Best ways to get to Africa using miles

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From the markets of Marrakesh to the quintessential South African safari, the African continent holds many wonders to behold. Whether you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of penguins in Cape Town or The Great Migration across the Serengeti or you’re just hoping to explore one of the other fiftysomething countries on the continent, there are a number of good options for booking award travel to Africa. This post includes some of your best options in terms of value along with the key details you need to know about how to book and where to get the miles.

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:

Best Mile Deals to Africa

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.

Air Canada Aeroplan

  • The short story: Aeroplan offers better pricing on Star Alliance business class awards to Africa than United does, though they definitely aren’t the cheapest way to fly business class to Africa. They also offer stopovers on round trip awards, which can present particular value. Lap infants are charged incredibly reasonable fees in either cash or miles and the price is the same whether booking one way or round trip.
  • Miles required: 75K miles each way in business class or 105K in first class to East, West, and South Africa or 82.5K each way in business class / 115K in first class to North Africa (and the Middle East). Fuel surcharges are passed on, so choose carriers with low / no fuel surcharges.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
  • How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
  • Key warnings: There are high fuel surcharges on Lufthansa, but the relative savings in terms of miles used for first class might mitigate the fees.
  • No fuel surcharges on: Aegean, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Brussels Airlines, COPA, Croatia Airlines, Egypt Air, Ethiopian, Etihad, EVA Airlines, GOL, Juneao Airlines, SAS, SWISS, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines
  • Low fuel surcharges on: Cathay Pacific / Cathay Dragon, LOT Polish, Thai Airways
  • Transfer from: Amex, Marriott

Alaska Mileage Plan

  • The short story: Alaska Mileage Plan charges amazing rates for Cathay Pacific business or first class between the US and Africa and also allows a stopover even on a one-way award.
  • Miles required: 62.5K each way in business or 70K each way in first 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.
  • Key warnings: Alaska may have access to one fewer seat than what you see at the British Airways site.
  • Transfer from: Marriott Bonvoy

American Airlines AAdvantage

  • The short story: American charges just 75K each way in business class and allows a routing exception so you can fly on either Qatar or Etihad to get to Africa. If you can find Qatar QSuites space, that may be a particularly comfortable business class experience.
  • Miles required: 75K miles each way in business class.
  • 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.
  • Key warnings: Finding space can be tough, but if you can find it this can be an excellent use of American Airlines miles.
  • Transfer from: Marriott Bonvoy

ANA Mileage Club

  • The short story: ANA charges 104K between North America and Africa for Star Alliance business class itineraries.
  • Miles required: 104K round trip in business 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. 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: Amex Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Avianca LifeMiles

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 78K each way in business or 105K each way in first class with no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). In short, it is possible to pair the long-haul flights in business with connecting segments in economy class to pay fewer total miles.
  • 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 Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy

Etihad Guest

While the Royal Air Maroc sweet spot has soured a bit, Etihad still offers a competitive rate to Casablanca.

  • The short story: Etihad Guest offers a good value for flying on Royal Air Maroc between the US and Casablanca.
  • Miles required: 44K miles each way in business class between North America and Casablanca. Additional segments are priced individually.
  • How to find awards: Search for award space at RoyalAirMaroc.com. You’ll need to create a free Royal Air Maroc Safar Flyer account to search.
  • How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
  • Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again). Note also that Etihad Guest does add fuel surcharges. The best way to find the total in taxes & fuel surcharges is to check ITA Matrix.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points.

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: 80K miles each way in business 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 83K each way in business class in this case.
  • Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Turkish Miles & Smiles

  • The short story: Turkish offers excellent pricing to North Africa on Star Alliance carriers and decent award pricing to Central and Southern Africa.
  • Miles required: 60K miles each way in business class to North Africa, 72.5K miles each way in business class to Central Africa, and 85K each way in business class to Southern Africa
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at united.com and call Turkish to book or go to turkishairlines.com, log in to your account, go to "Miles transactions" to find the Star Alliance booking tool and click "book now" to go to that search tool (not the tool on the home page at turkishairlines.com). Note that there may be bookable options that do not appear on the site (hence checking United and calling when necessary).
  • How to book awards: Book online at turkishairlines.com using the instructions above or over the phone at 1-800-874-8875 or via email
  • Key warnings: Turkish is sometimes unable to see Star Alliance availability for no explicable reason. However, Turkish allows a hold for long enough for points to transfer from Citi. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you get your desired itinerary on hold via phone or email before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Citi ThankYou points, Marriott Bonvoy

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 Canada Aeroplan1 to 160K to 25K1000 to 750
Alaska MileagePlan60K to 25K
American AAdvantage60K to 25K
ANA Mileage Club1 to 160K to 25K
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Etihad Guest1 to 11 to 1
(~1 week)
60K to 25K1000 to 750
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles1 to 1
(~2 days)
60K to 25K
United MileagePlus1 to 1
(instant)
60K to 27.5K
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