It’s surprising that we don’t hear about more frequent flyers booking award tickets to Botswana, Africa. It’s a great destination, offering some of the most beautiful wilderness on the planet. And if you want to go on safari, you can’t do much better.
Like other destinations in southern Africa, though, Botswana can be an expensive place to visit. For example, a typical safari lodge, such as Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero, charges $455 to $1,000 or more per night, depending on the time of year.
One way to save money is to book an award flight there. South African Airways, a Star Alliance member, is the best option.
Airports in Bostwana
You can fly on South African Airways from either New York (JFK) or Washington Dulles via Johannesburg to Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE) in Gabarone, Maun Airport (MUB) or Kasane Airport (BBK). You should choose the airport based on where you want to go in Botswana.
- Gabarone is a good jumping-off point for the Central Kalahari Game Reserve
- Maun is close to the Chobe National Park and Moremi Game Reserve
- Kasane is the best option for Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia, Chobe National Park and Namibia
Cabin Classes on South African Airways
South African Airways uses Airbus A340-600 wide-body jets for the long-haul portion of the flight from the United States to Johannesburg. These aircraft are outfitted with 275 economy seats and 42 flat-bed business class seats.
While no one wants to waste frequent flyer miles, be aware that the nonstop flight from the United States to Johannesburg is 15 to 16 hours. That’s a very long time to sit in coach. And don’t forget that you’ll then have to connect for a second flight to your final destination in Botswana.
So you might want to spring for a business class award seat. You’ll definitely be more comfortable, and you’ll have upgraded meals, premium liquor and wine, and an on-demand entertainment system.
Booking Award Seats on South African Airways
If you have South African Airways Voyager miles, you can book your frequent flyer ticket directly through the airline. You probably don’t have Voyager miles, though, so you’ll book through a Star Alliance partner, such as United, Air Canada, ANA or Singapore Airlines.
Don’t forget that you can transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to these airlines. In most cases, you can transfer 20,000 SPG points and get 25,000 frequent flyer miles. You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to many Star Alliance partners.
The cost of award tickets from the U.S. to Botswana depends on what airline you book through. These prices are for round-trip tickets:
- United: 80,000 miles in economy and 160,000 in business
- Air Canada: 100,000 miles in economy and 105,000 in business
- ANA: 65,000 miles in economy and 104,000 in business
- Singapore Airlines: 90,000 miles in economy and 145,000 in business