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The Best Ways To Fly to South Africa With Points and Miles

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Michael McHugh
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Michael McHugh

Former Content Contributor

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Michael fell in love with points and miles back in 2014 and since then has built up a vast knowledge of award programs and has striven to show readers how to receive the maximum value when using their...
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Stella Shon

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With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in ...
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Kellie Jez

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Wine, beaches, Table Top Mountain, game reserves, and safaris are some of the things that come to mind when you think of South Africa. Located at the southernmost point of the African continent, South Africa is a country with so much to do and see.

The country is served by 2 major airports: O.R. Tambo International in Johannesburg (JNB) and Cape Town International (CPT). Most nonstop flight options fly to Johannesburg, though United does operate a single flight from Newark (EWR) to Cape Town (CPT) that was launched in late 2019.

For those of you unable to find a nonstop, you’ll likely route through Europe or another African airport from the U.S

Best Programs To Use To Book Flights

Even though South Africa is far from the U.S., you still have several flight options in both airports. Oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance partner airlines all offer flights between the U.S. and South Africa — great news for those of us who have flexibility in our travel plans.

The award pricing in this article is calculated one-way. Most programs will allow you to book one-way tickets, but both ANA and Korean Air require round-trip award flight bookings.

With that behind us, let’s figure out how best to fly between the U.S. and South Africa!

Air Canada Aeroplan

Lufthansa new business class suite
Middle seats provide direct aisle access in Lufthansa business class. Image Credit: Lufthansa

Starting off our list of award programs to use to book award flights to South Africa is Air Canada’s Aeroplan. The program is best known for its award pricing for flights between the U.S. and Europe. What you may not have considered is using Aeroplan to fly to South Africa.

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Cabin ClassAeroplan Points CostTaxes and Fees
Economy54,100$55+
Premium Economy85,000$55+
Business100,000$55+

As a Star Alliance partner, Air Canada has access to flights from United, Lufthansa, SWISS Air, and Ethiopian Airlines, among others. Be aware that Aeroplan has a variable rate for redemptions, so you’ll find different pricing based on demand.

Aeroplan has partnerships with 3 transferable point programs, making it easy to earn Aeroplan points with American Express, Capital One, and Marriott Bonvoy. In addition to these partnerships, Aeroplan has a co-branded credit card, the TD Aeroplan™ Visa Signature® Credit Card, that earns airline points directly with your credit card spend.

Hot Tip: You can use Aeroplan’s free family pooling feature to gather together all of your family’s points, which can allow you to quickly earn enough points for a redemption.

Once you have enough Air Canada Aeroplan points to book an award flight, considering flying on one of these example routes:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Addis Ababa (ADD) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 100,000 points in Ethiopian Airlines business class
  • New York (EWR) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 100,000 points in United Polaris

Follow these steps below to help with your award flight booking process:

  1. Log in to your Aeroplan account.
  2. Search for the flights you’d like.
  3. Book and pay the taxes and fees associated with your ticket.

For those of you wanting to use transferable points, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One miles transfer at a 1:1 ratio, and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers can take up to 5 days at a 3:1 ratio. With every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer, you’ll receive a 5,000-point bonus.

If you’re looking to earn Capital One miles, here are the credit cards we recommend you check out:

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!

Learn More(at Capital One's secure site)
Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
75,000 miles
$1,350
$95
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent Credit (670-850)

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the most popular rewards cards on the market. It’s perfect for anyone in search of a great welcome offer, high rewards rates, and flexible redemption options.

Frequent travelers with excellent credit may benefit from this credit card that offers a lot of bells and whistles. And it offers easy-to-understand rewards earning and redemption.

Pros
  • 5x miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
Cons
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Capital One Miles

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.

Learn More(at Capital One's secure site)
The Capital One Venture X card is an excellent option for travelers looking for an all-in-one premium credit card.
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
75,000 miles
$1,350
$395
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-840)

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card is the premium Capital One travel rewards card on the block.

Points and miles fans will be surprised to see that the Capital One Venture X card packs quite the punch when it comes to bookings made through Capital One, all while offering the lowest annual fee among premium credit cards.

Depending on your travel goals and preferences, the Capital One Venture X card could very well end up being your go-to card in your wallet.

 

Pros
  • 10x miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars purchased through Capital One Travel
  • 5x miles per $1 on flights purchased through Capital One Travel
  • 2x miles per $1 on all other purchases
Cons
  • $395 annual fee (rates & fees)
  • Does not offer bonus categories for flights or hotel purchases made directly with the airline or hotel group, the preferred booking method for those looking to earn elite status
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive a $300 annual credit for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Elevate every hotel stay from the Premier or Lifestyle Collections with a suite of cardholder benefits, like an experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Capital One Miles

 

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Flat-Bed
Alaska Airlines miles are great to use to fly Cathay Pacific business class. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Long a fan-favorite in the miles and points world, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is a program that offers value for flights between the U.S. and South Africa. Alaska Airlines is well-known for the ability to book a stopover, not only on its flights but its partner airline flights as well.

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Cabin ClassCathay Pacific Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy50,000$244+
Premium Economy60,000$244+
Business70,000$244+
First80,000$244+

Outside of Alaska Airlines miles being challenging to earn, the 2 downsides with this specific redemption are that you have to call Alaska Airlines to book the flight and Alaska Airlines may not see the same award space that you might find on American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines, and Qantas.

You can also opt to use your Alaska Airlines miles to fly to Africa with British Airways and Emirates, though British Airways levies high surcharges and Emirates is extremely expensive.

Hot Tip: Familiarize yourself with American Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas search engines as you’ll need them to search for Cathay Pacific award flights. We’ve covered this in our guide on searching for Oneworld award availability

Once you have enough Alaska Airlines miles to book a Cathay Pacific award flight, considering flying on one of these example routes:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 75,000 Alaska miles in Cathay Pacific business class
  • New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 80,000 Alaska miles in Cathay Pacific first class

Follow these steps below to help with your award flight booking process:

  1. Search for flights on American Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas.
  2. Call Alaska Airlines at 800-252-7522 to confirm award availability.
  3. Book the flight over the phone.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees, and be sure to ask them to waive the phone booking fee since you can’t find these flights online.

Earning Alaska Airlines Miles

It’s difficult to earn Alaska Airlines miles because the program has only 1 transferable point program partnership with Marriott Bonvoy and its co-branded card, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, does not come with big welcome offers.

If you do have Marriott Bonvoy points, the point transfers to Alaska Airlines take 4 days at a 3:1 ratio. Also, you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus with every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer to Alaska.

We provide an in-depth analysis of the various Marriott credit cards available.

Bottom Line: It’s hard to beat the award pricing offered by Alaska Airlines to fly Cathay Pacific economy, business, and first class flights to South Africa. 

American Airlines AAdvantage

Qatar QSuites 11F 11E Boeing 777
Use your American miles to fly Qatar’s business class Qsuites. Image Credit: Alex Miller

A program familiar to many U.S. travelers is American Airlines AAdvantage. For this redemption, you’ll want to focus on using AAdvantage miles to fly Oneworld partner airline economy and business class flights. First class isn’t as competitive, so we recommend that you look elsewhere to book.

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Cabin ClassOneworld Airlines Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy40,000$37+
Premium Economy65,000$37+
Business75,000$37+
First120,000$37+

The primary downside with these flights is that you’ll likely be routed through Europe. Oneworld doesn’t offer nonstop flights between the U.S. and Africa, so your travel will be longer compared to Star Alliance and SkyTeam partner airline flights.

Hot Tip: Oneworld partner flights to Africa can only be booked transatlantic. American Airlines has several rules when flying between regions, so we recommend researching all of your options before transferring any points. 

If you’re ready to book a flight to South Africa, here are a couple of example flights to get the ideas flowing:

  • Dallas (DFW) – Doha (DOH) – Cape Town (CPT) for 75,000 American miles in Qatar business class
  • New York (JFK) – Doha (DOH) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 40,000 American miles in Qatar economy class

Booking award flights with AAdvantage miles is easy by following these steps:

  1. Search for flights on American Airlines.
  2. Book the flight online.
  3. Pay the taxes and fees.

Earning American Airlines Miles

It’s easy to earn American Airlines miles because the airline has a partnership with Marriott Bonvoy and offers several co-branded credit cards. With co-branded credit cards, you’ll earn American miles directly with your spending.

Otherwise, you can opt to transfer Bilt Rewards to AAdvantage miles at a 1:1 ratio.

Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 2 days at a 3:1 ratio.

Bottom Line: The American Airlines AAdvantage program doesn’t have a ton of sweet spots, however, using American miles to fly Qatar business class may be one of them. 

ANA Mileage Club

Ethiopian business class
Fly Ethiopian business class using ANA miles. Image Credit: Ethiopian Airlines

The second Star Alliance program to join this list is ANA Mileage Club. ANA is best known for its competitive award prices when flying its flights to Japan. What you may not have known is that using ANA miles to book partner flights to South Africa can be a good value.

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Cabin ClassStar Alliance Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy65,000$377+
Business104,000$377+
First195,000$377+

The main drawback of using ANA miles to book partner airline flights is that the flights must be booked round-trip. If you’re looking for maximum flexibility, other Star Alliance partners like Aeroplan and United may make more sense.

Hot Tip: Award pricing for Star Alliance economy and business class flights to South Africa is where ANA shines. The program offers the cheapest economy and business class flights that you can book on this list. 

Here are a couple of Star Alliance partner flight ideas for those of you who are ready to book a flight Remember, these are round-trip prices:

  • Newark (EWR) – Zurich (ZRH) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 65,000 ANA miles in SWISS economy class
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Addis Ababa (ADD) – Cape Town (CPT) for 104,000 ANA miles in Ethiopian business class

With the required number of ANA miles in your account, follow these steps to book your next award flight:

  1. Search for flights on United.
  2. Confirm the same availability on ANA.
  3. Book the flight online.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees.

Earning ANA Miles

Earning ANA miles should not be an issue because ANA partners with both American Express and Marriott Bonvoy. When you earn points in these programs, the points can be transferred directly to ANA. Unfortunately, ANA doesn’t offer a credit card for the U.S. market, so you’ll want to focus on earning Amex and Marriott Bonvoy points.

Amex point transfers take 2 to 3 days at a 1:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 7 days at a 3:1 ratio. With that said, we recommend applying for these Amex credit cards first:

BEST LOUNGE ACCESS
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressTerms Apply / Rates & Fees
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)

Apply With Confidence

Know if you're approved with no credit score impact

If you're approved and accept this Card, your credit score may be impacted.

The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.
Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
80,000 points
$1,760
$695
See Pay Over Time APR
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card out there than The Platinum Card® from American Express.

Make no mistake — the Amex Platinum card is a premium card with a premium price tag. With amazing benefits like best-in-class airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and tremendous value in annual statement credits, it can easily prove to be one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet year after year.

Pros
  • The best airport lounge access out of any card (by far) — enjoy access to over 1,400 worldwide lounges, including the luxurious Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Plaza Premium Lounges, and many more!
  • 5x points per dollar spent on flights purchased directly with the airline or with AmexTravel.com (up to $500,000 per year)
  • 5x points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked with AmexTravel.com
Cons
  • $695 annual fee (rates and fees)
  • Airline credit does not cover airfare (only incidentals like checked bags)
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back in statement credits each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Disney+, a Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, The New York Times, Peacock, and The Wall Street Journal. Enrollment required.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Save on eligible delivery fees, shipping, and more with a Walmart+ membership. Use your Platinum Card® to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership and get up to $12.95 plus applicable taxes back on one membership (excluding Plus Ups) each month.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to your Platinum Card®.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only. Terms Apply.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: CLEAR® Plus helps to get you to your gate faster at 50+ airports nationwide and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use your Card. CLEARLanes are available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues.
  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
  • Shop Saks with Platinum: Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases in Saks Fifth Avenue stores or at saks.com on your Platinum Card®. That's up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • Unlock access to exclusive reservations and special dining experiences with Global Dining Access by Resy when you add your Platinum Card® to your Resy profile.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: See Pay Over Time APR
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

American Express Membership Rewards

BEST FOR DINING
American Express® Gold CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)

Apply With Confidence

Know if you're approved with no credit score impact

If you're approved and accept this Card, your credit score may be impacted.

This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
60,000 points
$1,320
$250
See Pay Over Time APR
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The American Express® Gold Card is a game-changer.

With this card, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and you’ll also earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x.

There isn’t another card on the market that offers a 1-2 punch like this. Of course, there are several other benefits of the Gold Card as well, including extra monthly dining rewards and more.

Pros
  • 4x points per dollar at restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 4x points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases; and 1x thereafter
  • 3x points per dollar on flights purchased directly from airlines or at AmexTravel.com
Cons
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Get a $100 experience credit with a minimum two-night stay when you book The Hotel Collection through American Express Travel. Experience credit varies by property.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: See Pay Over Time APR
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

American Express Membership Rewards

Business owner? See our list of the best Amex business credit cards.

Bottom Line: Star Alliance airline partners in this list that offer one-way award flight options include Aeroplan, Avianca, and United. 

Asiana Airlines Asiana Club

Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 9 Business Class Middle Aisle Seats
Turkish Airlines Boeing 787-9 business class middle aisle seats. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Another Star Alliance program to keep your eye on, and one that often gets overlooked, is Asiana Airlines Asiana Club. For economy, business, and first class flights, Asiana Airlines offers some of the most competitive award prices that you’ll find on this list.

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Cabin ClassStar Alliance Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy40,000$188+
Business60,000$188+
First80,000$188+

What can be frustrating with Asiana Airlines is that partner award flights require a phone call to book. The Asiana Airlines website doesn’t allow you to search or book these flights online.

Hot Tip: United will be the best website to use to search for Star Alliance partner airline flights. You may also find that Aeroplan can be helpful to use to search for these flights as well.

When you’ve decided to make the trip to South Africa, consider booking these flights to get you there:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Zurich (ZRH) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 40,000 Asiana miles in SWISS economy class
  • Houston (IAH) – Istanbul (IST) – Cape Town (CPT) for 60,000 Asiana miles in Turkish Airlines business class

To make the booking process easier with Asiana Airlines, use these steps when you’re ready to book a flight:

  1. Search for Star Alliance partner flights on United.
  2. Call Asiana Airlines at 800-227-4262 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. PST Monday to Friday.
  3. Book the flight over the phone.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees over the phone.

Earning Asiana Airlines Miles

It’ll be challenging to earn Asiana Airlines miles as the airline only partners with Marriott Bonvoy.

For those of you with Marriott Bonvoy points, the point transfer takes 4 days at a 3:1 ratio. Separately, you’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus with every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer.

Bottom Line: Asiana Airlines has competitive award prices for flights to South Africa. The challenge that you’ll have is earning enough Asiana miles to book these flights. 

Avianca LifeMiles

Lufthansa new business class suite
Middle seats provide direct aisle access in Lufthansa business class. Image Credit: Lufthansa

A fourth Star Alliance program to check out is Avianca LifeMiles. Avianca is known for the ability to book Star Alliance flights without fuel surcharges. This is great news for flights to South Africa as you can fly Lufthansa with very few dollars out of pocket.

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Cabin ClassStar Alliance Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy40,000$38+
Business78,000$38+
First105,000$38+

For these flights, Avianca business and first class pricing are on the high end, however, your taxes and fees will be lower, offsetting the additional miles you’ll spend.

The main downside with Avianca is that award availability shown on LifeMiles.com will not match what you find on United and Aeroplan. On top of that, calling Avianca is not a pleasant experience, so you’ll want to focus on booking these flights online.

Hot Tip: Lufthansa releases first class award space within 2 weeks of the departure date. If you’re looking to fly Lufthansa first class, you’ll need to be flexible on your travel dates. 

Examples of flights that you can book to South Africa include:

  • Newark (EWR) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 78,000 Avianca miles in Lufthansa business class
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 105,000 Avianca miles in Lufthansa first class

When you’re ready to book a flight using Avianca miles, below are the steps that will help with the process:

  1. Search for Star Alliance flights on United.
  2. Confirm the same award availability on LifeMiles.com.
  3. Book the flight online.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees, including the $25 partner award fee.

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

Earning Avianca LifeMiles is easy because the airline has partnerships with American Express, Capital One, Citi, and Marriott Bonvoy. Also, Avianca has 2 co-branded credit cards that earn Avianca LifeMiles with your spending.

If you have Amex, Capital One, Citi, and/or Marriott Bonvoy points, the transfer times and transfer ratios are as follows: Amex points, Capital One miles, and Citi ThankYou Points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 24 hours at a 3:1 ratio.

With that said, we recommend the following Citi credit card:

Citi Premier® Card
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

*The information regarding the Citi Premier card has expired and the card is no longer open to applicants.

*The information regarding the Citi Premier card has expired and the card is no longer open to applicants.
Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024.
60,000 points
$960
$95
21.24% - 29.24% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent option for anyone looking for an all-around travel rewards credit card. The card helps you earn points fast with great 3x bonus categories such as restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotels. Plus, it offers access to airline and hotel transfer partners, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and has a reasonable annual fee!

Pros
  • 3x points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotel purchases
  • Access to Citi transfer partners
  • Annual hotel credit
Cons
    • $95 annual fee
  • Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, for a limited time, earn a total of 10 ThankYou® Points per $1 spent on hotel, car rentals, and attractions (excluding air travel) booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through June 30, 2024.
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Other Hotels
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 60,000 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $600 in gift cards redeemable for $600 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 21.24% - 29.24% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Bottom Line: Avianca is one of the best programs to use to book premium cabin award flights on airlines like Lufthansa that have high fuel surcharges. 

Korean Air SKYPASS

Kenya Airways business class
Use Korean Air miles to fly to South Africa on Kenya Airways in business class. Image Credit: Kenya Airways

Korean Air SKYPASS is the 1 SkyTeam partner to make this list. The program has competitive award pricing for SkyTeam partner airline flights, particularly for those of you who want to fly economy and business class to South Africa.

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Cabin ClassSkyTeam Airline Cost Taxes and Fees
Economy40,000$425+
Business60,000$425+

2 drawbacks come to mind when using Korean Air miles: Korean Air passes on fuel surcharges, and it’s hard to earn Korean Air miles.

Hot Tip: The SKYPASS program uses region-based charts. This means that it’ll cost the same number of miles to fly from any U.S. city to South Africa on a SkyTeam partner airline. 

When you’ve accumulated enough Korean Air miles for a flight, consider booking one of these options:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 40,000 Korean Air miles in Delta economy class
  • New York (JFK) – Nairobi (NBO) – Cape Town (CPT) for 60,000 Korean Air miles in Kenya Airways business class

The process to book SkyTeam flights with Korean Air miles is as follows:

  1. Search for flights on Air France, Delta, or KLM.
  2. Confirm the same award availability on Korean Air.
  3. Book the award flight online.
  4. Pay the taxes and fees.

Earning Korean Air Miles

Korean Air co-branded credit cards and Marriott Bonvoy will be the combination you’ll need to earn Korean Air miles. The spend that you put on Korean Air credit cards will directly earn Korean Air miles.

When you have Marriott Bonvoy points, the point transfer time takes 2 days at a 3:1 ratio.

Bottom Line: Korean Air economy and business class pricing to South Africa are some of the lowest you’ll find in this list. To confirm that Korean Air has the lowest SkyTeam award prices, we recommend checking the pricing offered on Air France, Delta, and KLM. 

United Airlines MileagePlus

United Polaris seat on Boeing 787 9 Dreamliner
Use United miles to fly to Polaris class to South Africa. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

The fifth Star Alliance program to make our list is United Airlines MileagePlus. Many U.S. travelers are familiar with United but you may not have thought to use United miles to fly to South Africa.

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Cabin ClassUnited Airlines Cost Taxes and Fees
Economy40,000$75+
Business70,000$75+

Economy and business class pricing aren’t the cheapest you’ll find, however, you won’t be on the hook for fuel surcharges, similar to Avianca.

One downside with United is that the program uses dynamic award pricing for its own flights. This means the award cost of a United flight will be tied to the cash cost of the flight. Partner airline flights like Lufthansa currently utilize an award chart, though United charges more for partner awards than flights on its own metal.

Examples of Star Alliance flights that you can book with United Airlines miles include:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – New York City (EWR) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 70,000 United miles in United’s Polaris business class
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Istanbul (IST) – Cape Town (CPT) for 77,000 United miles in Turkish Airlines economy class

When you’re ready to book a flight, follow these steps to help with the process:

  1. Search for the flight on United.
  2. Book the flight online.
  3. Pay the taxes and fees online.

Earning United Airlines Miles

It’s easy to earn United Airlines miles because the airline has partnerships with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Bilt Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy. Also, United offers several co-branded credit cards that earn miles directly with your spending.

For those of you with Chase points, the points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 2 days at a 3:1.1 ratio. Also, you’ll receive 5,000 bonus miles with every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred.

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.

A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's worth over $900 when redeemed through Chase Travel℠.
75,000 points
$1,500
$95
21.49%-28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.

Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.

Pros
  • 5x points on all travel booked via the Chase Travel portal
  • 5x points on select Peloton purchases over $150 (through March 31, 2025)
  • 5x points on Lyft purchases (through March 31, 2025)
Cons
  • $95 annual fee
  • No elite benefits like airport lounge access or hotel elite status
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s over $900 when you redeem through Chase TravelSM.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase TravelSM, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase TravelSM. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 21.49%-28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's worth $1,125 when redeemed through Chase Travel℠.
75,000 points
$1,500
$550
22.49%-29.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.

The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options.  Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.

Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!

Pros
  • 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases March 31, 2025
  • 10x points on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases over $250 through March 31, 2025
Cons
  • $550 annual fee
  • Does not offer any sort of hotel elite status
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase TravelSM.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase TravelSM. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority PassTM Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Member FDIC
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 22.49%-29.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: $0
Rewards Center

Chase Ultimate Rewards

Business owner? See our list of the best Chase business credit cards.

Bottom Line: Avianca and United are Star Alliance programs to consider if you’re looking to reduce the amount of taxes and fees that you’ll need to pay. 

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Delta economy class
Flying Delta in economy is a fantastic way to save big on miles while flying comfortably. Image Credit: Delta

Our last airline program, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, is not in an airline alliance. Instead, Virgin Atlantic has partnerships with individual airlines like Delta, Air France, and KLM.

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Cabin ClassDelta Cost Taxes and Fees
Economy45,000$5.60+
Business65,000 (estimate due to lack of availability)$5.60+

The drawback with Virgin Atlantic is that its website can be challenging to use. We recommend familiarizing yourself with how to use the search engine. That way the booking process will be familiar when you’re ready to book a flight.

Hot Tip: Virgin Atlantic charges additional Virgin Points for connecting flights. The award prices shown in the charts above assume nonstop flights between the U.S. and South Africa. 

If your Virgin Points are already in your Virgin Atlantic account, here is an example flight to South Africa:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Johannesburg (JNB) for 45,000 Virgin Points in Delta economy class

Use the steps below to help yourself when booking Delta flights:

  1. Search for Delta flights on Virgin Atlantic.
  2. Book the Delta flight online.
  3. Pay the taxes and fees online.

Earning Virgin Points

Virgin Atlantic has partnerships with American Express, Chase, Citi, and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to earn Virgin Points. The airline also offers a co-branded credit card for the U.S. market that earns Virgin Points with your spending.

You’ll want to keep these transfer times and ratios in mind if you have transferable points: Amex point transfers take 1 to 2 days at a 1:1 ratio, Chase points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio, Citi point transfers take 2 days a 1:1 ratio, and Marriott Bonvoy point transfers take 1 day at a 3:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy point transfers of 60,000 points receive a 5,000-point bonus.

Bottom Line: When you need to book Delta flights, we recommend Virgin Atlantic as one of the first places to go to book award flights. 

Final Thoughts

South Africa is a country that you’ll see on many travel lists. What’s likely not covered in those lists is how best to use miles and points to get there. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll be one step ahead of the curve.

All in all, we recommend earning transferable American Express, Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Marriott Bonvoy points. That way, when an award program devaluation occurs, you can simply look to other award programs to book flights instead.

The information regarding the TD Aeroplan™ Visa Signature® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

The information regarding the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Citi Premier® Card has expired and the card is no longer open to applicants.

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use United miles on South African Airways?

Yes! You can use your United Airlines miles to fly South African Airways to South Africa.

What is the best airline to fly to Africa?

ANA offers the cheapest economy and business class award flights to South Africa. You’ll want to use Alaska miles to fly the cheapest first class flight to South Africa.

Will American Airlines fly to Africa?

American Airlines currently flies nonstop to Morocco but does not offer direct flights to South Africa.

Where do you fly into South Africa?

The 2 major airports in South Africa are Johannesburg (JNB) and Cape Town (CPT).

Michael McHugh's image

About Michael McHugh

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Michael took his first international trip in 2013 with friends to the Bahamas. Although he didn’t travel much in his younger years, on that trip, he caught the travel bug and has been hooked ever since.

Michael first caught wind of the points and miles game in 2014 while at a bar in Washington, DC where the conversation amongst friends was quickly derailed because of an alert on a friend’s phone about a mistake fare.  That’s where the love affair with points and miles began.

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