I love All Nippon Airways (ANA). While Japan Airlines (JAL) is Japan’s flagship airline and enjoys official backing from the Japanese government, ANA has had to build their business with much less official support. It’s satisfying to know today that ANA has become better in service and larger in scale than Japan Airlines. Oh I’m so proud of you, ANA.

So, it was no brainer when it came to choosing a mileage program between the two.

It all started back in 2017. A friend of mine was doing so called “Mileage run” to become a Star Flyers Card (SFC) member. She suggested that I’d do the run, too, to get this magical card.

“Listen, you can get this credit card only when you live in Japan. You do live in Japan now, so do it as soon as possible! If you get this credit card, you’d be able to fly in style for the rest of your life. It’s a life changing opportunity. Do it!”

How does that sound to you? It sounded like some kind of scam or a religious recruit. The whole time we were at a Doutor in Kanda, she was explaining her action plan to earn “Premium Points” so that she could get this magical credit card. She was flying to Singapore, Australia and other countries, and come back to Japan on the same day. Nuts. I thought. But she was my best friend and I managed to fake interest. She said:

“Get Marcin to do mileage run and get the SFC card. He has time and likes travelling. He’ll get to see Japan doing it.”

Next year in 2018, I remembered this. Even if you fake ‘something’, you still remember it. So I did some research myself and found out that actually there were so many benefits in becoming a Super Flyers Card holder. I also found out on the internet that mileage fans around the world would kill to get this card, but they can’t because you actually have to live in Japan to apply for it. Permanent access to Star Alliance airline lounges and express check-in counters, free seat upgrades, more luggage allowance, etc. Why not? But there was one problem. You actually have to fly. A lot. And pay for it without using mileage.

To be eligible for a SFC credit card, you first have to be an ANA mileage club member and earn 50,000 Premium Points. What’s the difference between mileage and PP? Well, you can earn mileage by flying as well as shopping with your credit cards. I mainly collected mileage by using my ANA Wide Credit Card. But to get PP, you actually have to fly and the amount of PP you earn is different depending on the type of seats and the destinations. I worked out that the cheapest way to get 50,000 PP was to fly between Tokyo and Okinawa, 34 times.

Any ordinary person would say “That’s stupid. I’m not doing it”. I wouldn’t have done it either. But my dear Marcin was so excited about it that he told everyone about his adventure on the 34 flights.

Unfortunately, there was a good chance that even if he earned 50,000PP, he couldn’t apply for an ANA credit card because he had very little credit history in Japan. (Un)fortunately, I already possessed an ANA Wide Credit Card. There were only two in our family. Marcin was out. I bit the bullet.

In August 2018 I booked 29 cheapest economy class and two premium class tickets (which give more PP) between Haneda and Okinawa on one hit. I flew by myself for the duration of three months between September and November. I flew two or four flights a day, and six times a day a few times. The total I paid for these flights are around 330,000 yen. I stayed in Okinawa several times, but accomodation was paid for by my Rakuten points. In November, I reached just 50,000PP, and applied for a SFC credit card for myself and Marcin. When the cards arrived at home, I literally cried. Marcin’s iPhone wallpaper is a picture of me holding the cards, with tears and sparkles in my eyes. Oh I wish I could share that photo with you.

Now, there were a few things I did in my life which made me proud. Getting a permanent residency in Australia in the 1990’s. Getting a PhD from Sydney University in 2006. Getting the SFC credit card is the most satisfying experience in my 40s. We get to enjoy all the benefits of the card for the rest of our lives. But the best benefit from this all is the sense of achievement, which I have not experienced for a long, long time.

Sure it cost us financially and time wise. I felt lonely at a time as I never travelled this much by myself. But The SFC Premium Points run inspired me to look for more things that I could do only while we are in Japan. As much as we love this country, I have no idea how long we’ll stay here. Marcin moved from Poland to Australia to Thailand and to Japan, while I moved from Japan to Australia to Thailand, and back to Japan.

I respect ANA because they know the pain of not getting extra support from institution. Marcin and I have managed to help each other in our lives without much support from anyone. I love you, ANA. No matter where we are going to live next, we know you have our back, providing the world’s best service for our journey.

Oh god, tomorrow is Marcin’s birthday. The guitar is arriving between 2pm and 4pm today. I better hid it.