Heads Up: Business Class Awards Available To South Africa

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Nearly a month ago, United Airlines announced they would begin flying to Africa, India and Hawaii. Well, it appears most of the routes are now on sale and there is even award space.

This post is specifically geared for the Newark to Jo’burg route so let’s check it out.


In late 2019, United Airlines launched a seasonal, non-stop flight between its Newark (EWR) hub and Cape Town (CPT).

And last month, United announced additional routes to Africa including:

FromToService / EquipmentSeason Start
Washington D.C. (IAD)Accra, Ghana (ACC)3x/week, 787-8Spring 2021
Washington D.C. (IAD)Lagos, Nigeria (LOS)3x/week, 787-8Spring 2021
Newark, NJ (EWR)Johannesburg,
South Africa (JNB)
Daily, 787-9Spring 2021

At the time, we were not aware of the start dates for any of the aforementioned routes.

Well today, United began selling tickets for their Newark (EWR) – Johannesburg (JNB) route and there is award space.


United will begin daily service to Johannesburg (JNB) with an inaugural flight scheduled to depart Newark (EWR) on 27 March 2021:

Flight NumberOriginDestinationDepartureArrival
UA188Newark (EWR)Johannesburg (JNB)8:45PM5:45PM (+1 day)
UA187Johannesburg (JNB)Newark (EWR)8:00PM5:45AM (+1 day)

With a simple search between EWR-JNB for four people, I was able to find a considerable amount of business class award space during summer of 2021…

From the month of March through the end of schedule, May had the most availability for business class (around 50%) where as most other months had about 10 days (or around 33%).

The redemption prices through the United MileagePlus program are as follows:

United Airlines is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. In other words, if you have Chase points, then you have United points.

If you are more interested in Quantity than Quality, then 40,000 points for a 15 hour flight is a steal and award availability is wide open!!


The good part is that this route will be serviced by a 787-9 which comes with the REAL Polaris seat (and not the old seat that is just called Polaris).

(Real) Polaris Business Seat

There are a few considerations that I think you should also be aware of before “purchasing” the ticket.

First, United charges 70,000 miles one-way (or 140,000 miles roundtrip) for a business class ticket. Other alternatives include:

  • (Air Canada) Aeroplan is 75,000 miles one-way
  • (Avianca) LifeMiles charges 78,000 miles one-way
  • (ANA) Mileage Club charges 104,000 miles roundtrip

Depending on where your stash of miles are, 104k roundtrip is probably the best way to go.

Second, at the moment Americans are banned from entering South Africa. Hopefully, that changes soon, but if it does not change before say, March, you may find yourself attempting to get your cancel your ticket and/or trying to get your money back. And we all know how United treats it’s customers.

And finally, it’s Summer in the Northern Hemisphere but it’s Winter in the Southern Hemisphere. We’ve all seen beautiful photos of South Africa, but it will probably look (and feel) a bit different if you’re wearing a triple fat goose and timbs.


This flight is exciting in the fact that it will complement United’s seasonal flight to Cape Town.

This is a very strategic move by United. South African Airways has historically flown from Joburg to New York but they’re on the struggle bus (as usual) so United is filling a major void.

You may also recall that Delta announced a new triangle route to Johannesburg because the carrier retired all their 777s. With all of this added capacity, I predict prices will be decreasing which is nothing but a win the everyone!

Are you booking this award space?

p.s. If you are interested in the other routes to Africa:

  • Washington D.C. (IAD) – Accra, Ghana (ACC)
  • Washington D.C. (IAD) – Lagos, Nigeria (LOS)

Unfortunately, United has not begun selling tickets for either, but rest assured that I’ll be writing about it when it appears. 😉


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