AAdvantage still has one of the most competitive award charts out there. One area that I have always completely disregarded is Africa to Africa in economy class. The American Airlines AAdvantage partner award chart shows this as 10,000 one-way or 20,000 return:
Now Africa is a big place and other frequent flier programs charge considerably more; United MileagePlus charges 35,000 miles for a round-trip and is still considered to be ‘cheap’ using miles. So how can we take advantage of the AAdvantage deal?
The trouble is that there is such little Oneworld (or American Airlines partner) flying going on inside Africa. The Oneworld members who fly to Africa (like British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways) all go from their hubs OUTSIDE of Africa. With the current AAdvantage routing rules, you can’t touch a third region (to connect) without triggering a complete reprice of your award.
For example, I priced out Accra to Namibia last week and it came out to a stunning 60,000 AAdvantage miles plus $400 in taxes, fees and fuel surcharges – ONE-WAY! The same itinerary with United MileagePlus would be 17,500 miles plus taxes and fees of around $100.
The only trips that you can take using the AAdvantage award chart’s quoted price of 10,000 miles one-way is on Comair, the British Airways subsidiary. Comair does not have a lot of destinations and most are in a 1,000-mile radius around Johannesburg.
The exception is the once-weekly flight (on a Saturday) to Mauritius. If you can find seats in economy (which often open up) you can route from Mauritius to Cape Town in one redemption for 10,000 miles. Comair has fuel surcharges, so you will also pay around $150 one-way in fuel surcharges.
It would be fantastic if Oneworld would be able to snatch a major African airline (that also has a hub there) to better serve the continent. The obvious candidate is Royal Air Maroc, which recently selected Avios as its loyalty currency. The airline is not a partner of Oneworld, but it has strong partnerships with British Airways and Qatar Airways, so a closer tie-up might make sense. Royal Air Maroc serves Western Africa well, but does not connect into Eastern Africa much and the hub in Casablanca is just too far for useful connections (not that there are too many in Africa anyway).
Another interesting redemption would be from Mauritius to Saint Helena, IF the airport ever opens and IF AAdvantage treats it as Africa.
This would make sense as Comair is likely to be the only major carrier flying there, but nothing is certain yet.
For now, the published award rates inside Africa with AAdvantage are mostly theoretical (even if multiple Oneworld members fly to the airports in question).