Qatar Airways announced a major expansion of services to South Africa this week. As you can book Qatar services with your Avios points, this opens up some new options.
This is what Qatar Airways has planned:
Johannesburg increases from 10 to 14 flights per week from 15th December
Cape Town increases from 5 to 7 flights per week from 1st October
Durban to be served by a ‘tag’ on the 4 new Johannesburg services
All flights to South Africa will be operated by new Boeing 787 aircraft which I reviewed here and which guarantee you the new 1-2-1 seating in business class.
Qatar generally makes four business class seats available per flight for redemptions.
(EDIT 9am: I have rewritten some parts below to correct a factual error on my part! Be grateful you read this stuff on the site and not via email, where the changes can’t be fixed!)
Unfortunately, Qatar Airways redemptions will require substantially more Avios than a British Airways flight – although that is a moot point if you cannot find BA availability, which is not unusual at peak season.
London to Cape Town is currently 100,000 Avios return in Club World.
London to Doha + Doha to Cape Town prices at 80,000 + 100,000 = 180,000 Avios in Business. Johannesburg is cheaper at 80 + 80.
You can reduce the Qatar cost by 30,000 Avios starting elsewhere in Europe. Frankfurt to Doha is 50,000 Avios return in Business Class, for example.
This is pricing is worse than it should be due to some (beneficial) BA trickery.
BA prices a Doha to Cape Town correctly, in Zone 6 (100,000 Avios).
When pricing its own flights, however, BA treats the entire country as Zone 6 from London. This is despite the fact that Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg are ALL more than 5,500 miles from London and should therefore be in Zone 7.
The bottom line is that South Africa has always been a hidden bargain of the Avios reward chart because of BA’s generosity in putting it into Zone 6 when flying from the UK. This may be strategic, of course, to make redemptions on partners such as Qatar look very poor value.
The other point is that South Africa is a FANTASTIC flight to do non-stop. You pop over to Heathrow after work, have dinner in the lounge, jump on the plane, go to sleep and – with virtually no time difference – wake up in South Africa the next day feeling fine. Having to change planes on the way would have a massive impact on a good nights sleep.