Best ways to get to Africa using miles (economy class edition)

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The best ways to Africa in economy class are among the cheapest long-haul economy awards to any region in the world. As the second-largest continent in the world by land area, the region is huge and thus many award programs split the continent into multiple regions. That can make for some advantageous opportunities for those who want to connect the dots to visit multiple countries by booking separate sweet spot awards. The flights will be long and in many cases you will need to connect out of your way, but it’s hard to beat the relative value of many of these awards. Still, keep in mind that in many cases you can fly in premium cabins for less of a premium than you might expect (See: Best ways to get to Africa using miles (premium cabins) for more).

Transferable Currencies

If you want to use airline miles, it’s great to have transferable points.  Transferable point programs let you transfer your points to any of a number of airline programs.  This is great because it gives you the freedom to book many different flights through many different methods, some of which are strikingly cheaper than others.  If you’re not familiar with transferable points programs, please check out our guides:

Amex Membership Rewards Complete Guide Capital One “Rewards miles” Complete Guide Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide
Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide

Geography: Not a loyalty program strong suit

It’s worth noting here that most airline programs roughly split up North Africa from South or South and Central Africa, offering different prices depending on where you’re going in Africa. However, note that there are some programs that include Morocco in Europe and others that consider Egypt to be part of the Middle East. Those kinds of classifications can sometimes lead to sweet spots for getting to a continent, which you may then leverage with a sweet spot for travel within a single continent or region (especially perhaps with the United Excursionist Perk).

Other posts in this series:

For other similar posts to other regions around the world, see:

Best ways to get to… (Hawaii, Europe, Asia, etc.)

Best ways to get to Africa using airline miles (in economy class)

The deals below are sorted alphabetically. Remember that the lowest price isn’t the entire picture: be sure to consider which airlines levy fuel surcharges and the ease of amassing the miles for your chosen award. See each description for where to search, how to book, and which partners you can use to transfer. It is always best to confirm availability before transferring miles to be sure that the award you seek can be booked with the miles you intend.

Note that most major airline programs charge 40-50K miles each way to Africa. We have included programs below which offer awards for fewer miles (or in a couple of cases programs with awards at 40K that have advantages like no fuel surcharges or additional perks).

Air France / KLM Flying Blue

  • The short story: Monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards can sometimes offer excellent value between the US and Europe and Flying Blue considers several countries located in North Africa to be part of its "Europe" pricing model (including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and the Canary Islands). Once in Africa, keep Flying Blue in mind for intra-Africa awards on Kenya Airways.
  • Miles required: Varies. Air France no longer has an award chart, but promo awards often offer good value, with economy class awards often available from as low as 10K-15K one way during some sales from select airports. They sometimes present good value for travel on other SkyTeam partners like Delta or Alitalia, but YMMV.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AirFrance.us (you’ll need to create a free Flying Blue frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AirFrance.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Air France / KLM do add fuel surcharges, though they are often reasonable.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Alaska Mileage Plan

  • The short story: Alaska Mileage Plan charges an excellent price for travel on Cathay Pacific between the US and Africa when you consider that they allow a stopover even on a one-way award.
  • Miles required: 50K each way in economy class, including a stopover in Hong Kong for as long as you like.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at BritishAirways.com (you’ll need to create a free Executive Club frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone with Alaska Mileage Plan at 1-800-252-7522.
  • Key warnings: Alaska may have access to one fewer seat than what you see at the British Airways site. Also note that you don't need many more miles for premium cabins: for only 25% more miles (62.5K one way) you can fly Cathay Pacific business class, or for 40% more miles (70K one way) you can fly first class.
  • Transfer from: Marriott

American Airlines AAdvantage

  • The short story: American charges 40K each way in economy class and allows a routing exception so you can fly on either Qatar or Etihad to get to Africa. Alternatively, fly Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca for 30K one-way since AA has classified Morocco as part of Europe.
  • Miles required: 40K miles each way in economy class to Africa (or 30K miles each way in economy class to Morocco).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AA.com. Alternatively, use the British Airways site to find space on Qatar and Etihad's site to search for "Saver Guest" space on Etihad. Note that to find space from the US to Abu Dhabi, you may need to run a round trip search starting in Abu Dhabi.
  • How to book awards: Book online at AA.com or over the phone. Note that Etihad awards must be booked over the phone and many US-based agents have trouble finding the award space. Try calling the Australia call center if you run into difficulty.
  • Key warnings: Finding space can be tough and you could save miles with other programs and transferable currencies.
  • Transfer from: Marriott

ANA Mileage Club

  • The short story: ANA has the hands-down cheapest award pricing between North America and Africa/Middle East on Star Alliance airlines (note that they include almost all of Africa in their definition).
  • Miles required: 65K round trip in economy class. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but can be avoided with the right partners. Find partners that do not add fuel surcharges in this post: How To Find Business Class Awards To Europe For 88,000 Miles Or Points.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
  • How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
  • Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges (avoid Lufthansa-group airlines to avoid high fuel surcharges). The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Air Canada, Scandinavian Airlines, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa Airlines, United
  • Low fuel surcharges on: ANA, Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
  • Transfer from: AmexMarriott

Avianca LifeMiles

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 40K each way in economy class to South Africa (which includes most of Africa) or 42.5K each way to North Africa (and the Middle East). Note that there is sometimes variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), though we are not aware of any such pricing anomalies to Africa.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

  • The short story: Cathay Pacific has reasonable pricing for single-partner oneworld redemptions, particularly those requiring connections since they charge based on cumulative distance. Keep in mind that Royal Air Maroc is now a oneworld carrier and American intends to begin service from Philadelphia to Casablanca in 2021 (delayed from June 2020).
  • Miles required: 27K miles one-way for a cumulative distance of 2,751 to 5,000 miles, or 40K one-way for up to 7,500 miles.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at AsiaMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Asia Miles frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at AsiaMiles.com. Can also book via phone.
  • Key warnings: Fuel surcharges are moderate depending on route and origin.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Etihad Guest (for Royal Air Maroc)

  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers a good value for flying on Royal Air Maroc between the US and Casablanca.
  • Miles required: 22K miles each way in economy class between North America and Casablanca.
  • How to find awards: Search for award space at RoyalAirMaroc.com or AA.com. (You’ll need to create a free Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer account to search at the Royal Air Maroc website).
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Note that Etihad Guest adds fuel surcharges. The best way to find the total in taxes & fuel surcharges is to check ITA Matrix.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi

Singapore Krisflyer

  • The short story: Singapore offers good Star Alliance award pricing to the Middle East and North Africa (including Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt).
  • Miles required: 37.5K miles each way in economy class to/from the Middle East and North Africa. Central and Southern Africa are less competitive at 45K each way. See the full award chart here.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer.
  • Key warnings: Note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Marriott

United Mileage Plus

  • The short story: United offers a benefit called the “Excursionist Perk”, which gives you a free one-way within a single region when your travel begins and ends in the same region. See: Leveraging the United Excursionist Perk to save miles for some ideas and Maximizing (and understanding) United Excursionist perks. United partners with Egypt Air, South African, and Ethiopian, as well as a number of European partners that serve Africa, which should give you ample opportunity to take advantage of the Excursionist perk.
  • Miles required: 40K miles each way in economy class.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at United.com
  • Key warnings: United has eliminated its award chart, but partner flights have thus far mostly remained at previous levels. One exception is that flights within 21 days of departure now cost 3K extra miles for a total of 43K each way in economy class in this case.
  • Transfer from: Chase, Marriott

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

  • The short story: Virgin Atlantic offers excellent economy class pricing on Air France / KLM, particularly from the Eastern US, but since the US is split into two different zones and you'll find African countries in four different zones, it can be very confusing.
  • Miles required:
    • East Coast North America & Caribbean (Zone 6) to:
      • Zone 2 (Eastern Europe and North Africa, which includes Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia): 20K miles each way off-peak / 30K peak
      • Zone 3 (Middle East and Russia, which includes Egypt): 25K off-peak / 35K peak
      • Zone 4 (Central Africa): 24.5K off-peak / 34.5K peak
      • Zone 5 (Southern Africa, Indian Ocean & Indian Subcontinent): 28K off-peak / 38K peak
    • West & Central North America & Central America (Zone 7) to:
      • Zone 2 (Eastern Europe and North Africa, which includes Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia): 23K miles each way off-peak / 33K peak
      • Zone 3 (Middle East and Russia, which includes Egypt): 28K off-peak / 38K peak
      • Zone 4 (Central Africa): 28K off-peak / 38K peak
      • Zone 5 (Southern Africa, Indian Ocean & Indian Subcontinent): 31K off-peak / 41K peak
    • Standard price travel dates dates include:
      • 6 January 2020 – 2 April 2020
      • 22 April 2020 - 19 June 2020
      • 7 September 2020 - 11 December 2020
      • 6 January 2021 - 31 March 2021
    • Peak season travel dates include:
      • 3 April 2020 - 21 April 2020
      • 20 June 2020 - 6 September 2020
      • 12 December 2020 - 5 January 2021
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at VirginAtlantic.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com.  See: Book Air France & KLM with Virgin Atlantic Miles.
  • Key warnings: The zone-based award chart for Air France / KLM flights can be a bit confusing at first, but the nice thing about booking Air France / KLM flights with Virgin Atlantic miles is that Virgin Atlantic does not charge each segment separately as they do with other partners or their own flights. In this case, you'll pay the region prices even if connecting. Keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic is currently facing uncertain financial times, so it may be best to hold off a while on booking any travel that isn't imminent.
  • Transfer from: AmexCitiChaseMarriott

How to get the miles

The following chart shows the available transferable points programs for each of the above airline frequent flyer programs:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioChase Transfer RatioCiti Transfer RatioMarriott Transfer RatioCapital One Transfer Ratio
Air France KLM Flying Blue1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Alaska MileagePlan60K to 25K
ANA Mileage Club1 to 160K to 25K
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Etihad Guest1 to 11 to 1
(~1 week)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K1000 to 500
United MileagePlus1 to 1
(instant)
60K to 27.5K
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club1 to 11 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K

 

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