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How to Get to South Africa with Points and Miles

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By: Caroline Lupini

South Africa is a great country to visit with something to fit every travel style. You have amazing hiking, world-class vineyards, safaris and more! Unfortunately, travel times to South Africa are generally quite long with many routings going through countries in the Middle East or Europe.

When you’re flying that far, upgrading to business class is the best way to make your journey more comfortable and when cash tickets for economy class are high, it can be a pretty good deal.

Below, I’ll show you some of the best ways to get to South Africa with miles and points in economy, business, and even first class!

Economy

32,500 ANA Mileage Club Miles (Round-Trip Booking Required)

ANA Mileage Club offers the cheapest award flights between the U.S. and South Africa, but only if you book round-trip flights. This means you’ll need to have plans for round-trip travel and be able to find award availability in both directions.

However, you will also pay fuel surcharges of $500-600 round-trip depending on which airline partner you fly. It may not be worth paying extra cash to save 5,000 miles, but it depends on how many and what type of miles you have as well as what airlines have award space when you want to travel.

You can transfer SPG Starpoints or American Express Membership Rewards points to ANA Mileage Club at a 1:1 ratio. Don’t forget, if you transfer 20,000 Starpoints, you will receive a 5,000-mile bonus with any of its airline partners.

(Also note that Starwood is being fully merged with Marriott on August 1, though this will not fundamentally change this strategy)

 You can fly round trip to South Africa for just 32,500 ANA miles. Just watch out for those fees!

37,500 American AAdvantage Miles

American Airlines partners with two airlines that can get you to South Africa with your miles: Qatar Airways and British Airways. Either way, you’ll pay 37,500 American AAdvantage miles to fly one-way between the U.S. and South Africa. However, British Airways does pass on steep fuel surcharges so you’ll pay a lot more cash if you fly on British Airways than Qatar Airways.

You can transfer SPG Starpoints to your American AAdvantage account at a 1:1 ratio. You can also earn American miles directly through one of their co-branded cards provided by either Citi or Barclays. Both banks provide business and personal versions of these co-branded cards

40,000 United MileagePlus Miles

United isn’t as cheap as some of your other options, but one great thing about using United MileagePlus miles is that they don’t pass on fuel surcharges. What that really means is that you can book the same flights on Star Alliance partners as you would with ANA Mileage Club.

While ANA charges fewer miles, you also need to pay fuel surcharges. Instead, you could use a few extra miles when you book with United and get out of paying those fuel surcharges. What option is right for you depends on which miles you have and how you value your miles.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus at a 1:1 ratio. You can also earn United miles directly with one of the Chase United cards—both business and personal versions. You can learn more about those cards here.

40,000 Korean Air SkyPass Miles

If you aren’t having luck finding availability with oneworld or Star Alliance, redeeming Korean SkyPass miles isn’t a bad option to access SkyTeam airlines such as Delta, KLM and Air France. However, Korean’s fuel surcharges are even higher than ANA’s so you’ll pay more miles and more cash to get to the same destination!

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points and SPG Starpoints to Korean Air SkyPass at a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind, you can only book Korean SkyPass awards for yourself or family members. Sadly, even fiancee’s don’t count.

Chase Ultimate Rewards cards can be earned with the following credit cards:

There are a TON of ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards to travel to South Africa

Business Class

55,000 ANA Mileage Club Miles (Round Trip Booking Required)

ANA also charges the fewest miles to fly to South Africa in business class, as long as you are willing and able to book round-trip travel. Remember, you’ll need think about whether it’s worth paying fuel surcharges in order to save a few miles, because you’ll likely be charged between $500 and $600 per ticket depending which partner you fly. This is still an incredible deal for business class travel to South Africa when you consider that you’d pay more than this for a cash ticket in many cases.

You can transfer SPG Starpoints or American Express Membership Rewards points to ANA Mileage Club at a 1:1 ratio.

60,000 Korean SkyPass Miles

Korean Air’s mileage price for business class is much better than their economy price when compared to what other airlines charge. But, you’ll still be paying high fuel surcharges; these could be over $800 for your business class ticket! At least in this case you won’t also be paying more miles.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points and SPG Starpoints to Korean Air SkyPass at a 1:1 ratio.

62,500 Alaska MileagePlan Miles

Alaska Airlines has a different award chart and eligible regions for each of their partners. To get the price of 62,500 miles each way, you’ll fly Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong (HKG).

If you want to fly business class between the U.S. and South Africa, this is one of the best deals in the sky! Not only will you get a ton of time in business class, but Cathay Pacific has a wonderful business class product with great food and fantastic lounges at HKG.

Alaska Airlines allows you to book stopovers on one-way award tickets, so you can also use the stop in Hong Kong to take a longer break from flying and spend a few days (or longer!) exploring a new city on your way to South Africa.

SPG Starpoints can be transferred to your Alaska MileagePlan at a 1:1 ratio. You can also earn Alaska miles directly with one of their co-branded cards issued by Bank of America—there are both personal and business versions.

75,000 American AAdvantage Miles

One of my favorite redemptions to get to South Africa in business class is to use 75,000 American AAdvantage miles to fly Qatar Airways in each direction. Qatar Airways has one of my favorite business class cabins. It’s not incredibly luxurious (meaning, it’s not first class!) but it is super solid will fully lie-flat seats and good food. If you fly this way, you also pay around $100 in taxes and fees on your ticket.

If you’re planning to use American AAdvantage miles, there’s a good chance that you’re going to see a ton of options to fly British Airways through London for the same 75,000 miles each way. However, be aware that if you book flights on British Airways, you will pay steep fuel surcharges in addition to taxes and fees. Fuel surcharges for this route will be over $600 one-way, so it’s nowhere near as good of a redemption.

You can transfer SPG Starpoints to your American AAdvantage account at a 1:1 ratio. You can also earn American miles directly through one of their co-branded cards provided by either Citi or Barclays. Both banks provide business and personal versions of these co-branded cards.

You can fly to South Africa in Business class for 75,000 AA miles each way

80,000 United MileagePlus Miles

Again, using United MileagePlus miles is not the cheapest option for travel to South Africa, but they don’t hit you with fuel surcharges. It might be worth paying a few extra miles to save a couple hundred dollars in fuel surcharges if you have the miles to spare.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United MileagePlus at a 1:1 ratio. You can also earn United miles directly with one of the Chase United cards—both business and personal versions.

First Class

70,000 Alaska MileagePlan Miles

For an upgrade over business class, you can use just a few extra Alaska Mileage Plan miles to fly Cathay Pacific first class between the U.S. and South Africa.

Note that Cathay Pacific doesn’t operate a flight with first between HKG and Johannesburg (JNB) and it won’t on the soon to be launched flight to Cape Town (CPT). You’ll in business class for that part of the trip.

If you have the miles to spare, paying an extra 7,500 Alaska miles each way to upgrade yourself from business class to first class on the flight from the U.S. to Hong Kong is definitely worth it.

SPG Starpoints can be transferred to your Alaska MileagePlan at a 1:1 ratio. You can also earn Alaska miles directly with one of their co-branded cards issued by Bank of America—there are both personal and business versions.

Final Thoughts

No matter how you decide to travel to South Africa, you’re bound to have an amazing time while you’re there! There are plenty of great redemption options that cover all three alliances and all major transferable points currencies. Availability tends to be pretty good on many airlines that give you connection options to South Africa.

My personal favorite redemptions are to use 62,500 Alaska Airlines miles to fly business class through Hong Kong with a stopover (or even 70,000 miles in First class — even less than some airlines charge in business!) or to use American Airlines miles and fly Qatar in business class for 75,000 miles each way. If you can survive that long in economy, you can get from the U.S. to South Africa for as few as 32,500 miles each way with ANA, and that’s a steal!

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