The Best Options For Flying Business Class To Africa

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flying to Africa in business class

Best Miles for Flying to Africa in Business Class

With Etihad’s nuking of their award pricing for Royal Air Maroc, I thought I’d take a look at the best miles to fly to Africa now that this amazing option is gone. Sure, it already wasn’t for everyone, and Royal Air Maroc’s route presence in North America consisted of solely New York and Montreal. But some people were more than willing to position to fly this route, as it was solidly one of the best options for flying to Africa in business class.

All great things must eventually die. But There are still some great options for getting to Africa in premium seats, so not all hope is lost. Here are the top award options for flying to Africa in business class.

Best Round-Trip Option: ANA Mileage Club

All Nippon Airways has one of the most attractive award prices between the United States and Africa. All of Africa is one region, unlike other award programs that often break northern Africa into its own region and sub-Saharan Africa into another. Business Class between anywhere in the U.S. and anywhere in Africa is just 104,000 ANA miles round-trip.

The Star Alliance is well represented in Africa as well, with both Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways serving many countries. You can also transit Europe, flying any of the Star Alliance partners there as well, connecting onward to your final destination.

At effectively 52,000 miles each way and lots of flexibility in terms of carrier and destination, ANA Mileage Club offers the best miles for flying to Africa in business class.

The one thing you need to watch out for is fuel surcharges. ANA levies these, and on some Star Alliance carriers, they can be significant. If you can find United business class space on their new seasonal Newark – Cape Town route, this might be a great way to circumvent excessive fees.

Photo courtesy of Tomas del Coro under CC BY 2.0 license.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic is an excellent option for flyers in a few different markets looking to fly with Delta flights. Business class will between the U.S. and Africa costs just 60,000 miles, the same as if you’re flying to Asia with the program. Compared to what many other carriers charge, this is an excellent deal.

The downside is that this pricing is only for nonstop flights. Luckily, Delta has the most route options of any U.S. carrier, with five options. United has one destination: Cape Town. American has none. Here are all the Delta options you can book for 60,000 Flying Club miles:

The nonstop requirement may be frustrating, but there’s a great combo opportunity here if you live a cheap United hop away from a Delta gateway. If you can line up the award space, consider booking a United hop to the Delta gateway for a low number of miles, use the Excursionist Perk to fly within Africa to your actual destination (stopping over in your gateway city, if you like), and then use the final United hop to get home.

I planned out such an itinerary, just for kicks, assuming you live in the Washington D.C. area:
  • IAD-EWR economy for 6,000 United miles
  • Day in NYC
  • JFK-Lagos/Accra (found either) business for 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles
  • Week in Nigeria or Ghana (latter is likely a better choice)
  • LOS/ACC-ADD-CPT economy for zero United miles
  • Few days in Cape Town, internal cheap flight to Johannesburg
  • JNB-ATL Delta business for 60,000 Virgin Atlantic Miles
  • ATL-IAD United economy for 10,000 United miles

With the above itinerary in mind, do note that Virgin Atlantic can also book you seats on South African Airways, but at a price of 75,000 miles each way, plus significant fuel surcharges. This would avoid the hopping around and let you fly nonstop from Dulles to Accra or Johannesburg to New York, if desired.

One final issue with Delta flights to Africa is that the routes typically have very little premium award space (I didn’t actually find the JNB-ATL space, which is notoriously scarce…I did find the JFK-LOS/ACC space). But if you can manage to snag that rare seat, Virgin Atlantic offers some of the best miles for flying to Africa in business class.

Alaska Airlines to South Africa on Cathay

This is truly an amazing sweet spot that I am amazed has not yet died. Alaska Airlines prices U.S. to Africa via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific for just 62,500 miles one-way in business class. First class is also a steal at just 70,000 miles (although there is no first class cabin operating between HKG and South Africa, as far as I am aware).

The issue here is Cathay’s limited route network to Africa. They fly to only Cape Town and Johannesburg. Easy enough if you’re looking to visit South Africa, but you’re out of luck if you’re looking to fly anywhere else. Luckily, there are ways of scoring cheap intra-Africa flights, one of which I’ve already explained above.

Korean Carriers: KAL Skypass and Asiana

Both Korean Skypass and Asiana are an excellent option for getting to Africa on SkyTeam and Star Alliance carriers, respectively. At 120,000 miles round-trip, they offer roughly the same value as Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, with the flexibility of being able to use other carriers and include connections. Kenya Airways is a SkyTeam partner within the African continent that is also bookable with Korean Skypass, while Asiana would be able to book Star Alliance partners Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, and South African Airways.

The primary issue with Korean Air and Asiana is that they aren’t a transfer partner of any of the bank programs. You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points, either in batches of 60,000 for 25,000 miles in either program, or as part of a Marriott Travel package (just make sure you pick one of the best value Marriott packages).

American Airlines on Etihad or Qatar

While I consider the previous options the best deals strictly based on number of miles required to fly business class to Africa, American’s pricing isn’t that bad, considering some of the great products you can book. With both Qatar and Etihad (for now) as partners, you can book business class one-way between the U.S. and Africa via the Middle East for just 75,000 miles. If I had a lot of AAdvantage miles, I’d drop them for that in a heartbeat.

Both Qatar and Etihad are known for having excellent business class products, and even though you’re flying a bit out of your way to get to Africa, I’d argue it’s worth it.

You could also use American AAdvantage to book travel on British Airways or Iberia to Africa, but you’d pay a small fortune in fuel surcharges (less on Iberia than BA). There are fewer extra fees with Etihad, and you’ll be flying a better product.

Air Canada Aeroplan

If none of the previous options suit you, Aeroplan is a decent alternative. The cost for business class awards between the U.S. and Africa is 75,000 miles one way, which is as steep as American. As Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance, you have the flexibility to fly any of the partner airlines within Africa as part of your ticket.

Considering that Aeroplan has offered a 20% bonus on points transferred from American Express Membership Rewards, you’re actually looking at just 125,000 MR points for a round-trip ticket. This can even include a stopover!

The potential downside is the fuel surcharges. Aeroplan is not that much of a discount off of other programs, and I believe that they levy fuel surcharges on both South African Airways and Ethiopian Airlines.

Other Best Miles for Flying to Africa in Business Class?

Flying Blue is potentially a good program for flights to northern Africa, as countries such as Morocco and Tunisia are priced as Europe. If you can catch a promo award, this might be the best deal of all, although it doesn’t get you deep into sub-Saharan Africa.

In a pinch, or if you are rich with Ultimate Rewards, I’d honestly stick with United miles. They may not be the best miles for flying to Africa in business class, as you’ll pay 80,000 each way. But they are very easy to use, there are no fuel surcharges, and you have numerous routing options.

flying to Africa in business class


While Delta is your best bet for getting between the U.S. and Africa with a single long-haul, their awards can be both expensive and difficult to find, especially awards to Johannesburg. If you can snag space, Virgin Atlantic miles are your best bet.

The rest of the options are all the best miles for flying to Africa in business class. If you’re considering a safari, these are the cheapest ways to fly there in style.

Ian Snyder
After igniting his passion for award travel while planning his honeymoon, Ian now enjoys using points and miles to see the world with his wife and three internationally adopted kiddos. He loves dissecting loyalty programs to find maximum value. His goal is to demonstrate that extraordinary travel is possible for the ordinary family.

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  1. How do you search for the delta flights that are saver rates for virgin or Korean? And how do you anticipate the fuel surcharges for those same flights?

    • Good question. First, fuel surcharges on round-trips shouldn’t be assessed, as far as I am aware. As for searching, I’d take a look at the 5-week view of the Delta site first, since it is pretty easy. Note the cheapest awards you find, and then head over to the Virgin Atlantic site and see if that pops up on the same days. Then you can keep looking for those prices.

  2. Unless something recently changed, Aeroplan doesn’t levy fuel surcharges on Ethiopian. I booked a one-way ORD-JNB that was 75,000 miles + $7.40 CAD (~$5.60 USD)

  3. I’m headed to South Africa next year and have already secured Qsuites home but I’m considering how I should get to the continent since I will be first stopping in the Seychelles. I’m currently watching an Ethiopian routing with one stop in ADD but Ethiopian isn’t exactly how I want to spend my miles. Do you think there’s a decent chance any other airline will open space to let’s say Europe and then ADD or straight to SEZ closer in?

    • Will you be headed to the Seychelles from the U.S.? I’d look for a routing via Europe straight to SEZ, then maybe consider a UA Excursionist Perk to get from SEZ to SA (need to set up intra-US award on the front end and fly it).

  4. I have a very specific week my wife is on spring break next year. Picking the date we needed to leave to coincide with a Marriott 5 night for 4 price sure limited the deals. I was able to take advantage of Amex 15% bonus to Avianca and picked up business class on Ethiopian from JFK to ABB to DBX for 68k membership reward points per person each way on the dates I needed and no fuel charges.

    You might want to update your blog to make folks aware of this. I think I got a better deal than what you are talking about. HT to Juicy Miles

    • That 68k award is a one-way price, which comes to 136,000 round-trip. You’re also ending in the Middle East zone, which is cheaper. The LM price for Africa is 154,000 miles round-trip, and the upside is certainly no fuel surcharges.


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