Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 13 — Africa

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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 60,000 mile offer has expired. Check out the current best credit card offers here.

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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to Africa. This is not the best use of American Airlines miles because award prices are high, and there is only partner you can really use while avoiding fuel surcharges. But if you have American Airlines miles and want to know your options to Africa, this is your guide.

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Me on Safari in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

The Partners for Africa Awards

American Airlines puts Egypt in the Middle East Region. The rest of continental Africa is the Africa region.

There are no American Airlines partners with direct flights from North America to Africa. As you undoubtedly remember from Part 4 — Award Rules and How Many Miles You Need, American Airlines has that weird rule that you need to fly directly from your origin region to destination region unless there is a specific exception.

From North America to Africa, there are two specific exceptions:

  1. You can transit Europe
  2. You can transit the Middle East on Qatar flights (but not other partners like Etihad)

Realistically transiting Europe means flying British Airways, which has a big African route network. You can also fly Iberia and airberlin to some North African destinations, but their route networks are small.

The main partner to lock into is Qatar Airways because it has good award space and no fuel surcharges.

Award space on British Airways and airberlin is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Award space on Qatar and Iberia is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Pricing

From North America to Africa, American Airlines charges:

  • 40,000 miles one way in economy
  • 75,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 120,000 miles one way in First Class

These miles prices are steep, about in line with the United and Delta’s prices.

In addition to the miles, you pay government taxes on all awards. In addition to taxes, you pay fuel surcharges on American Airlines awards that fly British Airways and Iberia. The fuel surcharges on British Airways flights are humungous. Here is an award from New York to South Africa, flying British Airways Business and First Class.

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Fuel surcharges are $1,430 in addition to the $193.56 in taxes.

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Because of the fuel surcharges, I won’t be mentioning British Airways flights again in this post.

Fuel surcharges on Iberia are much smaller, at just a few hundred dollars roundtrip.

Routes & Award Space

As I mentioned, the key partner to Africa is Qatar because it has the best award space and a good route network. Here is Qatar’s North American and African route network from its hub in Doha.

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You can connect to the Qatar flights in New York, Philly, Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles very easily on American Airlines flights. This will cost you zero extra miles as long as Qatar “publishes a fare” from your home airport to your destination, another concept explained in Part 4 — Award Rules and How Many Miles You Need.

Award Space on Qatar Flights

Qatar economy and Business Class space is excellent. I used Award Nexus to search five out of the eight American routes that fly to Doha (New York, Philly, Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles–the ones that are easy to connect domestic American flights to to get to your hometown airport), from March 24 to March 30, 2017. I found award space on almost every flight, Monday through Thursday, during that time period. Apparently weekends are harder to find Business Class seats on, but as long as you are flexible to fly on weekday, you have a boat load of options. A lot of flights have multiple seats, and some routes have multiple flights that day.

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Award space is similarly excellent from Doha to Africa and on return flights.

Booking the Award

Search segment-by-segment if necessary to find award space from your airport to an international gateway and award space on the Qatar flights separately.

You need to book by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. The good news is that you will pay zero phone booking fee, since that fee was waived when an award can’t be booked online.

Pay your award taxes with your Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the award taxes and fees on these ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy pay the taxes with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases which includes award taxes and fees.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are not very good to Africa because the awards are expensive and basically need to route through Doha, which is out of the way, to save on fuel surcharges. There is great award space though on the relevant Qatar flights in economy and Business Class.

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership, among other awesome benefits, after spending $5,000 in the first three months.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.44.21 PM

By meeting the $5,000 total spending requirement you’ll earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles, which is 10k away from enough miles to book a Business Class ticket to Africa.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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29 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Scott: Very helpful. What do you think of Qatar business class, since it’s the only game in town on AA miles. As one of the ME Big 3–is it worth it?

  2. Thanks for the post, Scott. I thought I had read somewhere that SAA was still an option for using AA miles to go from IAD to Johannesburg. Is that not the case?

    • Not the case. South African is not an AA partner. It was a US Airways partner, but there are no US Airways miles anymore.

  3. Hi Scott,I’ve been looking at Qatar award space and the fact they they commonly release up to 4 seats to DOH in business from the U.S.. I am searching for that space for 3 people next July for a trip to South Africa. I see many dates in June with 4 seats however I have searched all days in July from all U.S. gateways and see no more than 2 sears at any time. Today I put the 2 JFK-DOH on hold. The AA rep said that they can no longer request award space to be released as they once could…True?? This has worked for me in the past with AA. Also, any chance they will replenish the space now that 2 seats are taken? and what is their pattern as far as releasing space closer to departure. I am open to any suggestions you might have, either with AA miles or UR. Thanks in advance…Charlie

  4. Just booked economy QR award LAX-DOH-JNB-HRE for late June.

    The LAX=DOH seats showed as available but disappeared when you clicked on them at BA.com. The AA agent had to call QR to request that they allow the booking, which took 24 hours, but was successful.

    Much like Charlie above – Y award space is really limited in July for all USA-DOH flights in either direction . Specifically, for the return there are some seats available up to July 8/9th DOH-USA cities and nothing after (only Business).

    So I too was wondering whether you think there is a history of releasing Y seats later?

    FYI flights within Africa on BA operated by Comair also require some fees or surcharges (about $130 for the JNB-HRE leg).

  5. You mention at the start that AA miles aren’t the best to use. I have a trip to Madagascar planned for September 2016 and would like to use points (one way trip). If not AA miles, what is the better/best option, in your opinion? Thanks.

  6. >>Award space on British Airways and airberlin is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.
    Award space on Qatar and Iberia is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.>>

    Do you have that backwards? Why would I search AA.com to find BA flights?

    Regardless, on both sites all I get is BA flights; no Qatar flights show up. Looking for PHL-CPT next May 2016 in Bus class.

    • Nope it is correct. AA.com shows you a month of flights at a time. BA.com shows you one day at a time, so I search aa.com where I can, which includes for British Airways flights.

      Try searching segment by segment to see which flights are available what days.

      • Segment-by-segment worked on the BA site, but when I selected March 5, 2016 on the calendar widget, BA returned flights for May 3, 2016. Still working out the kinks in their site, I guess. They do have a month view but it appears to contain BA flights only.

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