The best options to get to South Africa using frequent flyer points

GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 3 minutes
POSTED: February 17, 2017
UPDATED: November 13, 2018
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Velocity Frequent Flyer, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Etihad Guest
STATUS: From January 2019, the transfer rate between Velocity and Krisflyer will increase by about 15% and Velocity award redemptions on Virgin Australia will become more expensive due to added 'Carrier Charges'.

In this guide, we identify the best airports in South Africa to fly into, how to minimise travel time by flying direct or with only one stop, and rank redemptions options through Qantas, Velocity, Asia Miles and KrisFlyer from best to worst value.

If you’re just getting started, you can find out more about why we focus on using points for redemptions in Business and First Class rather than Economy Class.


Point Hacks South Africa Series

Part I: The Why: 7 insider tips to enjoy an awesome South African adventure
Part II: The How: A comparison of your points options to get to South Africa


The best South African airports to fly into

My recommendation is to fly into Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport (Africa’s busiest) and out of Cape Town International, or vice versa – that way you will save you time in backtracking.

Do note that Emirates and Qatar Airways are the only two airlines out of the ones mentioned in this guide that serve Cape Town directly from their hubs – all the rest fly direct into Johannesburg only.

In addition, Emirates operates a direct service from Dubai to the country’s third busiest airport, Durban; Qatar Airways’ Johannesburg service continues onto Durban; and Singapore Airlines’ Johannesburg service carries on to Cape Town on selected days.

The best routings from Australia

The quickest but not necessarily most comfortable way is to fly from Sydney or Perth direct to Johannesburg:

You could fly through an Asian hub like Singapore or Hong Kong:

or take a bit more time via the Middle East:

Quickest trip from the East Coast: Sydney to Johannesburg direct on Qantas

If you want to get there in a jiffy from Sydney, fly on Qantas’ direct Boeing 747 service in 14 hours in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Points needed: 70,000 Asia Miles or 84,000 Qantas Points
Review

All redemption pricing in this guide is for one-way Business Class travel unless otherwise stated.

Quickest trip from the West Coast: Perth to Johannesburg direct on South African Airways

Travellers from Perth can get there in 11 hours on South African Airways’ A340 service, with lie-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration.

Points needed: 71,500 Velocity Points

Best First Class: Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane/Perth to Johannesburg via Dubai on Emirates

Emirates is actually the only airline offering a one-stop option to get from Australia to South Africa in First Class the whole way.

For the added glitz of an onboard shower and bar, choose an Airbus A380 service from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth (sorry, Adelaide) over the Boeing 777.

For the onward connection, three of four daily Johannesburg flights and all three daily Cape Town flights are serviced by Boeing 777s, with the exception being one daily Johannesburg flight flown by an A380, so try to get on that one if you can.

Points needed: 192,000 Qantas Points
Review

Best Business Class: Sydney/Melbourne/Adelaide to Johannesburg via Doha on Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways services Sydney and Melbourne with an Airbus A380 and Adelaide with the more modern A350, however, both aircraft feature the same excellent reverse herringbone lie-flat Business Class seats with direct aisle access for all passengers.

With two daily onward flights to Johannesburg and one to Cape Town, the pick is getting on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight to Johannesburg to avoid the old 2-2-2 Business Class configuration on the Boeing 777 that plagues a large of Qatar Airways’ fleet (at the time of writing), including flights to Perth, reviewed below.

Points needed: 110,000 Asia Miles or 128,000 Qantas Points
Review

Runner-up Business Class: Melbourne to Johannesburg/Cape Town via Singapore on Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines offers a solid product to/from most Australian cities but if you can get on the new Airbus A350 from Melbourne, you’ll continue all the way to South Africa on the same fantastic aircraft.

Singapore Airlines actually continues onward from Johannesburg to Cape Town four days a week.

Points needed: 78,000 KrisFlyer Miles (increased starting 23 March 2017 but no more fuel surcharge), 105,300 Velocity Points converted to KrisFlyer Miles or 121,000 Velocity Points outright
Review

Notable mention: any airport to Johannesburg via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific

With all Cathay Pacific services into and out of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns, as well as South Africa, featuring lie-flat seats and direct aisle access, this is a still a fantastic option, however, your trip will take longer than if you transited through Singapore.

Points needed: 110,000 Asia Miles or 128,000 Qantas Points
Review

Notable mention: Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane/Perth to Johannesburg via Abu Dhabi on Etihad

Again, Etihad offers great frequencies to and from Australia and onward on its one daily flight to Johannesburg, with lie-flat seats all the way.

The relatively higher number of points required lets this option down.

Points needed: 139,000 Velocity Points + hefty Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge or 166,219-172,447 Etihad Guest miles
Review

Transferring points from flexible currencies

If you have:

Read more about why flexible currencies increase your points value.

Supplementary images courtesy respective airlines.

The best options to get to South Africa using frequent flyer points was last modified: November 13th, 2018 by Matt Moffitt