A better AAdvantage award to Africa

Remember that “rule” of AAdvantage awards that said you cannot transit the Middle East to get to Africa on a single award? Turns out that’s not so true any more.

I was in the midst of asserting that it was when @real_jetsetr suggested that the routing rules of new oneworld member Qatar Airways might make it possible to take the trips as a single award. I was skeptical but also curious. So I did a quick search on the Qantas site and found an award itinerary PHL-DOH-JNB leaving 11 August 2014 and arriving the following afternoon in Jo’burg. I called in to American Airlines and gave the agent the routing I wanted and he came back with a rate of 37,500 points one-way in coach. That’s the “normal” US-S. Africa rate, not an end-on-end award.


This quirk in the rules does require that Qatar Airways have a published routing for the city pair in question. That isn’t necessarily bad news, or at least not awful. Turns out that American and Qatar have approval from the DoT for QR to put their code on pretty much any AA flight they want. And they are doing so quite a bit. Qatar can also codeshare on US Airways-operated flights so they’ve got a whole bunch of US origination points from which they publish fares, even for cities they don’t fly to on their own. And given the growing number of AA/US hubs which do have QR service (PHL started recently; MIA starts next week; DFW starts 1 July) there are quite a few options to make these awards work.

No guarantees on award space, and the business class is angle-flat still (though wider than most IMO and very good food/service) but this is definitely a nice option to have available in your quest for awards, particularly if you want to avoid paying the fuel surcharges.

Maybe this is old news, but the group of us discussing it didn’t know for sure and I don’t recall seeing much discussion about this option elsewhere online.

Have fun!

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Having a ton of US and AA miles after the merger, this is good news indeed.
    I certainly would not fly coach that distance, given how easy it has become to generate new AA and US miles, but the better value may be to fly on US miles for only 120k in business rather than 75k in economy!

    1. Remember that US and AA award rules are still different for now and once they are merged we don’t know what the rules will be. And I don’t necessarily recommend flying that far in Y but the exit row on QR’s 777s isn’t bad at all if you can get it.

  2. If only they’d extend it to QF awards from SE Asia to Southern South America, e.g. SIN/BKK-SYD-SCL, instead of demanding 2 awards via the US (SE Asia to USA and USA to Southern South America), which is also more expensive than 2 awards via Australia (SE Asia to Australia and Australia to Southern South America)!

  3. Sorry for the novice question, but what is the advantage of transiting through the middle east to get to Africa? Is it to avoid BA fuel charges??

  4. I am aware of this alternative and it actually works out very good to me as I am from Tunisia in Northern Africa (which you should visit some day 🙂 ).
    I am planning to offer my mother a trip to south Africa next year and the good news for me is that since my trip will start in TUN in the northern tip of Africa to Johannesburg for 10k miles in economy or 17.5 miles in business ( I guess that is so low because it is not so demanded). But, it is definitely a very good value as tickets retail for more 1300 dollars in economy and much more in Business.
    When I have found this route, it was like if I have found a gold nugget. lol.
    Another alternative I am considering is to use 35 k united miles for a roundtrip in economy with a stopover in Paris.

    1. That’s a great rate for travel within the region…definitely a sweet spot on the award chart.

      As for visiting Tunisia, we were there a couple years ago for New Years. Hopefully we’ll return again one day. 🙂

    2. I always thought it was 10k in economy and 17.5 in business mainly because the only oneworld flights available intra-Africa are the Comair flights from South Africa to Zimbabwe/Namibia/Mauritius (which is only a short distance.) However, if you live there and have gotten those rates for travel anywhere in Africa, that is awesome! Beforehand, if you had to go to TUN to JNB, did you have to fly to LHR or MAD as a connection?

  5. Thanks Seth, as usual you have great content. Now let’s see how many BA bloggers ‘Hat Tip’ this for their own blogs (Lucky already did).

  6. Any idea how it would price out if you flew from JNB to Doha in Economy and Doha to JFK in Biz on one award?

  7. I am a novice to the miles game just wondering when you tried to search for phl-doh- jnb route did you have to find seats availble for phl to doh. Then find another segment flight to doh – jnb then call aa advantage then price it as phl-doh-jnb

    1. Yes, I searched it segment-by-segment. And AA doesn’t show QR awards online. I don’t remember if I used the BA or QF sites but it was one of them.

  8. Anyone know if this new routing works on Etihad as well? I’m being told by AA that it does not…

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