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Today’s email comes from reader Jim, who writes:south-africa-logo

I’m planning a trip to South Africa in January-February 2017.  Currently, my miles/points status is (approx.):

62,000 United
160,000 Ultimate Rewards
75,000 Starpoints
50,000 Amex
190,000 Marriott
200,000 Hilton
50,000 Citi TY
18,000 South African Airways
+ some American, Wyndham, and Air Berlin

My original thought is transfer what I need (320,000 miles, once I get them + fees) for a United flight round-trip (we want to fly business all or most of the way), but I ran across this article on the points guy:

I followed along as best I could as the website has changed somewhat since 2014, and joined the ANA mileage club to search their search engine for award availability.  I found a business round trip for two people on the ANA Site IAD-DUR-IAD for 208,000 miles + fees on the dates we’re interested in but right now, I have 0 in ANA miles since I literally just created the account.  At this point, my travel intelligence breaks down.  I’m a little leery of transferring the points into ANA if this actually doesn’t work.  Do you have advice on what the next step is?  I assume that the choice will be presented at a further step in the booking, but I’d hate to be wrong on this.

Cheapest miles to South Africa

The gist of the question was that he was trying to book a flight from the US to South Africa, and he was looking to use ANA miles (transferring from Membership Rewards and/or SPG points).  The 104,000 miles per person for a roundtrip flight to South Africa in BUSINESS class seemed low to me, but I went out to ANA’s website and found a sample itinerary


A roundtrip one stop flight from Washington to South Africa on Ethiopian Airlines in Business Class for 104,000 miles.  Hmmm but what are the fees.  64,370 Japanese Yen… that’s probably not that much, is it?


Errrrr $623 in fuel surcharges, taxes and fees (per person!) seems like a LOT to me.  Everyone has their own definition of the value of miles vs. dollars, but that would be hard to swallow for me.  In contrast, United charges 80,000 miles one-way (160K roundtrip), but only has about $50 in costs.  Is the $573 in savings worth 52,000 miles?  I think you’re at least in the same ballpark, and there are other programs that would be even cheaper (JAL charges 65K oneway in business for example; Alaska charges 70K but only on British Airways with huge fuel surcharges as well)

(SEE ALSO: How can fuel surcharges on an award cost MORE THAN A PAID TICKET?!?!)

Is there a way to avoid fuel surcharges on the cheapest miles to South Africa?

According to this article over at Travel is Free, ANA is going to charge a few hundred dollars of fuel surcharges on almost every airline, including (unfortunately) South African Airways.  I tried several different combinations of airlines and different city endpoints, and was still running at a minimun of 40,000 yen (~$400) no matter what I tried.  It seems like United, Air Canada and a few other airlines won’t pass on fuel surcharges using ANA miles, but I haven’t figured out any way to avoid the fuel surcharges

Anyone have any suggestions for Jim on how to fly business class from the US to South Africa?

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