Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

New Avios redemptions to South Africa on Qatar Airways – and why they are overpriced

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

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 787 350 business class

Qatar generally makes four business class seats available per flight for redemptions.

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.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (March 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

Get a 10,000 points bonus plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

Crazy 120,000 points bonus (to 9th April) and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

Huge 60,000 points sign-up bonus (until 9th April) and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (12)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • DONE4 says:

    (Raffles edit: thanks to DONE for pointing out an error, which I have corrected. I have removed the comment as it just confuses the issue and it easier if we ignore the topic I mistakenly raised 🙂 )

    • N says:

      I saw it before the edit, and DONE4’s comment. Is there any truth in it, and if so does it open any interesting opportunities? Kamchatka, anyone?

      • Lady London says:

        I guessed it even after the edit, hmmm very interesting. Sounds like a little time with a world map might be useful 🙂

  • Phillip says:

    To be honest, the revenue business class fares on QR are too good to waste Avios to book them anyway. Returns for £1400 are hard to beat with BA’s taxes and surcharges almost half that price.

    • Polly says:

      I agree, also with the frequency of BA business class sales, it’s almost not worth the avios cost or effort, only if you like travelling First class. Which is our main reason for avios collecting. Also the layover is a hassle, security checks coming off the plane, lounge fab, but direct for the extra avios is better. But their biz seats are way better. Personal choice at the end of the day.

  • signol says:

    It’s unsurprising really if QR price per leg and flying via the Middle East is such a dog leg.

  • Me says:

    It’s interesting that BA considers South Africa to be zone 6.
    I am only aware of one other exception in the avios redemption charts: UK to Bilbao flights in Vueling booked via Iberia are considered Zone 2 (in line with any other airport in Spain being zone 2), while BA flights are considered Zone 1.

    • Rob says:

      There are some oddities with the Iberia chart which I need to deal with at some point, as was pointed out to me last week – all positive for the redeemer, I should say.

  • gnarlyoldgoatdude says:

    The focus on this board (and elsewhere) seems to be that UK fliers would express a preference for Cape Town over Johannesburg.
    It also seems that there are more flights to JNB than to CPT.

    Why the mismatch?

    Although I’ve been to Southern Africa, I’ve never been to South Africa. However, as my parents’ unofficial travel agent, I have arranged flights for them to CPT as they have friends in Stellenbosch.

    • Rob says:

      Cape Town = tourism = leisure yield
      Jo’burg = business = business yield (I guess)

      • signol says:

        We go to Durban every year to visit the in-laws, and JNB serves as the gateway for us. Only once have any of the family used CPT as the international gateway, and that was on Globespan when they flew to MAN!

        • signol says:

          I suppose what I’m saying, is that JNB also gets the connecting traffic to everywhere else except Cape Town.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.