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New Routes to Africa in 2018 — And How to Use Miles to Fly Them

Jan. 28, 2018
9 min read
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Travel to Africa is reaching new levels in 2018, as we've seen new routes announced between a number of US destinations and the world's second most populated continent. Delta, Ethiopian and Kenya Airways have all announced new nonstops from US destinations to African cities — connecting us to Africa in a way like never before.

Not only have new routes been announced, but there have been rumors of more launches, such as a Rwandair nonstop to Kigali (KGL). Plus, South African Airways is offering a new seat on its route between Washington, DC (IAD) and Johannesburg (JNB). With all the existing routes to Africa, there are plenty of ways to plan the ultimate vacation to one of TPG's favorite regions.

Delta Air Lines — JFK-LOS

Currently, Delta flies nonstop from a couple of US destinations to the following African cities: Accra (ACC), Dakar (DSS), Johannesburg (JNB) and Lagos (LOS). More specifically, Delta's nonstop routes to Africa break down as follows:

  • Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB)
  • Atlanta (ATL) to Lagos (LOS)
  • New York (JFK) to Accra (ACC)
  • New York (JFK) to Dakar (DSS)

In September 2017, Delta announced that it's adding a new nonstop to Lagos (LOS) — between New York (JFK) and LOS. The carrier is set to begin year-round service beginning March 24, 2018, on the following schedule:

  • DL415 New York (JFK) 10:55pm Departure ⇒ Lagos (LOS) 2:50pm (+1) Arrival — M/W/F
  • DL215 Lagos (LOS) 11:30pm Departure ⇒ New York (JFK) 5:30am (+1) Arrival — Tu/Th/Su

Delta flies an Airbus A330-200 on this new route with an aircraft that features three cabins: Delta One, Delta Comfort+ and Economy. The Delta One cabin has 34 lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, each with 80 inches of pitch and 21 inches of width. Delta Comfort+ is comprised of 32 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, with each seat offering 35 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width. Finally, economy features 168 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, with each seat offering 31-32 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width.

You can use Delta SkyMiles to fly on this new route. Delta doesn't publish an award chart, but on several dates, the economy cabin is showing a good amount of availability at the 35,000-SkyMile award level plus taxes and fees, which is consistent with the price for travel to the Central Africa region on the previously existing Delta chart. Delta's site is also showing good award availability in Delta Comfort+ at the 50,000-SkyMile level and at 80,000 SkyMiles in Delta One — all for one-way travel.

You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio or Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Delta SkyMiles, also at a 1:1 ratio.

Ethiopian Airlines — EWR-ABJ-ADD

In January, Ethiopian Airlines announced that it was adding another nonstop option to Africa for US travelers. Beginning May 10, 2018, you can fly from Newark (EWR) to Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (ABJ) nonstop with Ethiopian. The flight will then continue on to Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa (ADD).

Beginning May 10, the 3x weekly service will operate on the following schedule:

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  • ET512 Addis Ababa (ADD) 8:30am Departure ⇒ Abidjan (ABJ) 11:45am Arrival
  • ET512 Abidjan (ABJ) 12:45pm Departure ⇒ Newark (EWR) 7:15pm Arrival
  • ET513 Newark (EWR) 9:15pm Departure ⇒ Abidjan (ABJ) 11:15am (+1) Arrival
  • ET513 Abidjan (ABJ) 12:15pm Departure ⇒ Addis Ababa (ADD) 9:30pm Arrival

The new route isn't the only one that Ethiopian operates to the US. The carrier also flies nonstop from Washington, DC (IAD) to ADD. That route, which is operated by one of the carrier's 777-200LR aircraft, flies on the following schedule with daily service:

  • ET501 Washington, DC (IAD) 10:00am Departure ⇒ Addis Ababa (ADD) 7:15am (+1) Arrival

For the IAD-bound leg, Ethiopian makes a stop in Dublin (DUB). That route, similar to its stop in Abidjan, operates on the following schedule with daily service:

  • ET500 Addis Ababa (ADD) 10:50pm Departure ⇒ Dublin (DUB) 4:20am (+1) Arrival
  • ET500 Dublin (DUB) 5:20am Departure ⇒ Washington, DC (IAD) 7:50am Arrival

Again, with a stop in Dublin (DUB), Ethiopian offers service between Los Angeles (LAX) and ADD. The carrier flies its Dreamliner on the route with 3x weekly service (moving to 4x weekly service in late March):

  • ET504 Addis Ababa (ADD) 12:05am Departure ⇒ Dublin (DUB) 6:30am Arrival
  • ET504 Dublin (DUB) 7:30am Departure ⇒ Los Angeles (LAX) 10:15am Arrival
  • ET505 Los Angeles (LAX) 11:30pm Departure ⇒ Dublin (DUB) 5:30pm (+1) Arrival
  • ET505 Dublin (DUB) 6:30pm Departure ⇒ Addis Ababa (ADD) 4:20am Arrival (+1)
The business-class cabin on Ethiopian's Dreamliner.
The business-class cabin on Ethiopian's Dreamliner.

Ethiopian is a member of the Star Alliance — you can search award availability on United's website. A one-way flight on any of the routes from the US to ADD or ABJ will cost 40,000 MileagePlus miles in economy or 80,000 miles in business. Alternatively, if you're looking to travel to Dublin (DUB) from Los Angeles (LAX), it'll cost you 30,000 miles one-way in economy or 70,000 miles one-way in business.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points instantly to United at a 1:1 ratio. Alternatively, you can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to the United MileagePlus program at a 2:1 ratio.

Additionally, you could opt to use Aeroplan miles. It'll cost you 50,000 miles one-way in economy or 75,000 miles one-way in business class to fly from the US to ABJ or ADD. Or, if you want to travel to Dublin (DUB), it'll cost you 30,000 miles one-way in economy or 55,000 miles one-way in business. Keep in mind that no matter if you're using Aeroplan or United miles, you're going to have to pay cash for the taxes and fees portion of the ticket.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Aeroplan instantly and at a 1:1 ratio. You can also transfer Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio.

Kenya Airways — JFK-NBO

The flag carrier of Kenya announced in January that it's set to launch nonstop service between New York (JFK) and Nairobi (NBO). Operations will begin on October 30, 2018. Kenya Airways will operate the JFK-NBO route with one of its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft on the following schedule:

  • KQ2 Nairobi (NBO) 10:25pm Departure ⇒ New York (JFK) 6:25am (+1) Arrival
  • KQ3 New York (JFK) 12:25pm Departure ⇒ Nairobi (NBO) 9:55am (+1) Arrival

Kenya Airways' eight Dreamliners offer a two-class configuration: economy and Premier World (business). The Premier World cabin is comprised of 30 seats arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seats are lie-flat, with each featuring 31 inches of width and 74 inches of pitch. Further back is the economy cabin, with 204 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration. Each of the seats offers 32.2 inches of pitch and 18.5 inches of width.

Image by Wikimedia Commons.

Kenya Airways is a member of the SkyTeam alliance — the only African carrier in the group. Because it's a member of SkyTeam, you can use FlyingBlue miles to book on all of Kenya's routes, including this new JFK-NBO route. Based on the FlyingBlue award chart, a one-way award ticket in economy will cost you 40,000 miles, or 100,000 miles one-way in business class.

To book, head to the FlyingBlue booking website. Enter the route you're looking for, your date(s) and class of travel. After the route launches in October, there appears to be plenty of availability throughout November and into the beginning of December. Keep in mind you'll still have to pay the taxes and fees on these award tickets — prices range from roughly $50 to about $620 in business.

You can transfer points from a number of partners to FlyingBlue in order to redeem on this route. American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer instantly to FlyingBlue, and Citi ThankYou points transfer in less than 24 hours. Additionally, you can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Flying Blue. For all four partner options, points transfer at a 1:1 ratio.

RwandAir — JFK-KGL (Not yet official)

Although it hasn't been officially announced, rumors have been circulating for months that RwandAir will launch service between New York (JFK) and Rwanda's capital of Kigali (KGL). It's not clear what type of aircraft it will fly on the route, as it has none in its fleet with the capability of flying that distance nonstop — a total of 7,039 miles.

If it does indeed get the necessary regulatory approvals, rumors are that the routes will launch in August 2018. Stay tuned, as if this route does indeed happen, it would be one of the most exciting to enter the African market.

South African Airways — IAD-JNB (New seats)

The flag carrier of South Africa took delivery of its first A330-300 with refurbished business-class seats. It's begun flying the new aircraft on routes between Johannesburg (JNB) and Lagos (LOS), São Paulo (GRU), Washington, DC (IAD) via Dakar (DKR) and Munich (MUC).

The new aircraft's business-class cabin is comprised of 46 lie-flat seats. The cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, ensuring every passenger has direct aisle access. Each of the seats is 79 inches long in its lie-flat position, with 45 inches of pitch.

South African's new business-class is surely an improvement on its old long-haul business-class product. Check out these reviews in SAA's business class on its A340-300 and its A340-600.

South African is a member of the Star Alliance network, so you can redeem United MileagePlus miles. It'll cost you 40,000 MileagePlus miles one-way in economy to fly IAD-JNB or 80,000 miles one-way in business class. You'll also have to pay the taxes and fees on the ticket.

Bottom Line

Your options for getting to Africa in 2018 are both more frequent and also offered with superior comfort. If you're planning a trip — or have been thinking about planning a trip — you have plenty of options for using points and miles to get there.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto