A New Way to Africa Using American Miles

American Airlines doesn’t fly to Africa. American Airlines doesn’t have a lot of partners flying to Africa. As a general matter, American and their partners aren’t ideal for most Africa flying although their Qatar Airways partnership does help here.

It’s worth reviewing my Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles.

  • The first thing to know is that American has a rule that when flying between two regions (in this case, US/Canada and Africa) you cannot connect in a third, different region outside of those unless a specific exception is provided for.

  • The long-standing exception is that you are permitted to connect in Europe. British Airways flies from London to several destinations in Africa. British Airways award space to Africa can be sparse especially in premium cabins, and those awards entail paying fuel surcharges in addition to taxes. Iberia flies to a handful as well — Luanda, Algiers, Oran, Accra, Malabo, Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Lagos, and Dakar.

  • A recent ‘third region’ exception is that you are permitted to connect in Doha, Qatar provided you arrive and depart there on Qatar Airways. Qatar is a recent addition to the oneworld alliance partnering with American. (Although American partners with Etihad based in Abu Dhabi, you cannot fly Etihad to and from Africa on a single award — you’d be charged for an award from the US to Middle East and separately for an award Middle East to Africa.)

In general I find that American’s awards to Africa are both difficult to get and overpriced.

Before Qatar in and out of Doha was added as a ‘third region exception’ the only way to use American miles on a single award between the US and South Africa was to fly British Airways out of London.

Now there’s one more way to do it. Iberia is resuming flights from Madrid to Johannesburg. Starting August 1 Iberia will fly an Airbus A330-300 with 36 business class and 242 economy seats three times weekly on the route.

    Madrid – Johannesburg, 11:45pm – 9:55am+1, Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays

    Johannesburg – Madrid, 8:15pm – 6:35am+1, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

It doesn’t look like there’s award space loaded onto this new route. And although it does mean incurring fuel surcharges, it’s worth noting that British Airways award space to Johannesburg is actually quite amazing in August.

Not everyone is going to want to travel to South Africa in August weather-wise, but if you’re looking for an award…

Here are dates in August where there are at least 9 business class award seats for London – Johannesburg. Seriously, I’m only showing dates where there are a minimum of nine (and not, say, 2 or 4).

Here are dates in August where there are at least 2 first class award seats for London – Johannesburg. (The Airbus A380 7:05pm departure will often have 2 first class award seats while the Boeing 747 9:20pm departure will often have 7.)

Note as well that British Airways flies London – Capetown non-stop and there are a few dates where first class is available there as well.

This may be useful to some.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @GhFly – yes, as I wrote:
    “Iberia flies to a handful as well — Luanda, Algiers, Oran, Accra, Malabo, Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Lagos, and Dakar.”

  2. Weather in August looks great for Cape Town. I see averages in the upper 50s to 60s. For me that is a great time to go. I went 2 years ago in September which is dry season. It was amazong in Cape Town and Pilanesburg National park.

  3. Gary,
    Can you travel between U.S. (Any Gateway) and South Africa (JNB) using american miles and connect in London and DOH on ONE award (100K for First, 75 K for Business)? Example: U.S. to LHR (BA First), LHR to DOH (Qatar First), DOH to JNB (Qatar Business)

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