In this guide, I identify the best airports in South Africa to fly into, how to minimise travel time by flying nonstop or with only one stop.
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.
The best routings from Australia to South Africa
The quickest but not necessarily most comfortable way is to fly from Sydney or Perth nonstop to Johannesburg.
Alternatively, you could fly through an Asian hub like Singapore or Hong Kong.
Or you could take a bit more time via the Middle East. The example below shows routes flying Emirates via Dubai, but you could also fly Etihad via Abu Dhabi or Qatar Airways via Doha.
Quickest trip from the East Coast: Sydney to Johannesburg nonstop 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 2-2-2 configuration. Note that this is a really difficult route to find award space on.
This plane should be upgraded to a more comfortable Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the 2020-21. We will probably see a nonstop Sydney – Cape Town route launched too.
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 nonstop 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. This is quite an outdated product, though, so isn’t the best use of Velocity Points.
Points needed: 71,500 Velocity Points
Best First Class: Emirates via Dubai
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 onward connection, most flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town are on Boeing 777s. However, two of the four daily Johannesburg flights are on an A380, so try to get on one of them if you can.
Best Business Class: Qatar Airways via Doha
Qatar flies from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide to Doha. All flights feature excellent lie-flat Business Class seats with direct aisle access for all passengers.
Qatar Airways has probably the best Business Class in the world. We’re lucky as a growing number of Australian flights enjoy the Qsuite in the video above—check this guide to see which flights feature it.
All three daily Johannesburg and the once-daily Cape Town flights should be on Airbus A350s or Boeing 787s, again with an excellent lie-flat Business Class seat.
Runner-up Business Class: Singapore Airlines via Singapore
Singapore Airlines offers a solid product to/from most Australian cities. Depending on which one you’re departing from, you’ll get a different product—check them out here.
From Singapore, you can fly nonstop to Johannesburg in the excellent long-haul Airbus A350 seat. After a stop in Joburg, the service continues onward to Cape Town.
Points needed: 70,500-86,000 KrisFlyer miles or 121,000 Velocity Points
Notable mention: Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong
All Cathay Pacific services from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns as well onward to South Africa feature lie-flat seats and direct aisle access.
The airline flies nonstop to Johannesburg every day on a Boeing 777. During the summer months (November to February), they also fly nonstop to Cape Town on an Airbus A350.
Flying Cathay is a solid option, however, your trip will take longer than if you transited through Singapore.
Notable mention: Etihad via Abu Dhabi
Etihad offers frequencies to and from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and onward on its one daily flight to Johannesburg, with lie-flat seats all the way.
However, relatively higher number of points required lets this option down.
It’s not an easy journey to get to and from South Africa. It is unlikely that you find award space on nonstop Qantas and South African Airways flights from Sydney/Perth to Johannesburg.
Therefore, if you are going to use points to get there in First or Business Class, then you are best off flying through Southeast Asia or the Middle East.
For Business Class, you’ve got more options. Qatar Airways has fantastic Business Class products. Etihad does too, but if you’re using Velocity Points, you’ll have to fork out more cash.
If flying Singapore Airlines and using KrisFlyer miles, why not add a stopover in Singapore in for free/cheap?
Finally, flying Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong offers options from many Australian airports and is accessible using Asia Miles or Qantas Points.
What’s your favourite way to get to South Africa on points?
Supplementary images courtesy respective airlines.