What you are about to read was one of my most impressive miles and points feats to date. I managed to coordinate 4 people flying around Africa, for an entire month, completely using miles and points.
Brittany was able to accrue many thousands of points while she worked. She decided to put those points to use and give her parents a golden ticket two Christmases ago. The ticket was good to fly both of them in business class, anywhere in the world. Eventually, we all decided it would be perfect for them to join us for an African adventure! Since I love finding the best uses for miles and points, I decided it was time for me to step in and make it happen.
Step 1: Cape Town, South Africa
Brittany’s mom (Janice) was able to get more time off than her dad (Craig) so she was going to be joining us for a much longer period. We decided that Cape Town looked like a perfect place to start our adventure together. American Airlines offers some great award prices to Africa in Business Class. Best of all, Qatar, one of American’s partners and one of the best airlines in the world, flies directly to Cape Town. Most airlines only fly to Johannesburg.
I noticed that Qatar was often releasing 4 Business Class award seats between Doha and Cape Town. That was perfect – I could get all three of us on the same exact flight. Brit and I would be coming from Cairo and would fly to Doha to meet Brittany’s mom before we all headed to Cape Town.
Janice: 75,000 American Airlines miles and $6.10 in taxes/fees
Brit: 45,000 American Airlines miles and $110.90 in taxes/fees
Pete: 45,000 American Airlines miles and $110.90 in taxes/fees
Total: 165,000 miles and $227.90 in taxes/fees
Step 2: Entebbe, Uganda
Entebbe was where our Gorilla trekking adventure would begin. That was the main focus of the month in Africa. Entebbe was also where Brittany’s dad would be joining us. I needed to get him flights from Chicago and get the rest of us flights from Cape Town.
Brittany had hoards of Delta points, a point currency that is extremely hard to extract value from. Luckily, flying to Africa from the States (on a partner airline) is actually a great use of Delta points. I discovered that KLM (one of Delta’s partners) flies to both Chicago and Entebbe and I began looking for flights.
The flights from Cape Town proved more difficult to score a good deal. This was surprising, considering how close the two places are. I pondered paying cash for the tickets, but ultimately decided against it. Singapore Airlines offers great value for awards within Africa. The only problem is that they leverage massive fuel surcharges on these tickets. Even with those huge fees, it still worked out much better than paying cash for this route. For these flights, we flew on Singapore’s partner, South African Airways. These were fairly short flights, so we opted for Economy Class tickets.
I ended up being able to book these flights so that we would be arriving in Uganda only 3 hours apart from each other.
Craig: 80,000 Delta miles and $19.20 in taxes/fees
Janice: 15,000 Singapore miles and $192.09 in taxes/fees
Brit: 15,000 Singapore miles and $192.09 in taxes/fees
Pete: 15,000 Singapore miles and $192.09 in taxes/fees
Total: 125,000 miles and $595.47 in taxes/fees
Part 3: Livingstone, Zambia
We knew we wanted to go see Victoria falls for a few days. This had been on Brittany’s dad’s bucket list for a long time. You can see Victoria falls from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. I did not know which side would be better for us to fly into. I eventually decided on Zambia because I was able to get cheap award flights for all four of us.
This time, I utilized Air France/KLM’s frequent flier program called Flying Blue. They price flights within Africa cheaply. Once again, fuel surcharges were pretty high – seems like it is a common theme for award flights in Africa. It was still a much better deal to book these award tickets than to use cash. These tickets were going for about $600 a person. For this one, we flew on their partner airline, Kenya Airways. These were short flights so again we opted to fly in Economy Class.
Craig: 15,000 Flying Blue miles and $104.89 in taxes/fees
Janice: 15,000 Flying Blue miles and $104.89 in taxes/fees
Brit: 15,000 Flying Blue miles and $104.89 in taxes/fees
Pete: 15,000 Flying Blue miles and $104.89 in taxes/fees
Total: 60,000 miles and $419.46 in taxes/fees
Part 4: Johannesburg, South Africa
I was going to be flying Brittany’s parents home from Johannesburg. British Airways actually has a bunch of routes to and from Johannesburg. The best part is that British Airways’s award program is distance based and because of how short the flight is to Zambia, we were able to score a great deal.
I actually lucked out big time on this one. I booked Brittany and my ticket far in advance. At that time, there were only two award seats. I thought we were going to need to book a cash ticket for her parents. Then some magic happened! The day I was going to buy the cash tickets, I decided to check again to see if any more award seats opened up and viola! Two more seats had opened up for our date. It was one of the few days the entire month that had award availability. I couldn’t believe it!
Craig: 4,500 British Airways Avios and $44.00 in taxes/fees
Janice: 4,500 British Airways Avios and $44.00 in taxes/fees
Brit: 4,500 British Airways Avios and $44.00 in taxes/fees
Pete: 4,500 British Airways Avios and $44.00 in taxes/fees
Total: 18,000 miles and $166.00 in taxes/fees
Part 5: Chicago, USA
The last step was to get Brittany’s parents home to Chicago. This is where I decided to really treat them. Brittany’s dad needed to head home first to get back to work. Brittany’s mom stayed with us for another week to visit Kruger National Park. They both took the same exact route. I flew them from Johannesburg to Hong Kong and then to Chicago. The only difference is that I booked Brittany’s mom a stopover for a night in Hong Kong so she could explore the city for a day.
I booked them in first class back to Chicago. I used Alaska Airlines to book the award and booked the flight on Alaska’s partner airline Cathay Pacific. Alaska’s Cathay Pacific prices to South Africa are insanely good. They flew in Business Class from Johannesburg to Hong Kong (there is no first class cabin on that route), then they flew First Class from Hong Kong back to Chicago. I was super jealous of this flight. Cathay Pacific’s First Class is considered one of the best in the world and is something I have been wanting to try for a long time.
Craig: 70,000 Alaska miles and 104.66
Janice: 70,000 Alaska miles and 104.66
Total: 140,000 miles and 209.32
Wow! What a month. We were able to accomplish so much in Africa for a fraction of what the cost would have been if we were paying cash for airplane tickets. All of this cost 508,000 miles and $1618.15. That is both a ton of points and cash. However, if you look at what it got us, it was a magnificent deal. Between 4 people, that got us 2 long haul First Class flights, 4 long haul Business Class flights, and 11 Economy Class flights.
Flying within Africa is very expensive. Using points can drastically reduce the costs. Unfortunately, most airlines impose massive amounts of taxes/fees on flights within Africa. Even with those taxes/fees, it still usually makes sense to use points. On the plus side, I found award availability within Africa to be excellent. Africa is a beautiful continent and one that I believe is untapped for miles and points enthusiasts.
Have any questions about using points in Africa? Have you found any other good deals for flights in Africa?