Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 9: Africa
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You get lots of travel flexibility with AMEX Membership Rewards points. Because if you don’t have set travel plans for a future trip, these transferable points give you the option to choose from multiple airline partners when you’re ready to book.
The AMEX Membership Rewards program has 17 direct airline partners. Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well, which gives you many choices for flights to Africa!
I’ll show you the best ways to use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for flights to Africa!
The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:
- Part 1 – Transfer Partners
- Part 2 – How to Transfer Points
- Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US
- Part 4 – Best Ways to Fly to Hawaii
- Part 5 – Best Ways to Fly to Canada & Alaska
- Part 6 – Best Ways to Fly to Caribbean & Mexico
- Part 7 – Europe
- Part 8 – India & Middle East
- Part 9 – Africa
- Part 10 – South America
AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Flights to Africa
There are several AMEX airline transfer partners that are great for flights to Africa. But before you transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to an airline partner consider:
- Destination you’d like to visit
- Which airlines fly from your home airport
- Your airline & alliance preferences
Because Africa is a huge continent (2nd largest by area), you might not have lots of choices for award flights to certain destinations. So you’ll need to be flexible if your goal is to redeem points.
And keep in mind only a few airlines offer non-stop flights from the US to Africa. You’ll probably have to connect via Europe or the Middle East to get to your final destination.
Award flights to Africa can often require a lot of points or miles. And you’ll be traveling for a long time to get there. So I recommend confirming all the details with the airline partner before transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points.
If you don’t have the time or don’t want to book your own award tickets, you can consider using an award booking service.
1. Air Canada
Link: Air Canada Award Chart
Air Canada is a direct AMEX airline transfer partner and is also part of the Star Alliance. This means you can redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles for award flights on partner airlines like:
- Egypt Air
- Ethiopian Airlines
- South African Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- United Airlines
And because many flights to Africa require a layover, you might fly on multiple Star Alliance airlines before getting to your final destination.
Keep in mind, you’ll pay fuel surcharges when you redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles on certain airlines. These charges can range from ~$50 up to several hundred dollars.
The Air Canada award chart separates Africa into 2 regions.
From the US to North Africa, one-way award flights cost:
- 40,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 67,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
- 82,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
- 115,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class
Air Canada considers the Middle East & North Africa the same region for award flights, which include these destinations:
- Canary Islands (Spain)
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
For example, I found a non-stop, round-trip Business Class award flight from New York (JFK) to Cairo for 165,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles and ~$162 in taxes and fees.
A similar flight could cost more than $2,300 if you paid cash.
And from the US to East, West, and South Africa, one-way award flights cost:
- 50,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
- 65,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
- 75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
- 105,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class
Award flights to this region can get you to these countries:
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- Republic of Congo
- Sao Tome and Principe
- South Africa
Here are examples of non-stop flights to Africa on Star Alliance airlines that you can book using Air Canada Aeroplan miles:
- Newark and Washington, DC to Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines
- New York (JFK) to Cairo on Egypt Air
- New York (JFK) and Washington, DC to Johannesburg on South African Airways
- Washington, DC to Ghana on United Airlines
- Washington, DC to Senegal on South African Airways
One thing to watch out for when using Air Canada Aeroplan miles for award flights to Africa are multi-class flight itineraries.
For example, part of a sample one-way Business Class award flight from Newark to Cape Town includes a coach flight from Newark to London. Then, you switch to Business Class from London to Cape Town.
You still pay the regular Business Class award flight price (75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles) even if part of your trip is in coach.
A nice aspect of the Air Canada program is you’ll pay the same number of miles regardless of your US departure city. So an award flight from the West Coast to Africa costs the same as from the East Coast.
Link: ANA Award Chart
You can NOT book one-way award flights using ANA miles. And ANA adds significant fuel surcharges (up to ~$1,000) to many partner award flights to Africa.
For a round-trip award flight to Africa, you’ll pay:
- 65,000 ANA miles in coach
- 104,000 ANA miles in Business Class
- 195,000 ANA miles in First Class
But instead of using ANA miles to fly on a Star Alliance partner, you might consider using them to book an award flight to Africa on Etihad.
Because ANA has a partnership with Etihad and does not add fuel surcharges to these award flights.
To get to Africa on Etihad, you’ll connect through Abu Dhabi. Then, you can fly non-stop to these destinations:
- Dar Es Salaam
But you’ll need to call ANA at 800-235-9262 to book Etihad award flights.
Instead of booking Etihad award flights with ANA miles, you could also transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio.
Etihad doesn’t publish an award chart for their flights. But you can use the Etihad mileage calculator to quickly find out how many miles you’ll need to fly in coach, Business Class, and First Class.
For example, I searched a one-way coach award flight from Los Angeles to Johannesburg. This flight requires 92,743 Etihad award miles.
Generally, Etihad award flight prices will increase the more distance you travel. For example, flying from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg requires ~10,000 fewer Etihad miles.
It’s relatively easy to use the Etihad website to find available award seats.
For example, I searched a one-way coach award flight from New York (JFK) to Cairo. This flight requires ~60,000 Etihad miles and includes a layover in Abu Dhabi.
When using Etihad miles, you’ll also have the option to select multiple types of fares. For example, you can use additional miles to reduce the out of pocket taxes and fees expense. Or use even more miles for a refundable fare.
Delta is a great transfer partner for award flights to Africa because they are part of the SkyTeam Alliance, which means part of your journey can be on partner airlines like Air France or KLM.
But Delta does not publish an award chart. So you’ll need to search specific award flights to find prices.
I searched several routes and found the cheapest one-way award flights to the Africa cost:
- 35,000 Delta miles in coach
- 80,000 Delta miles in Business Class
That said, it can be very difficult to find award seats at those prices. So you’ll need to be flexible with your travel dates.
For example, I searched one-way coach award flights from Salt Lake City to Johannesburg in April 2017. In the first few weeks of the month, there are only 6 dates that have award seats available at 40,000 Delta miles.
If you’re planning a trip to Ghana, Delta miles can come in handy. Because Delta has a non-stop flight from New York (JFK).
The cheapest one-way award flight prices I found for this non-stop route were:
- 35,000 Delta miles in coach
- 180,000 Delta miles in Business Class
The Business Class cost is very expensive. But if you don’t mind flying coach, you can get there and back for 70,000 Delta miles plus taxes and fees.
Delta also offers a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg.
5. Flying Blue
Link: Flying Blue Promo Awards
If you’re planning to visit Northern Africa, you can find amazing deal using Flying Blue miles.
That’s because each month Air France and KLM discount award tickets on certain routes to Europe by 25% to 50%. But destinations in Northern Africa, like Morocco, are considered in the same region for purposes of the Flying Blue Promo Awards.
For example, when there’s a 25% discount on Business Class award tickets from your departure city, you can book a round-trip award flight to Morocco for 93,750 Flying Blue miles plus taxes and fees. That’s an incredible deal!
Keep in mind, the taxes and fees vary by flight, but usually range from ~$200 in coach to ~$500 in Business Class.
6. Direct Transfer Partners With Drawbacks
There are other direct AMEX airline transfer partners that can get you to Africa too. But these partners have drawbacks like:
- Difficult to find award seats
- Less favorable transfer ratio to certain partners
- Longer and inconvenient flight itineraries
- More miles or points required for an award flight
- Significant fuel surcharges
This includes AMEX airline partners like:
- British Airways
- Singapore Airlines
For example, I found lots of available coach award seats on a sample Emirates flight from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg, which costs 82,500 Emirates miles and ~$332 in taxes and fees.
The same flight costs ~$900 if you pay cash, so this is not a good use of AMEX Membership Rewards points.
Similarly, British Airways add significant fuel surcharges to their award flights. On a sample round-trip coach award flight from New York to Cape Town, you’ll pay 58,500 British Airways Avios points and ~$582 in taxes and fees.
Plus, the AMEX transfer ratio to British Airways is 5:4, which is less favorable. This means you’ll have to transfer more AMEX Membership Rewards points for an award flight.
On the other hand, Alitalia award flight prices to Africa are reasonable. But it’s extremely difficult to find available award seats. And if you do, you might only find 1 seat, which isn’t good unless you’re traveling alone.
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Link: AMEX Pay With Points
When you redeem points through the AMEX travel portal, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket with most cards.
This is a great option for folks looking to save time and avoid blackout dates.
For example, I found a round-trip Delta coach flight from Boston to Johannesburg in April 2017. This flight costs ~$1,081 or ~108,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.
You could book this same flight by transferring points to Delta. Assuming award flights are available on the same dates, you’d pay 70,000 Delta miles.
Because you’ll pay ~108,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for the sample round-trip flight to Johannesburg. But you’ll get 50% of your points back. In the end, you’ll only use ~54,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for a round-trip flight to Africa!
For award flights to Africa, you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada or ANA and book award flights on Star Alliance partner airlines like Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, or South African Airways.
Don’t forget certain airlines add fuel surcharges on partner award flights. So do the math to make sure you’re getting the best deal!
You can also use ANA miles to book Etihad award flights to Africa and pay no fuel surcharges. But you’ll have to call ANA to book these flights.
If you’re looking to visit Northern Africa, you can do well transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue and booking Flying Blue Promo Awards. During certain months, you can book a round-trip flight from designated US cities for 25% to 50% off. And you can fly to destinations like Morocco!
Or you can use AMEX Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal to book cheap coach airfare. This can be an fantastic deal for folks with the AMEX Business Platinum booking a flight their selected airline.
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