14 days of departure, so advance availability using Miles & More miles is often very good.
QSuites with Qatar Airways
I found excellent availability from Doha to Tokyo. Both the flights to Narita and Haneda are operated by an A350 meaning you get to travel in style and experience their QSuites product.
This is also a good bet if you’re after multiple premium cabin seats. I regularly found 4 seats available on these routes.
If you wanted to use Avios, a one-way redemption from Doha to Tokyo costs 77,250 Avios + £107. Alternatively, using American AAdvantage miles is a seal at 40,000 miles + £18!
Kick things off in Paris with Air France
With three daily flights to Tokyo, Paris and Air France is a good option. Availability generally seems to be very good – with many flights having 9+ award seats.
You can book directly through Air France’s Flying Blue program – an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner. Alternatively, you can burn some Delta Skymiles (also an Amex partner). A one-way business ticket with Delta costs approximately 90,000 miles + €243.
Later in 2019, you will hopefully be able to use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles on this route too!
Aim elsewhere in Asia – think Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul and more
While there will be a surge to snap up Avios seats directly to Japan, flights to other Asian cities may prove more fruitful. Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Hong Kong are all a 2-4 hour flight from Tokyo. Hong Kong aside, a quick search on Reward Flight Finder shows very good availability through the end of the schedule for 2+ Club World seats to those destinations.
You can even redeem miles on many of the routes. A Japan Airlines (JAL) business class ticket from Shanghai to Tokyo, for example, would cost just 16,500 Avios + £28.