The Big Travel Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 9: Best Ways to Fly to Africa

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The Big Travel Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 9:  Best Ways to Fly to Africa

Million Mile SecretsThe Big Travel Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 9:  Best Ways to Fly to AfricaMillion Mile Secrets Team

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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 and hotel partners when the time comes.

Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel.  This can mean a First Class adventure around-the-world, family trip to Europe, or so many other options!  And it’s easy to earn AMEX Membership Rewards points from some of the best American Express cards.

The AMEX Membership Rewards points program has many direct airline and hotel partners. Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well, which gives you many choices for flights to Africa!

Or you can keep it simple and use AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal and get a fixed amount per point.

Cape Town South Africa
Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for a Flight to Beautiful Cape Town, South Africa

We’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:

Cards That Earn Transferable AMEX Membership Rewards Points

You can earn AMEX Membership Rewards points with the following cards:

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.

Africa Is the 2nd Largest Continent. You’ll Likely Need to Be Flexible to Get a Good Deal on Award Flights!

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, especially if you want to travel in a premium cabin.  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 so you don’t risk having your points stuck in a program where you can’t use them!

1.   Air Canada

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
  • Lufthansa
  • 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 to be the same region for award flights, which include these destinations:

  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tunisia
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen

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 ~$51 in taxes and fees.

Use 165,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles for a Non-Stop, Round-Trip Business Class Award Flight From the US to Egypt

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:

  • Angola
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Congo
  • Chad
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Ivory Coast
  • Kenya
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Republic of Congo
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
If You’re Looking for a Romantic Getaway, You Could Use Air Canada Aeroplan Miles for an Award Flight on Partner Airline Turkish Airlines to Get You to Seychelles

Here are examples of non-stop flights to Africa on Star Alliance airlines that you can book using Air Canada Aeroplan miles:

  • Chicago, Los Angeles, 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 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 itinerary from Newark to Cape Town includes a coach flight from Munich to Cape Town.  Even though the flights from Newark to Zurich and Zurich to Munich are in Business Class.

Check the Details of Your Itinerary to See If Any Flights Will Be in Coach

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.

2.   ANA

ANA is also part of the Star Alliance, which means you can book award flights to Africa on partners like Egypt Air and Turkish Airlines.

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.

You’re Better Off Using ANA Miles to Book an Award Flight to Africa on Etihad Because You’ll Pay NO Fuel Surcharges! And Yes, That Includes First Class!

To get to Africa on Etihad, you’ll connect through Abu Dhabi.  Then, you can fly non-stop to these destinations:

  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Casablanca, Morocco
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Khartoum, Sudan
  • Lagos, Nigeria
  • Mahe, Seychelles
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Rabat, Morocco

But you’ll need to call ANA at 800-235-9262 to book Etihad award flights.

3.   Etihad

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 93,000 Etihad miles.

Enter Your Departure City and Destination to Quickly Find Out How Many Etihad Miles You’ll Need for an Award Flight

Generally, Etihad award flight prices will increase the more distance you travel.  For example, flying from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg requires ~4,700 fewer Etihad miles.

It’s relatively easy to use the Etihad website to find available award seats.

For example, we searched a one-way coach award flight from New York (JFK) to Cairo.  This flight requires ~70,000 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.  Always do the math to see if it makes sense to spend extra miles to reduce your cash cost or not.

You Can Use Additional Etihad Miles to Reduce the Out of Pocket Taxes & Fees Expense

4.   Delta

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.

We searched several routes and found the cheapest one-way award flights to the Africa cost:

  • 40,000 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, we searched one-way coach award flights from Salt Lake City to Johannesburg in April 2019.  The cheapest price that was available was 50,000 Delta miles one-way.  Availability was pretty widespread at the cost across the month, but wasn’t every day.  Business Class prices started at a whopping 120,000 Delta miles!

You Might Need to Be Flexible If You Want to Use Delta Miles, and You Still Might Not Be Able to Find the Lowest Prices!

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 we found for this non-stop route were:

  • 43,000 Delta miles in coach
  • 100,000 Delta miles in Business Class

The Business Class cost is pretty expensive.  But if you don’t mind flying coach, you can get there and back for 86,000 Delta miles plus taxes and fees.

You Can Fly One-Way Non-Stop From New York (JFK) to Ghana Using 43,000 Delta Miles

Delta also offers a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg.

Delta does occasionally offer award flight sales that are an even better deal, so if you want to fly to Africa keep an eye out for those!

5.   Flying Blue

Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM.

 

If you’re planning to visit Northern Africa, you can find amazing deals using Flying Blue miles.

That’s because each month Air France and KLM discount award tickets on certain routes by 25% to 50%.  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 as few as 93,750 Flying Blue miles plus taxes and fees.  That’s an incredible deal!

Flying Blue Promo Rewards Can Be a Great Way to Save Lots of Miles If You’re Visiting Northern Africa

Flying Blue now has an award calculator tool to allow you to see how many miles a flight will cost, but you need to log into your Flying Blue account to get to it.

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
  • Difficult to book tickets

This includes AMEX airline partners like:

  • Alitalia
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • Emirates
  • Singapore Airlines

For example, we 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 itinerary from New York to Cape Town, you’ll pay 58,500 British Airways Avios points and ~$595 in taxes and fees.  Depending on the cash price of this flight, it could be an okay deal, but there are generally better options.

British Airways Adds Significant Fuel Surcharges to Their Award Flights

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.  And even if you find enough for your whole party, Alitalia has notoriously bad customer service.

Save Lots of Points With This Business Platinum Perk

Instead of transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to airline partners, you can redeem points for airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

When you redeem points through the AMEX travel portal, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket with most cards.

But with The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, you can effectively get 1.54 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 35% of points back if you book a Business Class fare, First Class fare, or coach fare with your selected airline.

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 May 2019.  This flight costs ~$919 or ~92,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

Use AMEX Pay With Points to Book Any Flight as If You Were Paying Cash

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.

But with the AMEX Business Platinum, you’ll get an amazing deal using Pay With Points if Delta is your selected airline.

Because you’ll pay ~92,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for the sample round-trip flight to Johannesburg.  But you’ll get 35% of your points back.  In the end, you’ll only use ~60,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for a round-trip flight to Africa, and you would earn more miles when you fly because these fares act like cash fares!

Bottom Line

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 Rewards.  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 on their selected airline.

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The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

  • Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.†
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • You can also receive 35% points back on all First and Business class flights, with all airlines available through American Express Travel.
  • You can enjoy access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection℠ offering access to the most lounges across the globe, when compared with other U.S. credit card offerings. As of 11/2017
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees

More Info

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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