18 Best Ways to Redeem South African Airways Voyager Miles for Max Value

South African Airways

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South Africa is quite a picturesque vacation spot, located at the southern tip of Africa. Home to some of the best wine in Cape Town and beautiful safari experiences across many ultra-luxurious game reserves throughout the country, there’s something to do for everyone.

The state-owned airline South African Airways, in operation since 1934, has hub airports at O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg (JNB) and Cape Town International (CPT). It has maintained a boutique airline feel with numerous quirks. Although its fleet size is small, its partner list is quite large.

If you find yourself earning a stack of South African Airways Voyager miles and can’t figure out how to best use them, you’re not alone.

Table of contents

Table of Contents

The Pros and Cons of South African Airways Voyager Miles

South African Airways Voyager has some neat attributes that make it an attractive program, provided you can get its miles. This program is unbeatable for intra-Asia premium cabin travel. You can also book Emirates premium cabin awards, though not at the best redemption price. Lastly, there’s tons of value in niche routes, such as between Guam and Asia in economy class.

On the other hand, Voyager can be quite confusing. Its routing rules are obscure, and it has many different award charts, depending on who you fly on.

Lastly, its website is built much like an early dot-com website. You’ll notice that South African Airways Voyager primarily employs a region-based pricing scheme, which leaves quite a bit of room for opportunity.

The 18 Best Ways to Use Your South African Airways Voyager Miles

South African Airways’ frequent flyer program doesn’t get much publicity in the frequent flyer or award travel world.

In fact, Voyager’s website is replete with technical glitches, the award chart is nonsensical for the most part, and there aren’t many ways to transfer points to South African Airways Voyager.

However, this frequent flyer program has so much value, as long as you’re interested in niche routes. Some of these redemptions are competitively priced relative to the alternative and can represent the absolute best price you can pay for that particular route.

1. Fly Emirates First Class Round-Trip From Seoul to Dubai (200,000 Miles)

Emirates First Class, A380
Emirates A380 First Class. Image credit: Alex Miller / Upgraded Points

One of the quirks of South African Airways Voyager is the ability to book Emirates using miles. While the overall award pricing of Emirates awards is lackluster, there are some ways to get competitive redemption value.

If you fly to/from Dubai and the “Far East” region, you’ll pay 200,000 miles round-trip. Japan is excluded from the Far East region because it is a region itself. But, if you fly between South Korea and Dubai, you’ll have the opportunity to savor Emirates first class for 8-10 hours each way.

For this, you’ll pay 200,000 Voyager miles, and Emirates Skywards charges around the same price (197,500 miles.) So, if you find yourself with a ton of Voyager miles, consider using them for a round-trip Emirates first class experience.

Here is the exact route we’re talking about:

  • Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 200,000 miles + ~$118 in taxes and fees per person

Hot Tip: You’ll want to avoid commencing your trip in Dubai due to the fuel surcharges that are levied. To give you an idea, the reverse route round-trip will have $923 in taxes and fees per person. 

2. Fly Emirates Business Class Round-Trip Between North/South Africa and Dubai (From 125,000 Miles)

Emirates A380 Business Class Middle Row Companion Seats
Emirates business class. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

If business class is enough for you, you can still fly on Emirates business class for a great deal. However, the one restriction is that you can’t book Emirates award flights between Johannesburg and Dubai.

There are still many fantastic routes you can fly on. Here are some great example redemptions you can make:

  • Cape Town (CPT) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates business class for 125,000 miles + ~$623 in taxes and fees
  • Casablanca (CMN) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates business class for 125,000 miles + ~$766 in taxes and fees
  • Durban (DUR) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates business class for 125,000 miles + ~$623 in taxes and fees

3. Fly Emirates New First Class Suites Round-Trip Between London and Dubai (155,000 Miles)

Emirates New 777-300ER First Class Suites
Emirates New 777-300ER First Class Suites. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Emirates’ Game Changer first class suites are sensational.

This ultra-exclusive, fully-enclosed first class suite is arguably the best first class product in the world. One of the routes on which this is offered is on select 777-300ER aircraft between London-Stansted and Dubai.

Unfortunately, the massive fuel surcharges and the U.K. Air Passenger Duty means you’ll pay an arm and a leg for business class.

Here’s the exact redemption you’d be making:

  • London-Stansted (STN) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip for 155,000 miles + ~$1,194 in taxes and fees

4. Fly Emirates First Class Round-Trip Between North America and Dubai (240,000 Miles)

Emirates First Class Cabin
Emirates first class has one of the most beautiful cabins in the world. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

If you’re in the market to fly directly from North America to Dubai in Emirates first class, you’d absolutely be able to make a case for using Voyager miles.

You can fly between any North American city and Dubai in Emirates first class for 240,000 miles. You’ll simply need to find award availability.

If you’re interested in maximizing your time in first class, you’ll want to book from the West Coast. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to avoid fuel surcharges on routes between North America and Dubai.

Here are some great example redemptions you can make:

  • Houston (IAH) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 240,000 miles + ~$1,723 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 240,000 miles + ~$1,723 in taxes and fees
  • New York City (JFK) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 240,000 miles + ~$1,723 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 240,000 miles + ~$1,723 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 240,000 miles + ~$1,723 in taxes and fees

5. Fly Emirates First Class on the World’s Shortest A380 Flight (35,000 Miles)

Emirates Inaugural World's Shortest A380 First Class Window Suite Cherag Dubash
You can spend Voyager miles to fly Emirates first class suites on the world’s shortest A380 route! Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

If you’re looking to try out Emirates’ first class suites on a super-short flight, why not try it on the shortest A380 flight in the world?

Cash tickets are usually over $2,000, which makes this round-trip ticket one of the most expensive flights you can get from an hourly standpoint.

Here is the exact route you can book:

  • Muscat (MCT) – Dubai (DXB) round-trip in Emirates first class for 35,000 miles + ~$554 in taxes and fees

6. Fly Virgin Atlantic New Upper Class Round-Trip Between London and West Coast U.S. (127,000 Miles)

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 Upper Class Seat 9A from Aisle
Virgin Atlantic has the new Upper Class business class product on the A350. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Another great partner that South African Airways has is Virgin Atlantic. This airline has offered a decent business class product in the past, though it had its fair share of complaints. However, in 2019 they launched their new business class product which is fantastic.

When you’re using South African Airways Voyager miles, it’s almost always better to fly to/from the West Coast as opposed to the East Coast, due to the negligible difference in required miles of 2,000.

You’ll pay 127,000 miles for West Coast flights round-trip, whereas East Coast will cost 125,000 miles. Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – London-Heathrow (LHR) round-trip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (new Upper Class from April 2020) for 127,000 miles + ~$1,642 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – London-Heathrow (LHR) round-trip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (new Upper Class from May 2020) for 127,000 miles + ~$1,642 in taxes and fees

7. Fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Round-Trip Between London and the Caribbean (109,500 Miles)

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Empy Seat Upright
Image Credit: Virgin Atlantic

If you’re considering travel that involves London and the Caribbean, you’ll find comfort in knowing that you can redeem South African Airways Voyager miles for this endeavor.

Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have the biggest route network in the world, but it actually offers nonstop flights to the Caribbean. Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • London-Heathrow (LHR) – Bridgetown (BGI) round-trip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 109,500 miles + ~$728 in taxes and fees
  • London-Heathrow (LHR) – Havana (HAV) round-trip in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 109,500 miles + ~$678 in taxes and fees

8. Fly ANA Business Class Round-Trip Between Japan and Southeast Asia for Unbelievable Prices (32,200 Miles)

ANA Business Class Seat 2
Enjoy the comfort of ANA business class. Image Credit: Stephen Au

South African Airways Voyager has one of the most generous definitions of Asia of all the frequent flyer programs. Namely, it has decided to combine most of Asia into 1 region, dubbing it “North and South Asia.”

Normally, frequent flyer programs separate this gigantic continent into several regions and price awards accordingly. South African Airways has created a hidden gem for intra-“North and South Asia” flights.

In fact, these mileage prices blow the competition out of the water, which goes to show that these redemptions aren’t just competitive — they’re industry-leading.

This zone contains cities as far north as Tokyo and cities as far south as Bali, which are 7-8 hours away by flight. When you take this into account and look at the rock-bottom prices, you’ll see why this is a redemption you simply cannot ignore.

All Nippon Airways, or ANA, offers a fantastic business class product. When you use South African Airways Voyager miles, you can fly ANA business class anywhere within Asia for 32,200 miles round-trip.

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Yangon (RGN) round-trip in ANA business class for 32,200 miles + ~$144 in taxes and fees
  • Tokyo-Narita/Haneda (NRT/HND) – Bangkok (BKK) round-trip in ANA business class for 32,200 miles + ~$143 in taxes and fees
  • Tokyo-Narita/Haneda (NRT/HND) – Jakarta (CGK) round-trip in ANA business class for 32,200 miles + ~$161 in taxes and fees
  • Tokyo-Narita/Haneda (NRT/HND) – Singapore (SIN) round-trip in ANA business class for 32,200 miles + ~$153 in taxes and fees

9. Fly Asiana Business Class Round-Trip Between Korea and Southeast Asia for Unbelievable Prices (32,200 Miles)

Asiana Airlines A330 Business Class
Asiana Airlines A330 business class. Image Credit: Stephen Au

Asiana Airlines is the second-largest airline in South Korea, with Korean Air standing in front. Asiana Airlines offers a great business and business suites product, which used to be sold as first class.

We discussed ANA route options to take advantage of intra-North and South Asia award pricing above, so let’s now talk about Asiana Airlines via South Korea. Seoul, South Korea’s capital city, is situated in the northern part of Asia, which means that the longest flight times will be on flights bound for Southeast Asia.

Here are some great example redemptions you can make:

  • Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) round-trip in Asiana business class for 32,200 miles + ~$81 in taxes and fees
  • Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Phnom Penh (PNH) round-trip in Asiana business class for 32,200 miles + ~$90 in taxes and fees
  • Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Phu Quoc (PQC) round-trip in Asiana business class for 32,200 miles + ~$79 in taxes and fees in taxes and fees
  • Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Phuket (PKT) round-trip in Asiana business class for 32,200 miles + ~$101 in taxes and fees
  • Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Singapore (SIN) round-trip in Asiana business class for 32,200 miles + ~$101 in taxes and fees

10. Fly Air China Business Class Round-Trip Between Beijing and Southeast Asia for Unbelievable Prices (32,200 Miles)

Yet another great option to fly intra-North and South Asia with Voyager miles is Air China business class. Although Air China’s business class doesn’t have the reputation that ANA or Asiana does, for example, it’s still an excellent Star Alliance partner airline with amazing connectivity within Asia.

Air China’s business class doesn’t feature direct aisle access at all seats for the most part; instead, you’ll most likely get a 2-2-2 configuration on any wide-body aircraft. Nonetheless, it’s still a great way to fly business class for mega-cheap prices.

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Beijing (PEK) – Chiang Mai (CNX) round-trip in Air China business class for 32,200 miles + ~$176 in taxes and fees
  • Beijing (PEK) – Kashgar (KHG) round-trip in Air China business class for 32,200 miles + ~$172 in taxes and fees
  • Beijing (PEK) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL) round-trip in Air China business class for 32,200 miles + ~$205 in taxes and fees
  • Chengdu (CTU) – Colombo (CMB) round-trip in Air China business class for 32,200 miles + ~$15 in taxes and fees
  • Guangzhou (CAN) – Urumqi (URC) round-trip in Air China business class for 32,200 miles + ~$145 in taxes and fees
  • Shenzhen (SZX) – Urumqi (URC) round-trip in Air China business class for 32,200 miles + ~$122 in taxes and fees

11. Fly Thai Airways First Class Round-Trip Between Bangkok and Japan (47,900 Miles)

Thai Airways Boeing 747 400 First Class Suite 2K
Thai Airways has one of the rarest first class products in the world. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Thai Airways is indeed one of the rarest airlines in the world to fly first class on. At one point in time, Thai Airways even offered first class nonstop to the United States. However, times have changed, financial struggles have mounted, and Thai Airways is on a crusade to become profitable again.

Thai Airways offers first class on flights to/from Tokyo for 47,900 miles round-trip This 5.5-7 hour flight is hardly an ultra-long-haul flight, but it’s one of the only opportunities you’ll ever get to try Thai Airways first class.

Just to give you an idea of how phenomenal this redemption is, the next-closest Star Alliance loyalty program, Asiana Airlines Asiana Club, charges 100,000 miles, as does Avianca LifeMiles. You’re going to save over half of your miles on this round-trip flight by booking through South African Airways.

Here are the exact redemptions you can make:

  • Tokyo-Narita/Haneda (NRT/HND) – Bangkok (BKK) round-trip in Thai Airways first class for 47,900 miles + ~$209 in taxes and fees

12. Fly Air India First Class Round-Trip Between Jeddah and India (56,900 Miles)

Air India doesn’t have the best reputation out there. However, it’s a solid option if you’re looking to get to India comfortably. Additionally, Air India is one of the few airlines that offer first class on medium-haul flights.

When you look at other Star Alliance partners such as ANA, you’ll find that there are very few, if any, routes shorter than 8 hours than offer first class. This is where Air India can come in handy.

Air India has extraordinary connectivity to many cities in Saudi Arabia despite not being in the same alliance as Saudia, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia. South African Airways Voyager blows its competitors out of the water when it comes to award pricing between Saudi Arabia and India. In fact, the closest runner-up comes in at 75,000 miles for round-trip first class.

Interestingly, the only reason why this routing works is that South African Airways Voyager has decided to label India and Saudi Arabia as members of “Central Asia,” despite neither being conventionally regarded as such. Saudi Arabia is normally considered a country in the Middle East, while India is normally regarded as a country in South Asia.

Nonetheless, here are the example redemptions you could make:

  • Calicut (CCJ) – Jeddah (JED) round-trip in Air India first class for 56,900 miles + ~$244 in taxes and fees
  • Delhi (DEL) – Jeddah (JED) round-trip in Air India first class for 56,900 miles + ~$219 in taxes and fees
  • Hyderabad (HYD) – Jeddah (JED) round-trip in Air India first class for 56,900 miles + ~$258 in taxes and fees
  • Kochi (COK) – Jeddah (JED) round-trip in Air India first class for 56,900 miles + ~$238 in taxes and fees
  • Mumbai (BOM) – Jeddah (JED) round-trip in Air India first class for 56,900 miles + ~$233 in taxes and fees

13. Access Intra-Asia Business Class Availability on Singapore Airlines Business Class Round-Trip (32,200 Miles)

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 Business Class Middle Seat
Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 Business Class. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Singapore Airlines is notoriously stingy with releasing award availability to partners. This is especially true with U.S. routes, where the only hope you have to book one of these coveted flights in business or first class is to redeem KrisFlyer miles.

However, one of the most notable exceptions is on intra-Asia flights. Singapore Airlines releases lots of award seats for intra-Asia flights to partners. When you couple that with the fact that South African Airways Voyager has fantastic award pricing for most of these flights, you’ll see a gold mine of value.

While Singapore KrisFlyer charges up to 47,000 miles for Saver level availability and ANA charges up to 63,000 miles for Singapore Airlines flights, South African Airways Voyager charges a jaw-dropping 32,200 miles.

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Singapore (SIN) – Bangkok (BKK) round-trip in Singapore Airlines business class for 32,200 miles + ~$62 in taxes and fees
  • Singapore (SIN) – Beijing (PEK) round-trip in Singapore Airlines business class for 32,200 miles + ~$50 in taxes and fees
  • Singapore (SIN) – Fukuoka (FUK) round-trip in Singapore Airlines business class for 32,200 miles + ~$54 in taxes and fees
  • Singapore (SIN) – Male (MLE) round-trip in Singapore Airlines business class for 32,200 miles + ~$86 in taxes and fees
  • Singapore (SIN) – Nagoya (NGO) round-trip in Singapore Airlines business class for 32,200 miles + ~$74 in taxes and fees
  • Singapore (SIN) – Osaka (KIX) round-trip in Singapore Airlines business class for 32,200 miles + ~$73 in taxes and fees
  • Singapore (SIN) – Seoul-Incheon (ICN) round-trip in Singapore Airlines business class for 32,200 miles + ~$60 in taxes and fees

14. Fly Air India Business Class Between India and Israel (49,000 Miles)

Air India Business Class
Air India Business Class. Image Credit: EQRoy via Shutterstock

Because India falls under Central Asia, it enjoys attractive pricing to the Middle East.

Also, Israel and Egypt are categorized as Middle East countries, which means that you’ll pay 49,000 miles for a 5-7 hour flight each way in business class. Not a bad deal! Here are the exact redemptions you want to be making:

  • Delhi (DEL) – Tel Aviv (TLV) round-trip in Air India business class for 49,000 miles + ~$709 in taxes and fees
  • Mumbai (BOM) – Cairo (CAI) round-trip in Egyptair business class for 49,000 miles + ~$354 in taxes and fees

15. Fly Air New Zealand Round-Trip From North America to Oceania in Business Class (169,300 Miles)

Air New Zealand 787 Business Class
Booking Air New Zealand business class is possible with Voyager miles. Image Credit: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand is one of the best strategic Star Alliance partners in the world. Because the Oceania region is dominated primarily by Oneworld, thanks to Qantas, Air New Zealand represents a much-needed diversification in the Star Alliance network.

It’s not the best deal out there, but you can redeem South African Airways Voyager miles for round-trip flights between North America and Oceania for 169,300 miles. Here are some great example routes:

  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD) – Auckland (AKL) round-trip in Air New Zealand business class for 169,300 miles + ~$110 in taxes and fees
  • Houston (IAH) – Auckland (AKL) round-trip in Air New Zealand business class for 169,300 miles + ~$110 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Auckland (AKL) round-trip in Air New Zealand business class for 169,300 miles + ~$110 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Auckland (AKL) round-trip in Air New Zealand business class for 169,300 miles + ~$110 in taxes and fees

16. Fly United Round-Trip Between Guam and Asia in Economy Class (20,400 Miles)

United Airlines Economy
United Airlines economy. Image Credit: United

Guam is one of the most expensive, cash-intensive destinations for the flight distance traveled. United Airlines has established a stronghold in Guam, which means that the Star Alliance is extraordinarily useful here.

Round-trip nonstop flights from Guam to Japan cost a minimum of $600-$900. So, you’re definitely going to want to use miles to cushion yourself from a majority of these costs.

South African Airways will allow you to book 1 more segment, in addition to the Guam flight, which means you can extract even more value from these hugely expensive cash tickets. Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Guam (GUM) – Nagoya (NGO) – Sapporo (CTS) round-trip for 20,400 miles + ~$120 in taxes and fees [$1,600+ cash value!]
  • Guam (GUM) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) round-trip for 20,400 miles + ~$119 in taxes and fees [$2,000+ cash value!]
  • Guam (GUM) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL) round-trip for 20,400 miles + ~$122 in taxes and fees [$5,000+ cash value!]

17. Take Advantage of JourneyBlitz Awards on South African Airways Flights for Deeply Discounted Flights

South African Airways A330-300 Economy Class
South African Airways A330-300 economy class. Image Credit: South African Airways

When you look at South African Airways’ JourneyBlitz awards, you’ll see some opportunities for outstanding redemption value. You can book flights for as little as 13,050 miles, assuming you find availability. Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • New York City (JFK) – Johannesburg (JNB) one-way in South African Airways economy for 14,700 miles + ~$260 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Accra (ACC) one-way in South African Airways economy for 13,050 miles + ~$240 in taxes and fees

Although business class redemptions are certainly possible at decent rates, it’s practically impossible to find availability on JourneyBlitz awards.

18. Upgrade Eligible Economy Tickets to Business on South African Airways Between North America and Africa (From 23,000 Miles)

South African Airways Business Class
South African Airways has a stunning business class product on the A330-300. Image Credit: South African Airways

The last redemption option is an upgrade. You can pay as little as 23,000 miles to upgrade a one-way economy ticket in eligible fare classes on South African Airways to business class. The lowest level fare class you can upgrade is K, and the second-lowest level is M.

Here are some great redemptions you can make:

  • New York City (JFK) – Johannesburg (JNB) round-trip from $2,100 plus 70,000 miles in South African Airways business class (upgraded K-class tickets)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Accra (ACC) round-trip from $2,167 plus 46,000 miles in South African Airways business class (upgraded K-class tickets)

Using Your South African Airways Voyager Miles

The main challenge of redeeming Voyager miles is the relatively uncharted territory of this obscure mileage program. There is lots to look forward to, but also a steep learning curve. You might experience long call center wait times, inexperienced staff, and even the inability to find certain mileage awards.

South African Airways Award Charts

First and foremost, let’s talk about South African Airways’ award chart, of which there are multiple.

South African Airways has 2 award charts that correspond to flights wholly operated by South African Airways:

  1. JourneyBlitz awards
  2. Dynamic awards

JourneyBlitz awards will vary in price depending on the exact route. JourneyBlitz is much more comparable to promotional award sales than the conventional “Saver Award” availability.

Here’s how much it’ll cost to book JourneyBlitz awards:

South African Airways JourneyBlitz Award Chart (One-Way)
RegionEconomy CostBusiness Cost
Within South Africa3,7009,100
Southern Africa4,84010,640
Africa7,80020,100
Within Africa4,45015,550
Europe9,50046,600
South America13,20056,250
Australia15,00049,650
Asia14,91042,000
North America13,05064,600
Between Africa and North America14,700 63,710

These fares are extremely attractive in price, but availability is scarce.

On the flip side, Dynamic awards change in price and are closely connected to the revenue ticket price. As a result, the value you’ll get is so poor that it isn’t even worth considering.

Additionally, you can use Voyager miles to upgrade paid economy tickets. As long as they fall into eligible economy ticket fare classes and there’s availability, you’ll be able to upgrade your tickets using miles.

Here’s what the upgrade award chart looks like for South African Airways flights:

SAA Voyager Upgrade Chart
South African Airways Voyager upgrade chart. Image Credit: South African Airways

Furthermore, the regions are broken down into the following areas:

Zone Descriptions for South African Airways
Southern AfricaBlantyre, Harare, Lusaka, Lolongwe, Livingstone, Maputo, Ndola, South Africa (Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth), Victoria Falls, Windhoek
AfricaAbidjan, Accra, Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Kinshasa, Lagos, Luanda, Mauritius, Nairobi
EuropeFrankfurt, London, Munich
South AmericaSão Paulo
Australia, New Zealand, and OceaniaPerth
North and South AsiaGuangzhou, Hong Kong
North AmericaNew York, Washington, D.C.
Between Africa and North AmericaBetween Accra and Washington, D.C.

South African Airways’ website has outdated regions and routes, which means that the displayed cities may not have nonstop South African Airways flights anymore.

Star Alliance Airline Partners

South African Airways partners with all Star Alliance airlines. Voyager offers both awards and upgrades on Star Alliance flights.

However, award flights can only be booked round-trip, and Star Alliance upgrades can only be performed on a sector-by-sector basis.

Here are the Star Alliance airlines you can redeem miles for awards and upgrades on:

AdriaEthiopian
AegeanEva Air
Air CanadaPolish Airlines
Air ChinaLufthansa
Air IndiaScandinavian Airlines
Air New ZealandShenzhen Airlines
ANASingapore Airlines
Asiana AirlinesSouth African Airways
AustrianSwiss
AviancaTAP Air Portugal
Brussels AirlinesThai Airways
Copa AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Croatia AirlinesUnited Airlines
Egypt Air

Here’s how much your Star Alliance award tickets will cost when spending Voyager miles. All of these prices are round-trip since Voyager doesn’t permit one-way flights.

SAA Voyager Star Alliance Award Chart
South African Airways Voyager Star Alliance award chart. Image Credit: South African Airways

To price out your itineraries correctly, you can reference the following region chart:

Zone Descriptions for Star Alliance Partners
Southern AfricaBotswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe
AfricaAlgeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo Brazzaville, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritius, Madeira, Nigeria, Reunion Islands, Dem Rep of Congo, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Togo
EuropeAlbania, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia (Caucasus), Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldovia, Morocco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, (excluding Madeira), Romania, Russia, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Balearics, excluding the Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Yugoslav Republic
Middle EastAzerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen
South AmericaArgentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cordoba, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
Australia, New Zealand, OceaniaAustralia (including Tasmania), Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Mariana Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Islands, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga
North and South AsiaBrunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Maldives, Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia Euro-Asia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam
Central AsiaBangladesh, India, Jeddah, Nepal, Pakistan
North AmericaAlaska, British Columbia, Canada, Mexico, U.S.
Central America, Hawaii, and the CaribbeanBelize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Antigua, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Curaçao, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Nicaragua, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, U.S. Virgin Islands

You can also spend Voyager miles to upgrade Star Alliance flights. These are priced in the following upgrade chart:

SAA Voyager Star Alliance Upgrade Chart
South African Airways Voyager Star Alliance upgrade chart. Image Credit: South African Airways

The drawback of using Voyager miles to upgrade Star Alliance flights is that the eligible fares are extremely restrictive. You’ll only be able to upgrade full-fare economy or premium economy tickets.

These tickets run as expensive as $1,000-$3,000 one-way, which ultimately defeats the purpose of upgrading Star Alliance tickets.

Operating AirlineEligible Booking Classes for Upgrades From Economy to BusinessEligible Booking Classes for Upgrades From Business to First 
Aegean (A3)Y, BN/A
Air India (AI)Y, BC, D
Air Canada (AC)Y, B, ON/A
Air China (CA)G, Y, BJ, C, D
Air New Zealand (NZ)Y, B, U, E, ON/A
ANA (NH)Y, B, E, GC, Z, J, D
Asiana (OZ)Y, BC, D
Austrian (OS)Y, B, E, GN/A
Avianca (AV)Y, BN/A
Brussels (SN)Y, BN/A
Copa (CM)Y, BN/A
Croatia (OU)Y, BN/A
EgyptAir (MS)Y, BC, D
Ethiopian (ET)Y, G, S, BN/A
EVA (BR)Y, B, KN/A
LOT (LO)Y, BN/A
Lufthansa (LH)Y, BJ, C, D
Scandinavian (SK)Y, B, SN/A
Shenzhen (ZH)*Y, B, M, HN/A
Singapore Airlines (SQ)Y, B (aircraft without premium economy cabin)

S, T, P, L (aircraft with premium economy cabin)

U, C, J, Z
Swiss (LX)Y, B, M, UC, D, J
TAP (TP)Y, BN/A
Thai (TG)Y, BC, D
Turkish (TK)Y, BN/A
United (UA)Y, BN/A

Nevertheless, these upgrades are still available for redemption.

Non-Alliance Airline Partners

Lastly, there are flight redemption on South African Airways’ non-alliance partners. These are currently:

South African Airways Non-Alliance Partners
AirLinkSouth African Express
EmiratesVirgin Atlantic
GOL Linhas Aéreas InteligentesVirgin Australia

South African Airways uses different award charts for each of these partners.

AirLink is a regional airline based in Johannesburg. Although it is not owned by South African Airways, it serves to connect smaller cities in South Africa to the main hub airports.

Here’s the award chart for AirLink:

AirLink Award Chart Using Voyager Miles
RegionMileageKeeper One-Way CostAnyDay One-Way Cost
Within South Africa9,50022,200
Between South Africa and Southern Africa11,25033,350
Between South Africa and Africa 118,75045,000
Between South Africa and St. HelenaN/A96,500

Here are how the regions are broken down for AirLink flights:

Zone Descriptions for AirLink
Travel within South Africa
  • Between Cape Town and Kimberley, Nelspruit, Skukuza George, Upington
  • Between Durban and Bloemfontein, George, Nelspruit
  • Between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, Hoedspruit, Kimberley, Nelspruit, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Richards Bay, Shishen, Skukuza, Umtata, Upington
  • Between Port Elizabeth and East London, Bloemfontein
Travel between South Africa and Southern Africa
  • Beira, Bulawayo, Gaborone, Harare, Kasane, Livingston, Lusaka, Manzini, Maputo, Maseru, Maun, Ndola, Tete, Vilanculos
  • Between Durban and Maputo
  • Between Cape Town and Maun, Victoria Falls, Windhoek
  • Between Nelspruit and Livingston
Travel between Southern Africa and Africa 1Antananarivo, Nampula, Nosy Be, Pemba
Travel between Johannesburg or Cape Town to St. HelenaJohannesburg or Cape Town to St. Helena

You can also redeem South African Airways Voyager miles on South African Express. South African Express is a close partner of South African Airways, though it is not majority-owned by South African Airways.

South African Express Award Chart Using Voyager Miles
RegionMileageKeeper One-Way CostK-Keeper One-Way Cost
Within South Africa9,50024,200
Between South Africa and Southern Africa11,25033,600
Between South Africa and Africa 118,75064,800

Here is how the award regions are broken down for South African Express flights:

Zone Descriptions for South African Express
Travel within South Africa
  • Travel between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, East London, George, Hoedspruit, Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Umtata
  • Travel between Cape Town and Bloemfontein, Durban, East London, George, Hoedspruit, Kimberley, Port Elizabeth
  • Travel between Durban and East London, Port Elizabeth.
Travel between South Africa and Southern Africa
  • Travel between Cape Town and Maputo, Walvis Bay, Windhoek
  • Travel between Durban and Harare, Lusaka
  • Travel between Johannesburg and Gaborone,  Walvis Bay, Windhoek
Travel between Southern Africa and Africa 1Travel between Johannesburg and Lubumbashi

Interestingly, you can also redeem South African Airways Voyager miles for Emirates flights according to the following award chart:

Emirates Round-Trip Award Chart Using Voyager Miles
Route (From Dubai)EconomyBusinessFirst
Europe 150,000105,000155,000
Europe 240,00085,000125,000
Near East25,00055,00080,000
Middle East 115,00035,00050,000
Middle East 210,00025,00035,000
Southern Africa60,000125,000185,000
Africa 145,00095,000140,000
Africa 260,000125,000185,000
Within Africa45,00095,000140,000
Indian Sub-Continent 160,000125,000185,000
Indian Sub-Continent 210,00025,00035,000
Far East25,00055,00080,000
Japan40,00085,000125,000
North America65,000135,000200,000
Between Australia and New Zealand 25,00055,00080,000
South America80,000160,000240,000
Between Singapore and New Zealand/Far East and Australia60,000125,000185,000
Australia and New Zealand90,000185,000275,000

Here are how all the zones break down:

Zone Descriptions for Emirates
Europe 1Austria (Vienna), Belgium (Brussels), Denmark (Copenhagen), France (Nice, Paris), Germany (Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich), Great Britain (Birmingham, Glasgow, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle), Italy (Milan, Rome, Venice), Hungary (Budapest), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Malta, Norway (Oslo), Russia (Moscow, St. Petersburg), Spain (Madrid), Switzerland (Geneva, Zurich)
Europe 2Czech Republic (Prague), Greece (Athens), Turkey (Istanbul)
Near EastEgypt (Cairo), Jordan (Amman), Lebanon (Beirut), Sudan (Khartoum), Syria (Damascus)
Middle East 1Iran (Tehran), Iraq (Baghdad, Basra), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia (Damman, Jeddah, Medinah, Riyadh), Yemen
Middle East 2Oman (Muscat), Qatar (Doha), Bahrain, UAE
Southern AfricaCape Town, Durban, Harare, Johannesburg, Lusaka
Africa 1Ethiopia (Addis Ababa), Kenya (Nairobi), Libya (Tripoli), Seychelles, Tanzania (Dar es Salaam), Tunisia (Tunis), Uganda (Entebbe)
Africa 2Angola (Luanda), Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan), Ghana (Accra), Guinea (Conakry), Mauritius, Morocco (Casablanca), Nigeria (Lagos), Senegal (Dakar)
Within AfricaCôte d’Ivoire (Abidjan) to Ghana (Accra)
Indian Sub 1India (Ahmadabad, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai), Pakistan (Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar)
Indian Sub 2India (Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram), Sri Lanka (Colombo)
Far EastChina (Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai), Hong Kong, Indonesia (Denpasar, Jakarta), Korea (Seoul), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Philippines (Manila), Singapore, Thailand (Bangkok)
JapanJapan (Narita, Osaka)
North AmericaCanada (Toronto), U.S. (Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.)
Travel to/between Australia and New ZealandAustralia (Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney), New Zealand (Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington)
South AmericaBrazil (Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo)
Travel between Singapore and New Zealand/Far East and AustraliaSingapore to New Zealand (Auckland, Christchurch)

You can redeem your South African Airways Voyager miles for Virgin Atlantic flights as well:

Virgin Atlantic Round-Trip Award Chart Using Voyager Miles
Route (From London)EconomyPremiumUpper Class
Middle East 240,00055,00080,000
South Africa70,00091,500131,000
Africa40,00051,00080,000
Indian Sub 150,00062,500100,000
Far East69,50097,000138,500
U.S. West63,50089,000127,000
U.S. East51,50072,500125,000
Caribbean55,00077,000109,500

Here’s how the zones are divided for Virgin Atlantic flights:

Zone Descriptions for Virgin Atlantic
Travel to Middle East 2UAE (Dubai), Israel (Tel-Aviv)
Travel to South AfricaSouth Africa (Johannesburg,  Cape Town)
Travel to AfricaKenya (Nairobi) Ghana (Accra), Nigeria (Lagos)
Travel to Indian Sub 1India (Delhi, Mumbai)
Travel to Far EastHong Kong, China (Shanghai) Japan (Tokyo)
Travel to U.S. WestNorth America (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco)
Travel to U.S. EastNorth America (Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta)
Travel to CaribbeanBarbuda (Antigua), Barbados (Bridgetown), Cuba (Havana), Grenada, Jamaica (Kingston, Montego Bay), St. Lucia, Tobago, Puerto Rico (San Juan), Mexico (Cancun)

Virgin Australia offers round-trip awards as follows:

Virgin Australia Round-Trip Award Chart Using Voyager Miles
RouteEconomyPremium EconomyBusiness Class
Between Australia and Samoa35,00052,50070,000
Between Australia and Australia Regional Services43,00062,00080,000
Within Australia and to Short-Haul International Routes46,00065,00085,000
Between Australia and International Services100,000150,000200,000

Lastly, the GOL award chart is as follows:

GOL Round-Trip Award Chart Using Voyager Miles
RouteEconomyPremium
Within South America56,100137,150
Between South America and the Caribbean68,250166,800
Between South America and North America79,800195,100

Awards Bookable Online vs. Phone

Unfortunately, the technical quirks of South African Airways show up as soon as you try to redeem your miles. The online booking/search tool doesn’t actually work.

As a result, you’ll need to make all award bookings over the phone by contacting South African Airways Voyager by phone at +27-11-978-1234 or email at [email protected].

The office is open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. local time (GMT+2) and Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. (GMT+2).

Award Redemption Rules

When it comes to award or upgrade redemption rules, there is a slew of terms and conditions that you must conform to. These terms fall into 6 categories:

  1. General
  2. Dynamic Awards
  3. Upgrade Awards
  4. JourneyBlitz Awards
  5. Non-Alliance
  6. Star Alliance Awards

Here are the most notable award terms and conditions for South African Airways JourneyBlitz Awards:

  1. JourneyBlitz awards can’t be canceled or refunded.
  2. No changes are permitted on JourneyBlitz Rewards.
  3. The booking class for economy is X, and the booking class for business is I.

Here are the notable award terms and conditions for South African Airways upgrades:

  1. Upgrades are released between 24 and 48 hours before departure.
  2. You need to request upgrades on a segment-by-segment basis.
  3. Eligible economy tickets must be in Y, B, M, or K booking classes. Also, eligible ticket numbers must begin with “083.”
  4. Date changes and refunds are permitted, but the fare will be subjected to the originally booked economy fare class.

Here are the notable award terms and conditions for Star Alliance award tickets:

  1. Round-trip tickets must be booked. No one-ways are allowed.
  2. You must take the most direct route possible.
  3. You’ll be allowed up to 6 segments per itinerary if you include domestic add-on sectors within South Africa. Otherwise, the maximum is 4 segments per itinerary.
  4. You have to book the departure and return ticket at the same time.
  5. Waitlists aren’t allowed.
  6. Mixed cabin tickets are allowed, but you must pay the highest cabin class price.
  7. No stopovers are allowed for purely domestic flights within South Africa, intra-European flights, or domestic U.S. flights.
  8. You’re allowed 1 stopover and 1 open-jaw on intercontinental flights only. You must return to the origin country, but not necessarily the same city.
  9. You can’t backtrack.

Here are the notable award terms and conditions for Star Alliance upgrades:

  1. You can only upgrade 1 class (economy to business or business to first).
  2. Miles earned will be based on the original ticket booking class.
  3. Upgrades are based on a per-segment basis.
  4. Upgrades can’t be requested earlier than 24 hours before a flight.

Here are the notable award terms and conditions for Emirates awards:

  1. Johannesburg (JNB) – Dubai (DXB) redemptions are not allowed
  2. Bookings must be round-trip.
  3. Date changes have a R210 (~$14) fee
  4. Mixed cabin bookings are not allowed.
  5. You have 30 days from the date of the initial booking to refund your award ticket.

Here are the notable terms and conditions for Virgin Atlantic awards:

  1. Bookings must be round-trip.
  2. You must return to your origin city.
  3. 1 open-jaw is allowed, only if you’re leaving from a more expensive city (e.g. LHR-JFK with an open-jaw and then LAX-LHR).
  4. You’re allowed a stopover only in Hong Kong en route to Sydney.
  5. Date changes have a R210 (~$14) fee.
  6. You can only refund your ticket within 30 days of initial issuance.

Here are the notable terms and conditions for Virgin Australia awards:

  1. Bookings must be round-trip.
  2. For infants under 2 without a seat, there’s no extra charge. All other children will be required to pay for another ticket at full cost.
  3. Date changes have a R210 (~$14) fee.
  4. 1 open-jaw is allowed, but you must return to your origin airport.

There are many other terms and conditions, which you can view via the links provided in the list above. However, this is a summary of the most applicable rules and regulations.

As you can see, it can be quite a headache trying to keep track of all the rules across the different partner airlines.

How to Boost Your South African Airways Voyager Miles

Unfortunately, South African Airways only has 1 transfer partner: Marriott Bonvoy.

You’ll be able to transfer Marriott points to South African Airways at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. This means that if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you’ll get a total of 25,000 South African Airways Voyager miles.

To put this all together, let’s say you need 80,000 South African Airways Voyager miles. You’ll need to transfer a total of 195,000 Marriott points to earn this many South African miles.

Hot Tip: Although South African Airways’ only transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy, there are lots of ways to earn lots of Marriott points, so don’t fret!

Recommended Marriott Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card - Earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary. Plus, earn 6X points per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2X points per $1 on all other purchases.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card - Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Earn 3X points per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. A solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Business Card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - earn 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Earn 6x per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels plus 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines. Annual fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.

Final Thoughts

South African Airways Voyager is an unexpected gem of a loyalty program. With so many different airline partners and an underutilized award chart, there’s tons of unbelievable value to be had.

Whether it’s booking $5,000 round-trip economy flights from Guam to Kuala Lumpur for 20,400 miles or booking Emirates first class, there’s tons of redemption value hidden underneath a murky frequent flyer program.

One of the biggest diamonds in the rough is round-trip intra-North and South Asia flights in business/first class, which comes in at an absolute steal of 32,200 miles in business and 47,900 miles in first class. You can fly on ANA, Asiana Airlines, Air China, Air India, and even Singapore Airlines with this redemption, thanks to the Star Alliance route network.

You’ll want to avoid conventional redemption options for the most part, such as international business or first class flights departing from North America. Remember that round-trip bookings are the name of the game here, and you’ll want to try to avoid fuel surcharges if possible, as they are all passed on.


The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card was independently collect by Upgraded Points and was not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For the rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, please click here.


Frequently asked questions

What are South African Airways Voyager miles worth?

The generally accepted value of Voyager miles is around 1-3 cents per mile. If you’re clever about getting the most value for your miles, you can book Emirates first class or other premium cabin products on specific routes, driving your value up to 10-20 cents per mile.

Additionally, you can even snag 15-30 cents per point even on economy tickets if you’re flying on a crazy route such as from Guam to Asia.

Are South African Airways Voyager miles refundable?

Yes. You must cancel your award ticket within 30 days of initial ticketing. You must also pay a fee of R210 (~$14) per ticket to refund your award reservation. The fee is waived for Voyager Platinum and Lifetime Platinum members.

When do South African Airways Voyager miles expire?

Voyager miles expire 3 years after the year in which the miles were earned. Oddly, a year is calculated from April 1 to March 31, per the terms and conditions.

Additionally, you can extend the miles by following the terms and conditions section 11 titled “Expiry of Miles.”

Is South African Airways part of United Airlines?

South African Airways is not a part of United Airlines. It is an airline and Star Alliance partner. United Airlines is a U.S. airline headquartered in Chicago, while South African Airways is the national airline of South Africa and is headquartered in Johannesburg.

How much does it cost to buy South African Airways Voyager miles?

You can’t buy South African Airways Voyager miles at the moment.

How do I join South African Airways Voyager?

To register with South African Airways Voyager, visit this link.

Do I need to be a South African Airways Voyager member to search for awards?

Yes. However, it is best not to use South African Airways’ online website. It’s best to search via United or Aeroplan and then calling South African Airways to book.

How many South African Airways Voyager miles do I have?

You can find out by logging into your South African Airways Voyager account here.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

2 comments

  1. Richard Groves March 10, 2020

    How do I actually book a Virgin Flight from J’burg to Heathrow and return using our Voyager points
    Probably a dumb question but in this matter, I am!

    Reply

    • Hi Richard,

      If you have Voyager miles, you need to follow these steps:

      1. Find availability on Virgin Atlantic (I’d recommend using Delta’s online search engine)
      2. Call South African Airways Voyager at +27 11 978 1234
      3. Feed them the flight information on the Virgin Atlantic flight
      4. Book the ticket

      Reply

Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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