In this guide, we identify the best airports in South Africa to fly into, how to minimise transfer time by flying with only one stop, and rank frequent flyer redemptions options from best to worst value.
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 New Zealand
The quickest but not necessarily most comfortable way is to fly from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington or Queenstown to Sydney, and then direct onto to Johannesburg with Qantas. Alternatively, Air New Zealand fly direct from Auckland to Perth, and seasonally from Christchurch – from Perth, there are connections onto Johannesburg with South African Airways:
You could fly through an Asian hub like Singapore or Hong Kong, with Singapore Airines and Cathay Pacific respectively:
Or you could take a bit more time via the Middle East with Emirates or Qatar (Emirates either direct to Dubai from Auckland or via Australia from Auckland and Christchurch, and Qatar direct to Doha from Auckland):
Quickest trip from New Zealand: Johannesburg via Sydney with Qantas
If you want to get there in a jiffy from Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington or Queenstown, fly to Sydney with Qantas and then onward to Johannesburg in their Boeing 747 service in a 2-3-2 configuration. The overall journey time should be around 19 hours at best.
Points needed: 80,000 AAdvantage Miles, 85,000 Asia Miles, or 96,000 Qantas Points
All redemption pricing in this guide is for one-way Business Class travel unless otherwise stated.
Long layover via Australian West Coast: Johannesburg via Perth on Air New Zealand and South African Airways
Want to skip Sydney, and don’t mind a day in Perth? You can get there in 24 hours by travelling with Air New Zealand to Perth, and then onward with South African Airways’ A340 service, with lie-flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration.
For the same amount of time however, you could fly via Hong Kong or Singapore in a much more comfortable seat for the entire journey. Award availability with Air New Zealand can also be a bit sketchy at times.
Points needed: 2,270 Airpoints Dollars, 72,500 KrisFlyer Miles, 85,000 United Mileage Plus Miles, or 127,500 Velocity Points
Best First Class: Auckland/Christchurch to Johannesburg via Dubai on Emirates
Emirates is the only airline offering a one-stop option to get from New Zealand to South Africa in First Class the whole way.
If you’re flying from Christchurch you’ll unfortunately need to add a Sydney stopover to your trip – however this is undoubtedly a better option than flying via Auckland and needing to transfer between two terminals.
For the added glitz of an onboard shower and bar, choose an Airbus A380 service 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
Best Business Class: Auckland to Johannesburg/Cape Town via Singapore on Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines offers a solid Business Class product to/from Auckland on the Airbus A380 or Boeing 777-300ER.
You could also fly from Christchurch, or Wellington via Canberra (Melbourne come mid-2018), however the leg through to Singapore is on their older style 777-200, which has an angled-flat seat.
As a bonus, Singapore Airlines continue onward from Johannesburg to Cape Town four days a week, and daily from 26 March 2018.
Points needed: 78,000 KrisFlyer Miles, 85,000 United Mileage Plus Miles, 105,300 Velocity Points converted to KrisFlyer Miles, 139,000 Velocity Points outright, or 3,260 Airpoints Dollars
Notable mention: Auckland/Christchurch to Johannesburg via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific
With all Cathay Pacific services into and out of Auckland and Christchurch, 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. Note that Christchurch services are summer seasonal only.
Points needed: 80,000 AAdvantage Miles, 110,000 Asia Miles or 139,000 Qantas Points
Transferring points from flexible currencies
You can transfer to any of the programs listed above if you have the following:
Note that if you want to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to AAdvantage or United Mileage Plus, it’ll need to be via SPG. Buying miles with these programs may be the better option for most in New Zealand.
Read more about buying miles with United Mileage Plus.
Read more about buying miles with American Airlines AAdvantage.
Supplementary images courtesy respective airlines.