Book now: Nonstop, business-class award availability for 2+ passengers from the US to South Africa

Oct 3, 2020

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Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

Last month, United announced plans to operate several new international routes in 2021 — including the carrier’s second nonstop flight to South Africa. After initially launching flights from its Newark (EWR) hub to Cape Town (CPT) in 2019, United will commence service to Johannesburg (JNB) in the spring — with the inaugural flight scheduled to depart EWR on March 27, 2021.

These flights are now bookable, and, as first reported by One Mile at a Time, there’s some tremendous business-class award availability on the flight next summer.

Here’s the breakdown of what we’re finding.

In This Post

To South Africa

Let’s start with flights from the U.S. to South Africa. At the time of writing, here’s a look at the dates with two award seats from Newark to Johannesburg in business class for May and June of 2021 (only two dates in April are available):

Screen shot courtesy of United

And here’s the same view for July and August:

Screen shot courtesy of United

All of the dates with five blue dots indicate award availability in United’s Polaris business-class cabin — meaning that 36 dates across the four-month window are currently bookable for a couple.

Amazingly enough, some dates even have four (or more) business-class seats open from EWR-JNB:

  • May 11, 13, 17, 21 and 31
  • June 3 and 28
  • July 5-6, 9, 16 and 21
  • August 5, 11 and 30

Here’s an example from Friday July 9, 2021 — with five Polaris seats available:

Screen shot courtesy of United
Screen shot courtesy of United

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the Cape Town route has any business-class awards right now.

From South Africa

On the return trip, it’s an even better story. Here’s the calendar with nonstop, business-class awards from Johannesburg to Newark in March and April 2021:

Screen shot courtesy of United

Here’s the same look at May and June:

Screen shot courtesy of United

And here’s July and August:

Screen shot courtesy of United

If you leave off March (since the flight only operates for four days that month), that’s a total of 62 different days with two or more business class seats from April to August.

Once again, many dates have four or more business-class seats open:

  • April 4-5, 26 and 30
  • May 2-3, 6, 8, 10-11, 18-23 and 25-28
  • June 2-4, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23 and 29
  • July 1, 5-7, 9, 11, 13 and 19-21
  • August 13, 18 and 29

Note that this flight is slated to be operated by the carrier’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with the full Polaris experience.

How to book

In terms of booking, you have a few options — though much of it will depend on which transferable points you currently have at your disposal.

United MileagePlus

Booking directly through United means that you’d pay just 70,000 miles each way for these flights. Simply put, that’s a terrific award rate — especially when you consider that a one-way partner flight from the U.S. to Europe in business class would require more miles.

Many U.S. travelers may be sitting on a bunch of United miles due to canceled trips during the pandemic, but if not, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your MileagePlus account at a 1:1 ratio if you hold a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

These transfers typically process instantly, so you don’t need to worry about the award space disappearing while you wait for the miles to post.

Related: How to maximize your Chase Ultimate Rewards points

ANA Mileage Club

For an even lower award rate — and if you’re able to book round-trip — ANA’s Mileage Club program is a great option. Since United-operated flights don’t incur fuel surcharges through ANA, you’ll only need to pay 104,000 miles plus $51.18 for a round-trip itinerary.

Screen shot courtesy of ANA
Screen shot courtesy of ANA

Just note that ANA doesn’t allow one-way awards, so you’d need to lock in both the outbound and the return. And while you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points directly to your ANA Mileage Club account, our tests have found that these typically take 48 hours to post — meaning that the award space could disappear by the time the miles arrive.

Related: 10 ways to redeem ANA Mileage Club miles for maximum value

Air Canada Aeroplan

Another option is Air Canada’s Aeroplan program. Under its current award chart — which remains in effect for another month — a one-way award ticket will only set you back 75,000 miles plus minimal taxes and fees.

Screen shot courtesy of Aeroplan
Screen shot courtesy of Aeroplan

However, this award will climb to 85,000 points in the new Aeroplan award chart (that takes effect Nov. 8, 2020).

Aeroplan is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards (1:1) and Capital One Venture miles (2:1.5). Both Amex points and Capital One miles typically transfer to Aeroplan instantly.

Bottom line

Getting to South Africa in business class using points and miles can be incredibly challenging, so it’s great to see some solid award availability on United’s new flight from Newark (EWR) to Johannesburg (JNB) for next summer. Note that this is winter in South Africa, but there’s still plenty to enjoy during that time of year. And while U.S. residents are currently barred from entering the country, that’ll hopefully change by next year.

If you’ve been eyeing South Africa for a trip in 2021, I’d recommend jumping on this inventory sooner rather than later, as I don’t expect it to last long.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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