Elephants at Kruger National Park in South Africa

How to Get to South Africa with Points and Miles

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

Is visiting South Africa on your bucket list but you’re just not sure how to actually get to South Africa with your points and miles?

Maybe you want to experience the adrenaline rush that comes from spotting a pride of lions on that once-in-a-lifetime safari or perhaps feel the excitement when a Southern Right whale breaches the water alongside your boat.

Then this South Africa points and miles guide is for you! 

Luckily, if you’ve decided to book a flight to South Africa with your points and miles, there are plenty of options that offer great value and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. 

How to Get to South Africa with Points and Miles

Elephants at Kruger National Park in South Africa

Trips to Africa aren’t considered the most affordable vacations.

southern Africa safari that includes places like Kruger National Park, Victoria Falls, and the bucket-list-worthy Okavango Delta can start at a couple of thousand dollars to many tens of thousands of dollars depending on your travel style.

So, using miles and points to fly to South Africa can be a huge money-saver!

How many miles to South Africa varies depending on the points and miles award program, but generally speaking:

  • Award flights for economy flights can range from 65,000 miles to 80,000 miles round trip.
  • Business class flights will range from 104,000 miles to 150,000 miles.  

Also, fuel surcharges can range from about $10 to hundreds of dollars per ticket. So be sure to compare the mile cost to the taxes and fees. 

Now, let’s look at how to get to South Africa with miles and points!

Use ANA Miles: Best Business Class to South Africa

This could just be the best way to get to South Africa using your miles because it’s also the cheapest way to get to South Africa in terms of points. 

It’ll only cost 65,000 ANA miles round trip in economy class!

Or, if you prefer more luxury, you can fly round trip in business class for only 104,000 ANA miles, which is the best award ticket to South Africa in terms of mileage redemption value. 

However, while ANA might be the cheapest way to get to South Africa using your points, they’ll pass on fuel surcharges with certain airlines. So, pay attention to those taxes and fees because they can be hundreds of dollars!

For example, if we look at flying from Washington, D.C. to Johannesburg, it’ll only cost you 65,000 miles and $99.46 round trip. When comparing options to find the best award ticket to South Africa, this might currently top the list in terms of overall value.

ANA economy award

If flying in coach for that long makes you cringe, remember it’s only 104,000 ANA miles to fly in a business class seat round trip to South Africa. Not shabby at all!

ANA IAD-JNB BIZ Flight Screenshot

Fuel surcharges will vary depending on the Star Alliance partner airline you fly.

As you can see above, an itinerary operated by Ethiopian Airlines is much less out-of-pocket. But sometimes award searches on ANA turn up itineraries with extremely high taxes and fees. If this happens, select flights by different partners to see if/how this changes the out-of-pocket costs.

Another important tip to remember when booking ANA award flights using partners, only round trip awards are allowed.

How to Earn ANA Miles

If you need ANA miles, they’re a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.  

You can earn these flexible travel rewards with credit cards like:

  • American Express® Gold Card
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card

Use Virgin Atlantic Points to Fly to South Africa

Blyde RIver Canyon South Africa
Blyde River Canyon in South Africa

Virgin Atlantic Points are extremely valuable and using them to fly to South Africa can be a solid way to redeem them. While the mileage price isn’t the cheapest on this list, it’s still an option to consider because earning Virgin Atlantic Points is just so easy!

The benefit of using Virgin Atlantic is they have a non-alliance partnership with Delta Airlines. Virgin Atlantic does not pass on fuel surcharges for Delta-operated flights which makes this an interesting partnership for getting to South Africa with miles and points.

For example. Atlanta to South Africa in economy class would only cost 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and $6 for a one-way flight. Delta operates this flight between Atlanta and Johannesburg. Delta offers the same one-way economy award seat for 50k Delta miles.

Virgin Atlantic ATL-JNB Flight Screenshot

Search directly on Virgin Atlantic to find availability. And, remember Virgin Atlantic will cost fewer miles for non-stop flights.

How to Earn Virgin Atlantic Miles

They’re transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy

You can earn these flexible travel rewards with credit cards like:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • American Express Gold
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

Add a Free South Africa Excursion with United Miles.

Using United miles to fly to South Africa isn’t one of the cheapest options whether you’re flying in coach or business class. But, United doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges to their customers.

So, while you might save a lot of miles using ANA miles, you also might spend hundreds of dollars on fuel surcharges with Star Alliance partners via ANA.

For example, when looking to fly from Atlanta to South Africa (Johannesburg), some programs like ANA pass on fuel surcharges when flying Lufthansa. Yet, United will only charge 44,000 miles and $42.40. 

For flights operated by United, it can be as low as 40k miles one-way in coach.

United Airlines BOS-JNB Lufthansa Flight Screenshot

So while this option costs more miles and to fly in economy, it gives you more award space options without the hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket on fuel surcharges. 

If you’re looking to fly business class, United charges 80k+ miles one-way for United-operated flights and 88k for flights flown by their Star Alliance partners.

United Airlines BOS-JNB Business Class Flight Options Screenshot
Whenever possible, skip the business class with mixed cabin. You pay the same amount of miles as business class, yet don’t fly your entire itinerary in business class.

Now, if you decide to use the United Excursionist Perk, this can add some real value to your United miles.

For example, if you were to look at flights from Tampa to South Africa (Johannesburg), but also wanted plane tickets from Johannesburg to Cape Town (JNB to CPT), with an eventual return back to Tampa, you’d pay 40,000 miles and $39.70 to fly from Tampa to Johannesburg,

United Excerionist Perk

Then, with the United Excursionist Perk, fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town for 0 miles and $9.20. Yes, only $9.20 to fly non-stop to Cape Town!

using United excersionist perk

Then for the return flight to Tampa, you’ll only pay 40,000 miles and $83.53.  

excersionist benefit

You could fly this entire route in economy class for only 80,000 miles and $132.43. 

The cash price of this ticket is $3,684, which means you’re redeeming your points at 4.4 cents per point, a phenomenal for an economy ticket! 

South Africa flight cost

How to Earn United Miles

United is a transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy

These flexible travel rewards can be earned with credit cards like:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

United also has co-branded airline credit cards with which to earn United miles. These are:

  • United Gateway℠  Card
  • United℠  Explorer Card
  • United Quest℠  Card
  • United Club℠  Infinite Card
  • United℠  Business Card

Book a Mixed Class South Africa Flight with Avianca Miles.

Kruger National Park South Africa Zebras

Just like United, the big benefit to using Avianca miles is the fact they don’t pass on fuel surcharges to customers and don’t charge a close-in booking fee if you’re booking within 21 days of departure 

Booking an economy flight to South Africa, Avianca charges 40,000 miles each way, which is the same as United.  If you were looking for a business class seat, LifeMiles charges 78,000 miles, 2,000 miles less than United’s award chart saver price.

Avianca Lifemiles IAD-JNB Business Flight Screenshot

Another great benefit of LifeMiles is the ability to book mixed cabin awards. 

For example, in the above example of flying from Boston to South Africa (Johannesburg), if both economy and business were showing, you could choose business class for the longer flight and economy for the shorter flight.

Instead of a ticket like this having a set price, you’d pay the cost showing for the flights you select. Other airlines will charge you the full business class price for a mixed cabin ticket. 

How to Earn Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy.

You can earn these flexible travel rewards with credit cards like:

  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Card
  • American Express Gold
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
  • Citi ThankYou Premier

Programs like American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points, occasionally have transfer bonuses to Avianca, so you could pay even fewer miles if you were to take advantage of those transfer bonuses. 

Use Flying Blue Miles to Get to South Africa.

Flying Blue might not be the first program you think of when flying to South Africa, but you shouldn’t overlook this program. 

While Flying Blue no longer has an award chart, the amount of miles needed for an award ticket is based on the cash price of a ticket. This dynamic award pricing means sometimes you can find a deal.

For example, flying from Los Angeles to Johannesburg in economy class, it’ll only cost 35,000 miles and $134.81 for a one-way ticket. 

Flying Blue economy award
business class from LAX

And if you were looking to fly business class to Johannesburg it would be as low as 85,000 miles, plus taxes and fees

When booking with Flying Blue, they’ll pass on fuel surcharges to the customer. So while the mile requirement for economy tickets might be lower than other options, the out-of-pocket cost will be higher as well. You’ll want to compare the award cost to the cash price to see if you’re getting a good deal. 

How to Earn Flying Blue Miles

Flying Blue miles are also easy to earn. They’re transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy

You can earn these flexible travel rewards points with credit cards like:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • American Express Gold Card
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Card
  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless

American Express and Citi have even offered transfer bonuses to Flying Blue, costing you fewer miles for these award flights to South Africa and taking the sting out of those fuel surcharges.

Use American Airlines to Fly to South Africa.

We finally get to a Oneworld partner on this list! While I feel American Airlines offers an underwhelming experience, their miles are quite useful for award flights with their partners. 

If you were flying economy class using American Airlines miles, it would only cost 40,000 miles each way. That includes flying economy on Etihad or Qatar flights. 

AA miles on parnters

Business class will cost 75,000 miles one-way and first class to South Africa will cost 120,000 American Airlines miles. 

Most notably, you could fly in the Qatar Q-Suites from Washington, D.C. to Johannesburg for 75,000 AA miles and minimal taxes.

Use AA miles to fly q suites
QR708 has Q-Suites!

Or if you wanted to fly Etihad business class, that would still cost just 75,000 American Airlines miles and minimal taxes. 

These options represent an excellent use of your American Airlines miles.

How to Earn American Airlines Miles

American Airlines miles aren’t the easiest to earn because they are only a transfer partner with Marriott Bonvoy.

Luckily, American Airlines has co-branded credit cards with both Citi and Barclays, which can help significantly boost your American Airlines account balance. You can also earn American Airlines miles through their shopping portal, dining rewards, and programs like Simply Miles.


Visiting South Africa using your points and miles might sound difficult, but if the thrill of a safari is on your bucket list, then you have a lot of options to get you there for less.

So, which do you think is the best way to fly to South Africa?

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8 thoughts on “How to Get to South Africa with Points and Miles”

  1. so I put in the same dates and departure/arrival cities for the ANA example, but keep coming up with “There are no results that match your specified search criteria. Please change your criteria, and retry your search again.”

    Do you need to have miles in your account before you search? I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong

    1. Hey Jim,

      You don’t need miles in your account to search ANA. It could be the award space is no longer available. Have you tried clearing your cookies or using a private browser as well


  2. HI Dustin,

    I’ve found the same thing as Jim- on ANA website, not even looking for miles bookings, yet, getting the same message. It seems ANA is not flying as a partner to Africa- any thoughts or suggestions on this would be great!

    We are trying to use miles to fly to Johannesburg October 2020 and want to fly business class- if we can. We have AmEX points as well as United points.

    Thanks for your help! The information on the website is helpful!

    Edye K

    1. Hi Edye,

      I just did a quick look and I was able to pull up award flights to JNB from the US. Star Alliance has partners that flies to South Africa. Are you looking as a round trip ticket? Also, there is a check box to look for +/- 3 days window, that could useful as well.

      At the same time, it might be there just might not be space open for the timing you are looking for at this time. I did try to find the error you were mentioning and that seems to be the case. The date you are looking might not be open at that time. Try the +/- 3 day check box and keep on searching. The space will show if it is there.

      I hope that helps,

  3. HI Dustin,

    Thanks for your response. The message on ANA continue to come up- just unsure how to see how ANA fly’s to Cape Town from Washington- its really strange- And yes, did check box for 3+ days etc- still no flights – just the message-

    Perhaps this is the case re: no available dates however, I’ve put in many different dates without success. I have checked economy, then economy plus then business to see if that made any difference – it did not.

    If ANA does fly to Cape Town from Washington, I guess I can call the airline to see what availability they have.

    Any other thoughts based on your expertise is greatly appreciated!


    1. Hi Edye,

      It very well could be the dates you are searching, currently, have no availability. When flying to South Africa, you would be flying on a Star Alliance partner of ANA, not actually on ANA. I would keep searching ANA, or you could also search Aeroplan, write down the flight numbers, then call ANA. But, ANA will show space if it is there.

      I hope that helps,

  4. I don’t see these kinds of FF mileage requirements when I go to check. Delta wants between 720,000-840,000 miles for a business class ticket to Joberg – and United while far less to either Cape Town or Joberg – is still much higher than what I see on this site. How are you getting these numbers? I have also noticed Delta is not allowing me to find code share partner flight mileage requirements – (I don’t mind an 11 hour layover in Paris if I can fly business class all the way) – which in past years had fewer miles required for a business class ticket – why? I have plenty of United and Delta miles but I cannot find flights are you are showing them in this article – for the months of Sept-October.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Cindy. I’m sorry you’re having trouble. I am not at all surprised about Delta’s pricing. They have dynamic pricing which fluctuates and can be outrageously high. That’s what you’re seeing. United also has dynamic pricing although it’s still possible to find the pricing in this article and to add value with an excursion.

      The examples show mostly how using partner miles that can be transferred from flexible point programs
      (Chase points, Amex points, etc) can help you book award flights that might be flown by airlines United or Delta, but the booking and the payment is done through the partner. The benefit is that oftentimes the partner charges less than United or Delta. For example, Avianca’s pricing might be cheaper for the exact same flights you see on the United website.

      If you have any flexible points, I would look to see if you have access to any of the partner awards in the post. Then search for these awards on those airline websites. Remember, never transfer Chase points, Amex points etc until you find the award space you want and are ready to book. Good luck!

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