As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, Chase Ultimate Rewards points are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile. Chase URs are getting a little more difficult to earn thanks to Chase’s 5/24 Rule, but if you already have the points or are new to the credit card game, they can be quite useful for getting you to Africa!
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Introduction – Getting To Africa Using Your MRs, URs, TYPs or Starpoints
Part I – Getting To Africa Using Your MRs
Part II – Getting To Africa Using Your URs
Part III – Getting To Africa Using Your TYPs
Part IV – Getting To Africa Using Your SPG Starpoints
Chase offers two personal card that allows for the transfer of Ultimate Rewards points to airline partners – the Sapphire Preferred card and the Sapphire Reserve card. Chase is pretty strict with their approvals for this card, so if you have picked up more than 5 credit cards in the past 24 months, chances are good you will be denied if you apply for this card, so plan accordingly/carefully. Chase also offers the business Ink credit card, which has been offering some great sign up bonuses lately.
Now that you know how to earn the URs, the more complicated process is how to use those hard earned URs to get you to Africa!
Your URs will transfer to 7 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:
|Airline||Alliance||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Korean Air||SkyTeam||1:1||Same day|
|Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)||SkyTeam||1:1||Same day|
|British Airways||OneWorld||1:1||Same day|
|Singapore Airlines||Star Alliance||1:1||Same day|
|United||Star Alliance||1:1||Same day|
|Virgin Atlantic||N/A||1:1||Same day|
As I said before, the transfer times are just an approximation based upon data points I could find (as well as personal experiences), but it is important to be cognizant of these transfer times when you are planning your award booking(s).
Also keep in mind that you should always be looking at the paid ticket prices for tickets through the Chase UR portal – especially if you are looking to fly economy class – as your URs can be redeemed towards a paid ticket.
Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to Africa on your URs, your home airport will play an important role in finding availability or determining cost. For example, since British Airways operates under a distance based award chart, the cost for someone traveling from the West Coast is generally going to be higher than the cost for someone traveling from the East Coast. I will also assume for purposes of this post that you would be flying into Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB).
Korean Air is a SkyTeam alliance member, which means you can redeem your SkyPass miles for travel on Delta, Air France, KLM and Kenya Airways flights to Africa.
Korean Air uses a two-tier system where award tickets solely on Korean Air flights are one rate, and award tickets on partners are another rate. Korean Air operates a single route to Africa between Seoul (ICN) and Cairo (CAI), so I will focus on the partner redemptions instead. As such, for flights between the Continental United States and Africa, you would need to redeem according to Korean Air’s partner specific award chart. The partner specific award chart lumps all of Africa into the same award zone.
For a roundtrip award ticket operated by partner airlines between the CONUS and Africa, you can expect a cost of 80k miles in economy, 120k miles in business class and 160k miles in first class. Keep in mind that Korean Air does not allow for one-way awards on partner redemptions.
You are also allowed two stopovers on a roundtrip award ticket.
While Korean Air Skypass miles generally offer pretty good value, they offer exceptional value for African destinations – especially in business and first class!
Keep in mind that it can be difficult to work with Korean Air. If you are planning to use your miles to book an award ticket for another person, that other person has to be a family member (mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, wife, husband or child). You will also need to call in to Korean Air to book your partner award and the process is somewhat arduous. I would strongly recommend that you call in to make sure space is available and then place a hold on your award ticket(s) before transferring your URs to your Skypass account.
Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)
Air France and KLM share a frequent flyer program called FlyingBlue. Since FlyingBlue is a SkyTeam alliance member, you can redeem FlyingBlue miles for travel on Delta, Air France, KLM and Kenya Airways flights to Africa. FlyingBlue can be finicky to work with, but they offer some decent value for flights to Africa. FlyingBlue divides Africa into two separate award zones, though the cost is the same for both zones.
For roundtrip award tickets between the CONUS and Africa, you can expect a cost of 80k miles for economy, 100k miles for premium economy (where available), and 200k miles for business class.
One-way award tickets are allowed at half of the above quoted rates. While the economy class rate is one of the absolute best among the UR transfer partners, the business class rate is not very competitive. Accordingly, I would be looking elsewhere for business class tickets to Africa.
British Airways’ award program is distance based, so your home airport and destination airport are really going to make the biggest difference here in how much an award ticket to Africa will cost you. As British Airways is a member of the OneWorld alliance, you can use your Avios to book Qatar and British Airways flights to Africa.
The upshot of using Avios is that you can build in an itinerary that flies from the U.S. with stopovers in hub cities throughout the world if you wanted. The downside of this is that due to the distance based award chart, your particular routing may cost you substantially more Avios (and ridiculously high surcharges if flying British Airways).
There are several direct flights between the CONUS and London (for British Airways flights) and Doha (for Qatar flights), so if you happen to live at one of these hub cities, your redemption cost is going to be substantially lower than someone that needs to connect. Here are the one-way award ticket costs you can expect for the various most direct routings:
- British Airways – JFK-LHR-JNB – 29.25k Avios + ~$272 in economy, 58.5k Avios + ~$412 in premium economy, 135k Avios + ~$782 in business class and 153k Avios + ~$782 in first class.
- British Airways – LAX-LHR-JNB – 32.5k Avios + ~$272 in economy, 65k Avios + ~$570 in premium economy, 125k Avios + ~$820 in business class and 170k Avios + ~$820 in first class.
- Qatar – JFK-DOH-JNB -55k Avios + ~$308 in economy and 165k Avios + ~$456 in business class.
- Qatar – LAX-DOH-JNB – 70k Avios + ~$308 in economy and 210k Avios + ~$456 in business class.
Again, keep in mind that these are price ranges for flights between OneWorld hub airports and Johannesburg (JNB) with the most direct routing, so your award ticket cost may vary from these numbers depending on your home airport, number of connections needed and destination in Africa.
Award space tends to be pretty good on British Airways flights and hit or miss on Qatar flights.
In light of the cost, unless you have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your URs elsewhere for a redemption to Africa – especially if you are looking to travel in a premium cabin.
Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your KrisFlyer miles for Ethiopian, South African Airways and Turkish Airlines flights to Africa.
Singapore Airlines is one of several airlines that utilizes a separate award chart for partner awards. While you could in theory fly from the CONUS to Africa on all Singapore Airlines metal, the reality is that most will probably not want to fly through Singapore to get to Africa. As such, I will only be focusing on the Star Alliance partner award chart. Under the partner award chart, Africa is broken into two separate zones:
- North Africa – Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia
- Central, South Africa – Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Congo, Cote d’Ivorie, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
For roundtrip partner redemptions between the CONUS and North Africa, you can expect a cost of 75k miles for economy, 115k miles for business class and 150k miles for first class.
For roundtrip partner redemptions between the CONUS and Central, South Africa, you can expect a cost of 90k miles for economy, 145k miles for business class and 220k miles for first class.
One-way award tickets are allowed at half of the above quoted rates.
Overall, Singapore Airlines is surprisingly decently competitive for redemptions to Africa. There are definitely better redemptions to be had elsewhere with your URs, but the Star Alliance footprint is greater in Africa, so the KrisFlyer program does present a strong option to consider if award space is hard to find elsewhere.
United is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your MileagePlus miles for Ethiopian, South African Airways and Turkish Airlines flights to Africa. As with Singapore Airlines, you are going to have a decent amount of options.
United’s award chart breaks Africa into two zones:
- Northern Africa – Algeria, Canary Islands, Libya, Morocco & Tunisia
- Central & Southern Africa – Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote D’lvoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion Island, Rwanda, South Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia & Zimbabwe
United uses a two-tier award system for their awards where partner flights in premium cabins cost more than those flights operated by United. However, since United does not operate any flights to Africa, you would redeem according to the partner award chart.
A partner roundtrip saver award ticket between the CONUS and all destinations in Africa will cost you 80k miles in economy, 160k miles in business class and 260k miles in first class.
When booking a roundtrip award ticket, United allows you one stopover. United also allows one-way award tickets (though you would lose out on the free stopover) at half the rates cited above.
As you can see, United’s value proposition varies greatly depending on your class of service. For economy flights for example, United offers one of the best redemption rates. On the other hand, United offers some of the worst value for premium cabin redemptions – especially those in first class. United is the perfect example of why it really pays to do your homework on these redemptions as it can offer both some of the best value among the UR transfer partners, as well as some of the worst.
Virgin Atlantic has been going through some changes to their structure and award program lately, so I would double check the rates before deciding on this option. For a redemption between the CONUS and Africa, you would need to book two award tickets – one between the CONUS and the United Kingdom and one between the United Kingdom and Africa. Virgin Atlantic also breaks up the CONUS into three separate segments, each with a different award ticket rate:
- US – Northeast: Boston (BOS), Newark (EWR), New York (JFK) and Washington-Dulles (IAD)
- US – Midwest & South: Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD), Detroit (DTW), Miami (MIA) and Orlando (MCO)
- US – West: Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA)
For flights between the US (Northeast) and Africa, you can expect a redemption cost of 45k miles in economy, 80k miles in premium economy and 210k miles in business class.
For flights between the US (Midwest & South) and Africa, you can expect a redemption cost of 50k miles in economy, 90k miles in premium economy and 210k miles in business class.
For flights between the US (West) and Africa, you can expect a redemption cost of 55k miles in economy, 100k miles in premium economy and 250k miles in business class.
One-way award tickets are permitted at half of the above quoted rates.
While these rates may look attractive at first glance, keep in mind that Virgin Atlantic charges absolutely obscene surcharges on their flights and that you would also get hit with the UK Passenger Duty Tax as you would need to route through London. For most roundtrip economy redemptions, you should expect ~$1,000 in taxes, fees and surcharges per person and that number will only increase with higher cabin classes. As such, I would avoid Virgin Atlantic flights at all costs if possible.
Unfortunately, Southwest does not currently fly to Africa, nor do they have any partners that fly to Africa. If you have a Chase co-branded Southwest credit card, there is a way around this to use your RapidRewards points for international travel, but the value is usually exceedingly poor and I will not get into how to do so here as it will rarely (if ever) work out in your favor.
As you can see, the UR transfer partners offer some decent options for finding award availability to Africa. While the UR transfer partners do not offer as many options as TYPs or MRs will, the UR transfer partners do offer some of the less expensive options among MR, UR, TYP and SPG transfer partners in limited situations. Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your URs for a trip to Africa!
Stay tuned for the next installments on your best redemption options for TYPs and SPG Starpoints!
What is your favorite way to redeem URs to get to Africa?
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