Ethiopian Airlines Kilimanjaro – Addis Ababa – Bangkok

This was a United Airlines award and for this homeward bound leg we had Ethiopian Airlines from Kilimanjaro JRO to Addis Ababa ADD in economy (no business class available), then business class the rest of the way to Bangkok ending with Thai to Brisbane BNE.

Although the first leg was in economy, we did pay for a business class ticket with miles so I tried to get us into the lounge at JRO.  No dice.  The lady did try, she went and asked her supervisor if they could let us in and he said no.  It wasn’t a fantastic lounge anyways but would have been better than the gate.

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So off to the gate we went to mingle with the “hoi palloi” and show off my new braid.

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Mt Kilimanjaro was shy and didn’t come out to say goodbye.

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Same mediocre business section as before on the 737.  The flight to Bangkok was on a 767 which was marginally better but no lie-flat seats.  We were still tired enough to get some sleep.

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Breakfast – they did bring eggs but I forgot to get a photo.

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So Ethiopian Airlines left me less than impressed.  I would have liked it much better if we had been in economy paying less for the award as my expectations would have been lower.  Their economy is OK if that’s what you pay for.  But I don’t recommend paying extra to fly business on this airline.

Getting To Tanzania & Other East African Countries With Airline Miles

East Africa is probably the most popular option for people wanting to go on a safari.  Unlike South Africa where it is easy to drive yourself around the game parks, the experience here will be in 4WD safari trucks with a driver either on you own or shared with others.

There are several airports you can use to visit East Africa and the one you choose will depend on what you want to see, safari prices and birdlife you are targeting.  I will be using Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport as an example because that is where I went and also because Tanzania is in my opinion the best country in East Africa for a general bird and mammal safari experience.

The first step is to identify which airlines that participate in one of the 3 alliances serve the airport in question.  You can do this by looking the airport up in Wikipedia and making a note of which airlines fly there and cross referencing with my guides on Star Alliance, OneWorld Alliance and SkyTeam.  Other East African airports of interest to birders will be Nairobi for Kenya, Addis Ababa, for Ethiopia, Entebbe for Uganda & Dar es Salaam for southern Tanzania & Zanzibar.

This is what you are looking for and I have highlighted all alliance members in yellow.

JRO Airport

STAR ALLIANCE

Star Alliance rules Africa in general and for most people, these are the miles you want if you are going anywhere in East Africa.  Ethiopian Airlines and Turkish Airlines fly here.  Most people will be using United Airlines miles for their trip although Australians may be using Singapore Krisflyer miles.  I advise using United or possibly Avianca Lifemiles to avoid YQ fuel surcharges.  Here are some typical routes and costs with United, all are quoted as one-ways so double it for a round trip.

Traveling from the USA or Canada will cost 40k economy or 80k business class.  Beware of mixed classes in the business class column, sometimes the long flight is in economy!

JRO UA1

From the UK or Europe you will pay 30k economy or 55k business class.  Watch the high airport tax from the UK!

JRO UA2From Australia or New Zealand you will pay 50k economy or 85k business class.

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If you need intra-Africa flights, these are a bargain at  17.5k economy and 35k business class.  Notice how the 2nd itinerary gets you a free overnight in Addis Ababa!

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If you are using Singapore Krisflyer, the miles are reasonable but the YQ surcharge is insane!

SQ AfricaThe website only quotes for SQ redemptions but this gives you an idea because SQ flies to JNB.  They also charge YQ on partner awards.

Seriously?  Over $500 AUD for the YQ surcharge!!!

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ONEWORLD

Only 1 OneWorld Airline serves Kilimanjaro – Qatar Airways.   Beware of YQ surcharges when using Avios or Qantas miles.   Due to routing restrictions, you will need to redeem 2 awards if you are coming from Australia/New Zealand – Singapore/Bangkok – East Africa.  Americans can use Qatar all the way from the gateway to Kilimanjaro but they may need to pay extra for a positioning flight if Qatar doesn’t offer a through-fare from the originating city.

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If you are flush with Avios from a credit card bonus, they are an option but please beware of the YQ surcharges!  I couldn’t find any availability online using Avios on Qatar but this might mean the system is down so it’s worth calling in.  Here is what you are looking at.

JRO Avios1

LHR-DOH is 3261 miles and falls into Zone 5.

DOH-JRO is 2201 miles and falls into Zone 4.

JRO BA Chart1

So add the figure for your preferred class of service in Zone 5 & Zone 4 as per below to find out how many Avios you need.  Partner awards use the peak chart so you need 46,000 Avios for one way economy and 81,250 for business.  When you call in, you will find out the YQ surcharges.

JRO BA Chart

 

SKYTEAM

Accra is served by 2 Skyteam partners – Kenya Airways & KLM.

Delta has annoyingly removed their award charts so I tried to quote IAD-JRO and couldn’t find anything.  I did find a quote for a sample IAD-NBO route using Delta and KLM.   However their website doesn’t see Kenya Airways flights so you may better these examples by calling in.  Also see the West Africa post for an example where Delta serves the airport – Accra.

I have to admit that I have no use for Delta’s Skypesos which seem to devalue at an alarming rate so if I need SkyTeam partner flights I use the Flying Blue program with miles transferred in from Amex or SPG.

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Using Flying Blue miles on Kenya Airways can be good for hopping around Africa and they do add certain destinations like Madagascar that Star Alliance can’t provide.  For more information on using Kenya Airways, see my Madagascar post.

BOTTOM LINE

You can’t beat the Star Alliance coverage which at time of writing has no fuel surcharges, so collect United Mileage Plus!  Chase is your friend!

Disappointing Experience With Ethiopian Airlines: Accra – Addis Ababa – Kilimanjaro

I should have known something was up when I wasn’t able to do online check-in and got a message to handle it at the airport or something to that effect.  We were booked on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in business class so I was expecting a really comfortable experience like this.

ET 787So we were dropped at the airport and went to the business class check in, then went to the business class lounge to wait.  It was attractively furnished and the Christmas tree was a nice touch and we grabbed some snacks while I went online.

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When it was time to board THIS is what we saw.  A 737!  Where the hell was the Dreamliner I signed up for?  None of the staff knew, they just said it was changed with no further explanation.

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Instead of the posh business cabin above, THIS is what we got!  Needless to say, I was not happy, this was not worth spending extra miles on.  We could have split the redemption on United and used J for the outbound and Y on the return and saved 70k for us both.  Anyway it was too late now so we shoved our backpacks into the overheads and settled into the meagre 737 seats.

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The food was mediocre as well though the crew were very nice.  We were given yellow amenity kits which I forgot to take photos of.

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Yeah, finally something to make me forget where we were!  The cabin was half empty so we each had a row of two seats to ourselves.  I had already seen the movie on the overhead tv (yes, you heard me – an overhead tv in business class)!

IMG_6245I might as well throw in the next leg, Addis Ababa – Kilimanjaro.  After our overnight layover, we passed through the usual formalities and headed to the Cloud Nine Lounge to wait.

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We weren’t hungry since the hotel voucher included breakfast which is just as well since the food was mediocre.  There was another security check between the lounge and the gate which was annoying.

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You guessed it – another 737.  Sigh!  I decided not to take photos.  The amenity was a yellow neck pouch which was actually nice for budget travelers, we use these a lot for docs and money.  We put them inside our clothes in pickpocket zones.

At least this was a short flight and the wonders of Tanzania lay ahead!

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Getting To South Africa Using Frequent Flyer Miles

Africa attracts the lion’s share (pun intended) of eco-tourists and the good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune to get there!

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There are several regions in Africa that will appeal to birders especially so in this post we will have a look at South Africa.  Most people would be flying into Johannesburg (JNB) but some may prefer to fly into Cape Town (CPT) so I will give options for both using my recommended frequent flier programs.

STAR ALLIANCE

UNITED AIRLINES

With United, it’s easiest to use their interactive award chart.  To illustrate the mileage required you can just look at the “from Africa” section.  These awards are on a one-way basis.  If you are planning a multi-destination trip around Africa, you should book it as a round-trip to take advantage of a free stopover and open jaw to get more destination in the award.

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Region Definitions: The chart above is for travel between the following regions.

  • Central & Southern Africa (includes Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote D’lvoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Reunion Island, Rwanda, S. Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)

 

Mileage award rates are quoted for one way savers.

To get to South Africa from the USA and Canada, it’s 40k in economy and 60k in Business.   JNB is served by South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Thai, Egypt Air, Turkish and Singapore.  CPT is served by South African.

From Australia and New Zealand, it’s 50k economy and 75k business.  You’d be using Singapore or Thai connecting to South African, Ethiopian or Egypt Air.

From Europe it’s 30k economy and 45k business with connections on South African, Egypt Air, Turkish and Ethiopian.

You may also want to use your miles for intra-Africa trips but for domestic flights you would probably be better off paying for a cheap ticket online.  You can get to other places in Africa for 12.5k economy and 25 business with South African, Ethiopian.  Please note that Egypt is in the North Africa region so costs 22.5k economy and 35k business.

AVIANCA-TACA LIFEMILES

This program is a favourite with those who can’t easily get miles from the generous USA based credit cards as they often sell miles cheaply.  The mileage costs are roughly the same as United but please note in the screenshot how much you can save by using the “More Money” feature to buy miles at roughly $0.15 each if you can’t otherwise get Lifemiles.   Of course if you have more Lifemiles than $$ then simply book the “More miles” option.  Check them out on their website.   In the examples below, I show you an economy trip from New York to Johannesburg and a business class trip from Brisbane to Johannesburg.

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SINGAPORE AIRLINES KRISFLYER

SQ is a great option if you live in a country where Amex Membership Rewards transfer to Krisflyer such as Australia.  The YQ fuel surcharge can be pretty high but if you book online for SQ metal awards you save 15% of the mileage cost.  See this example of a one way Brisbane – Johannesburg where the price comes down from 72,500 miles to 61,625 miles.

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Notice the yellow highlighter below of the $430 YQ surcharge.  This is why I don’t use Krisflyer for redemptions like this.  I would use United in this case.