Destination Cape Town. My one stop options.

In a few prior posts, I mentioned my desire to book business class award flights to Cape Town, South Africa, for my family of three.  In those prior posts, I used the Cape Town destination primarily as an excuse to compare various tools designed to identify award costs.  You can catch up on this series here:

Now, I’ll continue with the Destination Cape Town award booking story…

Destination Cape Town: One Stop Options

When traveling, I prefer fewer connections – especially when I’m traveling with my family.  I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so I fly out of the nearby Detroit Metro Airport (DTW).  If there was a nonstop flight to Cape Town (CPT), of course I’d want that flight, but there isn’t.  So, instead, I searched for one-stop options…

To find available flights, I turned to ITA Matrix.  I entered DTW as my starting point and CPT as my destination.  I picked a day in early January and asked for + or – 3 days (since some flights run less than daily).  And, for “Extra Stops”, I selected “Up to 1 extra stop.”  Normally I would also uncheck the box “Allow airport changes” since I don’t really want to have to switch airports during a layover, but for now I wanted to see all possibilities, so I left it checked.

Here were the 1 stop results:

Destination Cape Town DTW to CPT One Way Options ITA Matrix

I scanned through all of the detailed flight options and created this table showing all possible one-stop routes (that ITA Matrix could come up with):

Carrier 1 Layover City Carrier 2
Air France Paris Air France
Delta Paris Air France
Delta Amsterdam KLM
Delta London Heathrow British Airways
Virgin Atlantic London Heathrow British Airways
Lufthansa Frankfurt Condor

Wikipedia

Just in case ITA Matrix missed something, I turned to Wikipedia.  I looked up Detroit Metro Airport’s Airlines and Destinations.  This shows all direct flights and destinations out of Detroit.  I then recorded all direct options that might be candidates for routing through to Cape Town.  Not including the cities listed in the table above, I came up with this list:

Amman, Montreal, Munich, Rome, Sau Paulo, Toronto

Note that “direct flight” doesn’t necessarily mean non-stop.  For example, the direct Royal Jordanian flight from Detroit to Amman makes a stop in Montreal.

Next, I looked up Cape Town Airport’s Airlines and Destinations and recorded direct options that might be candidates for routing from or to Detroit:

Addis Ababa, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Munich (seasonal), Singapore, Zurich

Aha!  Munich is a direct flight from either Detroit or from Cape Town!  That means that it is a potential one-stop option.  I checked and found that the flight between Munich and Cape Town does run in January.  Unfortunately, the Detroit to Munich flight does not appear to run after October 28th:  Destination Cape Town DTW to CPT One Stop Options Delta MUC

So, Munich could be a one-stop option at other times, but not for this trip.  Plus, the Detroit to Munich flight is operated by Delta (SkyTeam) whereas the Munich to Cape Town flight is operated by Lufthansa (Star Alliance).  The two are not partners, so it would require two separate awards to get from Detroit to Cape Town that way.

I concluded that the table of one-stop options derived from ITA Matrix is probably correct.

British Airways

Two of the one-stop award options involve flying British Airways between London and Cape Town:

Carrier 1 Layover City Carrier 2
Delta London Heathrow British Airways
Virgin Atlantic London Heathrow British Airways

Flights between Detroit and London would be served by either Delta or Virgin Atlantic.  Neither are partners with British Airways.  So, this option would require two separate awards: one to get to London and another to get to Cape Town.  That’s not necessarily the end of the world, but it usually costs much more, in miles, to book two separate awards rather than one.  Plus, as we all know, British Airways stacks extremely high fuel surcharges onto awards, especially premium cabin awards.  So, this option would be expensive both in miles and in dollars.

Using AA.com to search for non-stop awards between London and Cape Town, I found that business class awards are virtually non existent.  It is certainly possible that awards would open up closer to departure, but there’s no guarantee.

Due to the high cost in miles and dollars, and the lack of award availability, the London option is effectively off the table, at least for one-stop award flights.

Condor?

An interesting one stop route found by ITA Matrix involves flying Lufthansa to Frankfurt and then Condor to Cape Town.  What is Condor?  Can I use miles to book their flights?

Carrier 1 Layover City Carrier 2
Lufthansa Frankfurt Condor

A quick search revealed that Lufthansa used to own Condor.  And, an old Million Mile Secrets post suggests that it’s possible to use Lufthansa Miles & More miles to book Condor flights, but only in economy.  And, the post goes on to say that even economy awards are almost impossible to find.

Here’s what the Miles & More website site says about using miles to book with Condor:

The page could not be found.

The selected page can no longer be accessed under this address. Please visit our Homepage or use the search function to find the required page.

Unfortunately, based on what little I dug up so far, I think that the Lufthansa/Condor option is off the table too.

SkyTeam / Flying Blue

The remaining one-stop award options involve SkyTeam partners Delta, Air France, and KLM with a layover in either Paris or Amsterdam:

Carrier 1 Layover City Carrier 2
Air France Paris Air France
Delta Paris Air France
Delta Amsterdam KLM

Since all three airlines are partners, any one of these routes is at least theoretically possible to book as a single award.

Destination Cape Town One Stop Options gcmap

Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper

To get a general sense of award availability, I used Delta.com to search for a single person award between Amsterdam and Cape Town, and between Paris and Cape Town.  The point wasn’t to find and book a flight, but rather just to see what might be possible.  I know from experience that awards between Detroit and Europe are pretty easy to get in the winter, so I wanted to narrow my search to the potentially harder-to-get flights.  Not surprisingly, Delta.com wasn’t very helpful…

When I searched Amsterdam to Cape Town, Delta said “We’re sorry.  There are not enough seats available…”  It’s supposed to show me a calendar of options, but it preferred to essentially spit out an error message:

Destination Cape Town DTW to CPT One Stop Options Delta from AMS

When searching Paris to Cape Town, Delta came up with different words (“No results were found…”), but the same overall result:

Destination Cape Town DTW to CPT One Stop Options Delta from CDG

Interestingly, when I search Delta from Detroit to Cape Town, the web site proved capable of finding flights:

Destination Cape Town DTW to CPT One Stop Options Delta from DTW Calendar

One-way for 95K is far from cheap, but at least there is some award availability.  When I clicked in to see details, I found this:

Destination Cape Town DTW to CPT One Stop Options Delta from DTW 95K result

Even though this is only one data point, I’m encouraged to find any award space available.  If I can find space from Detroit directly, I may even book it.  Ideally I would use a SkyTeam mileage program that permits layovers.  That way, we could fly into Paris, layover for a few days, then go on to Cape Town on a day in which the next award flight is available.

Based on my previous award price findings, Korean Airlines and AliItalia are two potentially good options for booking Sky Team awards to Cape Town.  Both currently charge only 120,000 miles for round trip flights between the US and South Africa.  According to the Ultimate Frequent Flyer Mile Award Calculator, Alitalia allows 1 stop-over on a round trip award and Korean Air allows 2 stop-overs (one in each direction).  Unfortunately, both are also likely to pass along hefty fuel surcharges.

Wrap Up

On my quest to find business class awards to Cape Town, I looked first for one-stop award flight options.  Of the routes that were theoretically possible, I was able to narrow the field down to just two likely routes: Detroit to Amsterdam to Cape Town, or Detroit to Paris to Cape Town.  Both routes are served by Sky Team partners, so I at least know where to search for award space and I know my options for booking awards.

Next steps:

  1. Search for award space: In the unlikely event that I can find saver level business class awards for three people on my dates of interest, I’ll then book the awards and declare victory.  More likely, I’ll have to wait and watch for awards to open up.
  2. Identify desirable two-stop routes.  My chances of award booking success will increase immensely once I open up the search to include two-stop routes.  There are so many possibilities with two-stop routes that I won’t be able to evaluate every possible scenario.  Instead, I’ll look for routes that are likely to have available awards and routes worth pursuing for the quality of the business class (or even first class) product.
  3. Search for award space on the two-stop routes.

As I pursue the above options, I’ll write up my experiences.  Please stay tuned.  And, if you have suggestions for me, please comment below.

P.S.

This Cape Town award booking quest is proving to be a fun adventure for me.  However, I think its important to realize that you do not need to do all of this stuff yourself.  If you have the miles, but you don’t have the time or interest in delving deep into the intricacies of award searching and award booking, you can hire someone to do it for you.  I maintain a list of Award Booking Services (found under Flights in the Travel menu on my site).  Read the comments of that page for reader recommendations.  Or, if you know of a good Award Booking Service not listed, please let me know so I can add it.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Paul
Guest

Watch out on those Delta awards and “multiple cabins.” I’m searching for usa-cpt and every single thing I find is a combo of biz/econ on the long legs. Some really weird married segment logic from AF/KLM.

Paul
Guest

And those dates you show above definitely have the same problem: AF 681 in Econ over the atlantic, AF 684 in biz to CPT.

Ian
Guest
Ian

I enjoy these kinds of challenges. I would recommend using the airline alliance timetable tools to determine what routes are available to/from an airport. Wikipedia is a nice source, but is dependent on a third party to keep the information up to date. For example, oneworld has a downloadable timetable tool which includes a handy map: https://www.oneworld.com/tools/downloadable-timetables
Also, Star Alliance has a similar web based tool: http://star-alliance.innosked.com/
It looks like choosing CPT as your destination makes things a bit more difficult than if you were to choose JNB, maybe that is by design, but there are some decent options into JNB such as the direct South African flight from JFK or a one-stop “direct” flight from IAD. Not sure what the award availability looks like on those.
Good luck in your quest! I’ll be following along.

02nz
Guest
02nz

I was able to book JFK-JNB and IAD-DKR-JNB for Christmas/New Year 2014/15 using United miles. But I had to do it right when the booking window opened. The award availability disappeared quickly after that, although some availability came up again closer in (a few weeks before date of travel). Not sure though what it’s like these days.

02nz
Guest
02nz

Having used award tickets for two trips from the U.S. to South Africa (you’ll love it!), my advice is to get yourself to Johannesburg and then book the ticket to CPT separately. CPT only has a few long-haul routes, JNB has many more so you may have better luck. If you intend to do a safari as part of your trip JNB is the better location for that anyway (you’ll still have to drive several hours to most of the game reserves, but they’re far, far away from CPT). Domestic flights JNB-CPT are frequent and cheap. Also, this is a time when you’ll wish you had United instead of Delta miles.

Andrew C
Guest
Andrew C

Problem with all the connections in Europe to South Africa is the daylong layover between two redeyes – check out Ethiopian to skip that. Availability is usually pretty good – fly something like DTW-IAD-ADD-CPT. The flights are fine (in coach or business), despite what you may have read. Learn how to say thank you in Amharic to really step it up!

02nz
Guest
02nz

Agree generally, but the day long layover is actually a good opportunity to get out into the city in London, Munich, or wherever, and do a bit of sightseeing and (perhaps more importantly) use the daylight to combat jetlag. There’s little/no time difference between Europe and South Africa so you’ll basically already be on the time of your final destination. Also, the one exception is KLM, which does have flights from AMS to JNB/CPT that depart in the morning, well-timed for connections from the U.S.

Andrew C
Guest
Andrew C

Good point on KL, I had forgotten that theirs were daytime. YMMV though on the connection- personally, sightseeing for a day between two redeyes would be torture to my family and I! Biggest factor in getting to ZA is the availability on that long flight south though – can be really tough to find in J, so the layover may be worthwhile if that’s what it takes!

Charlie
Guest

Good post, Greg! I was also considering a trip to CPT using AA miles (except starting in Europe). The only problem was the killer fees on BA otherwise it was a fantastic deal (37,500 in business each way). If only Doha was an exception to Africa from Europe like it is from the US!
In the end, the cash price is cheap enough I will probably just end up doing that. Looking forward to the rest of your posts on this!
P.S. Maybe consider using Qatar since AA’s rates for Africa in business stayed the same?

FlyingDoctorWu
Guest
FlyingDoctorWu

I just booked my parents on a trip to S. Africa.
Outbound: JFK-GRU in AA C for 50K AA miles
They are spending a week in Brazil then on to South Africa on SA- GRU-JNB-CPT using 45K UA miles (lots of availability on the GRU-JNB)…
Return is JNB-CDG-JFK on AF using DL miles at 80K….

It took me a while to come up with availability and this trip but I am very happy with the results…

FDW

fauxblogger
Guest

Agree with 02nz. Revenue tickets <$110 RT pp JNB-CPT, most flights include a decent meal in economy. Many daily flights on SAA and LCC carriers, most with very new equipment. I recommend https://www.travelstart.co.za and pay a few extra dollars for the "flexible" ticket if playing award roulette on the return from JNB, and booking 2 one ways rather than round trip can save a few bucks.. Using United/Aeroplan miles on SAA intra-SA prohibitively expensive. I took family of 4 xmas 2015 ATL-DTW-AMS-JNB-CPT-JNB-CDG-ATL in J on low-level DL award. If choosing KLM ex-AMS, the food is not edible, so plan ahead. If using SkyMiles, don't forget to work "inside-out" on DL.com to break the married segments rule. FWIW, last minute return space via Addis typically ample for 3+ passengers. Last minute award space ex-CPT (bypassing JNB) non-existent.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Just go to Cape Cod instead.

johnf
Guest
johnf

When I’m trying to piece together an award ticket, I use openflights.org It allows you to search by carrier, city and a combination of cities/carriers, and then shows you all the possible routes with times tables, distance and plane info. Be warned, it can be a little glitchy sometimes.
Cheers,

John

anon
Guest
anon

As I’m also based in DTW, I’ve found that if you are willing to drive the 4 hours to ORD or YYZ, that opens up a LOT of possibilities, as well as back up flights.

ed
Guest
ed

Hope you get to see the shanty towns there. It’s amazing to see such wealth on one side of town and shanties on the other. It’s probably the most noticeable differences between classes that you can see in such close proximity and in such large scale. It’s so unfortunate that when the government has tried improving the conditions in those shanty towns that gangs will steel the infrastructure in order to sell it. For instance, they tried putting water lines into the shanties, but then someone comes along and removes the pipes to sell them. They commission electric into an area and while the copper cable is being put into the ground, on the other side someone is collecting cable to sell leaving only part of it in the ground. It’s a bad situation and complex. You have to go back years to find the start of the problem which was racism. There’s still racism there with some darker skinned people being put down by lighter brown people. It’s amazing that some people don’t learn that color doesn’t matter. Some of the better Christian churches there have begun in the last few years to get rid of racist thinking among their communities but it takes time. Cape Town can be a very educational experience for visitors.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

My memory says JFF to JNB is the best route to go.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

That would be JFK-JNB……seems the best value route using UA miles………or SFO-HKG-JNB on Cathay using Alaska miles for best experience………

PatMike
Guest
PatMike

We’ve had good experience finding low level biz avail on the AF A-380 from LAX, then on to CPT and also through Nairobi to Seychelles.
I’m missing my Suntrust debit card 🙁

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

What website do you use to search for the AF flights? Delta? Air France? Alaska?

Steven
Guest
Steven

Have you booked accommodation in Cape Town? I’ve been a subscriber since late last year and have just moved from Cape Town. Before moving I bought and renovated a beautiful flat in the middle of Cape Town – 2 bedroom, quite large. It’s listed on AirBnB, and I’d be happy to tell the guy who is managing it to offer you a better price. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you the link.
Having lived in Cape Town for five years, but only getting into the miles game about four months before leaving, I connected through Amsterdam, Paris, London, Reykjavik (via London), Frankfurt, Munich, Doha, Dubai, and Lagos. The only regular route I missed was Istanbul.
On my most recent return I flew CPT to Zurich (CapOne), then took the train to London (Barclay Arrival Plus), and flew to Houston (United via Chase UR) – it’s been a nice introduction.

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[…] trip I was planning Cape Town, South Africa (previously discussed here and here). That trip fell through.  We had intended to visit a friend who lives in Cape Town but […]

Linda
Guest
Linda

Curious what you ended up booking.