You will always have to pay some fees and taxes when you book an award ticket with ANA Mileage Club, as well as any carrier surcharges (“fuel surcharges”). Three factors will determine what you have to pay and are discussed below. Keep these in mind along with the number of miles you have to redeem and remember that you have options. Many people transfer miles to ANA from Membership Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest, which are also partners with Aeroplan.
Reservation fees are set by the loyalty program — in this case ANA Mileage Club. Some of these fees are waived for members with elite status, while others aren’t. There may also be extenuating circumstances that enable you to get fees waived for other reasons, so it’s worth asking if you think you have a compelling argument.
$25 telephone reservations fee — If you need to call to book your award, you’ll pay $25 per ticket. ANA will not collect this fee when you book online, which is possible for most awards. If you are unable to book a particular ticket online for a technical reason, ANA say upfront that they will waive this fee. Visit the ANA website to learn more about the fee charged in other currencies.
No close-in ticketing fee — Although there is no fee for booking awards close to the departure date, be advised that ANA does not permit travelers to book new award tickets within 96 hours of departure.
No change fee — ANA permits a limited variety of changes to award tickets without a fee up to 24 hours before departure. These include changes to the dates and times of travel, but you may not change the airlines, the itinerary, or add or remove stopovers. You also can’t change the name of the passenger or change between a partner award and an ANA-operated award.
3,000 miles cancellation fee — If you need to cancel an unused award ticket, there is no cash fee. Instead you will forfeit 3,000 miles before they are returned to your account. If you need to make a change not permitted by the rules above, you’ll have to cancel and rebook.
There is little you can do to avoid government taxes. All award travel includes taxes, and they are determined by local governments — not the airlines. Generally speaking, you will pay more in taxes when you make additional connections because some taxes are applied on a per-segment basis to cover airport operations and security.
Some taxes can be avoided by making adjustments to your itinerary. For example, flights from Canada (not to) have about $50 in departure taxes that don’t exist on the U.S. side of the border, but Americans have their own taxes for customs and immigration. Other taxes may penalize specific groups, such as the Air Passenger Duty (APD) that applies to travelers departing London. You can avoid the APD if you begin your travel outside of London, like Frankfurt, and merely connect through on your way to someplace else.
Taxes collected on award travel are pretty consistent no matter which airline you fly, so you don’t need to worry about making a strategic choice to redeem miles from one program or another.
Sometimes known as “fuel surcharges” — although they no longer have much to do with the price of fuel — carrier-imposed surcharges are one of the largest costs associated with award travel. Some programs, like United MileagePlus, don’t collect them at all. ANA Mileage Club does. But it can’t collect them if the airline doesn’t have a surcharge to begin with, and on some specific airlines it may choose not to.
Travel Is Free has a good review of his experience with fuel surcharges when booking ANA award tickets. You can read it for more detail on the exact amounts, but I’ll summarize it by listing the airlines on which you won’t pay surcharges when redeeming miles with ANA:
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air New Zealand
- Copa Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- United Airlines (surcharges still exist on flights to/from Asia)
Are surcharges a big deal? It’s hard to say without also looking at how many miles the program charges. For example, here are two options for a business class award between North America and Europe: pay 140,000 miles and no fuel surcharges to United, or pay 88,000 miles and ~$500 to ANA. In either case you’re on the exact same flight operated by Lufthansa.
Some would say a few hundred bucks is worth saving your miles for another award down the line. Others insist on paying as little out of pocket as they can. Also remember that earning miles with ANA might be easier (or harder) than earning them with United. This is ultimately your call.
ANA is choosing not to collect fuel surcharges in some cases. If United operated that flight to Europe, it would list a surcharge in the paid fare but ANA would choose not to pass it on to you. There are also routes that don’t have any surcharges to begin with. A typical example is a domestic flight, such as San Francisco to Honolulu. No surcharge means that — whatever ANA’s policy or United’s policy — there’s nothing to collect.
Estimating Taxes and Surcharges
Estimating the taxes and surcharges on an award ticket can be useful to compare options before booking an award. You may be faced with multiple options using the same loyalty program to fly on different itineraries, or you might find that the same itinerary costs different amounts if you book it with different programs. The taxes are usually the same across programs. The fees vary a little. The surcharges (if any) are a policy decision as I just discussed and are usually the biggest dollar amount.
To find the taxes and surcharges, you will need to search for the same flight as if you were buying it with cash. Then find a breakdown that separates the total price into individual line items. The best free service that can do this is ITA Matrix. Read my introduction to ITA if you’re not familiar with it.
On the final page of your search, after you select your itinerary, you will find a breakdown of the price in a blue box. The base fare is listed first and is entirely covered by the miles you plan to redeem. The next item is usually a carrier-imposed surcharge (a.k.a “fuel surcharge”) and labeled “YQ” or “YR.” Not all flights have this surcharge. Remember that you need to familiarize yourself with program policies to determine if the airline will collect this surcharge or not. Finally, there will be a list of government taxes and fees that all programs collect.
Here’s an example from a one-way flight on Asiana in first class.
The blue and red boxes total up to $238.80 — the exact amount that I paid for each passenger in addition to the miles I redeemed. I would pay the same amount if I had booked this award through ANA. Note that the red boxes include some other fees that aren’t labeled “YQ.”
Booking this same award with United MileagePlus, which does not collect a surcharge, would result in only $14.20 in fees. (The passenger facility charge and departure tax are dependent on the surcharge.)