Flying Business Class to Africa: Booking Swiss, Turkish, SAA, Ethiopian with United Points

Flying to Africa from the United States consists of multiple long flights and layovers, so flying business class can help ease the travel. In this post, we’ll cover how to fly business class to Africa using Chase and United points.

As a starting note, the cards in this post fall under the 5/24 rule. If you’re over 5/24, the card strategy is going to be different, which we’ll cover in a future post.

There are two ways to fly business class to Africa:

  1. Flying Blue (KLM/Air France)

  2. United MileagePlus (via Star Alliance)

Flying Blue points can be obtained from American Express Membership Rewards points, so if you’re under 5/24, there’s no point in applying for Amex cards yet.

We’re going to focus on using United MileagePlus points to book Star Alliance partners. One of the benefits of using United points is that you know exactly how many points you’ll need for a business class redemption.

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer at a 1:1 rate to United MileagePlus miles. You can use United miles to book flights on Star Alliance airline partners like South African Airlines, Swiss Airlines, and Ethiopian Airlines.

info via:

info via:

Given the length of the flight from SFO to JNB, we’re looking at ~20 hours of flight time (ignoring layovers).

via google flights

via google flights

How to Book Business Class

The two most straight-forward airlines to take are:

  1. South African Airways

  2. Ethiopian Airlines

Both options cost 80,000 United MileagePlus points + fees.

south african airways

south african airways

Business Class usually costs double the miles as economy, but for a 20+ hour flight, it’s worth it.

ethiopian airlines

ethiopian airlines

If you choose the Ethiopian Airlines route, it is a mixed cabin, so the first leg of the journey will be in United Economy. In our example, the economy SFO to IAD flight is only 5 hours long. The other flights will be in business class.

United 7.PNG

Obtaining Enough Points for Business Class

Business Credit Cards

Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card

  • Welcome offer: 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

If you’re someone who qualifies for business credit cards, obtaining Chase Ultimate Rewards points via Chase Ink cards is more efficient. The welcome bonus for each business card is listed below.

Target = 80k for Business Class (One-Way)

  1. Chase Ink Business Preferred (CIP) = 80k UR = 80k United

  2. Chase Ink Business Cash (CIC) = 50k UR = 50k United

  3. Chase Ink Business Unlimited (CIU) = 50k UR = 50k United

  4. United Explorer Business = 50k United

If you were to obtain the Chase Ink Preferred and the Chase Ink Cash, you would be able to fly business class one-way, and economy back.

  • CIP + CIC

    = 80k + 50k = 130k

    = 100% there (biz) + 100% back (economy)

Before factoring in minimum spend. If optimal...

= 130k + $5,000 * 3x + $3,000 * 5x

= 130k+ 15k + 15k = 160k

= 100% there (business class) + 100% back (business class)

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

  • Welcome offer: $500 after you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

Personal Credit Cards

To earn 80,000 points via personal credit cards, I recommend going for:

  1. Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve = 50k UR points = 50k United

  2. Chase Freedom = 15k UR = 15k United

  3. Chase Freedom Unlimited = 15k UR = 15k United

  • CSP + CF + CFU

= 50k + 15k + 15k = 80k

= 100% one-way business class

Before factoring in minimum spend. If optimal...

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Welcome offer: 50,000 points after $4,000 in spend within the first 3 months

Alternative Option

The United℠ Explorer Card currently has an increased welcome offer of 65,000 United MileagePlus points.

United℠ Explorer Card

  • Welcome offer: Up to 65,000 bonus miles

    • Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 within the first 3 months of account opening

    • Earn an additional 25,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 total on within the first 6 months of account opening.

  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants, hotel, and United purchases

  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® every 4 years when you use the card to pay for the application fee

  • Free first checked bag for the primary cardholder and one companion traveling on the same reservation when purchase tickets with the United Explorer Card

NOTE! Although it is an increased offer, if the minimum spend requirement to earn the welcome offer is too high, wait for another offer that works better.

Chase United Explorer

a) 40k after $2,000 (first 3 months)

b) 25k after spending an additional $8,000 (first 6 months)

If you value the miles at at 2 cents per point (CPP):

a) 40k * 2 CPP = $800 after $2,000 = 40% return on spend

b) 25k * 2 CPP = $500 after $8,000 = 6.25% return on spend

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, vendors or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. 

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