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A Family of Six Is Flying to South Africa in First Class on Award Tickets!

Nope, not really. It would be an impossible task, friends. The title is what’s referred to as “click bait.”

When I woke up on December 25th, Twitter was going nuts over mistake fares to Asia and Africa on Etihad Airlines. We are talking $200-$300 fares to Abu Dhabi and other far flung places of the globe.  Of course, being the dutiful blogger that I am, I promptly retweeted it to my followers.

All the major sites wrote about it, so there was no point for me to add to the histeria. Besides, the fare had been up for at least 5 hours.  And by the time you would read your email, it would most likely be gone anyway.

I want to go to China!

Honestly, some of the fares were tempting, like a flight from JFK to Hong Kong for $360. My husband’s uncle lives there at the moment and asked us to come visit any time. However, we already have a 2-week trip to Europe coming up this summer, and we have two small kids.

Not to mention, my husband is a 35-year old man, who acts like a 3.5 year old when things don’t go right on trips. Not happening. The truth is, most of these fares are not something most regular families can take advantage of. For one thing, you need to plan it around kids’ schedules, etc.  So I pretty much went about my usual business.

Or maybe Africa?

Except, I remembered my husband’s other uncle. He married a woman from Johannesburg 10 years ago. They have a total of 6 in the family (several kids are from a previous marriage). As you can imagine, it requires a boatload of money to fly that many people to South Africa, and they insist on always traveling together.

In fact, it’s been 8 years since they last went there, and the family has never met her daughter. I knew their money situation was tight, but both are employed at the moment. Could they be interested in $277 fare from JFK to Johannesburg, her hometown? Even though it was 8:30 AM, I went ahead and called. They were ecstatic and wanted to book it right away.

Yes, I’ll use my credit card

So, I went on Google Flights and started frantically searching the dates in October, their preferred month. My palms were sweaty, I was so nervous. Unfortunately, the best I could find was $362 per person, but still terrific, considering last time they paid $1200. Of course, they would need to get to JFK on their own dime, but they were planning to visit it anyway. So they would stop over in New York for  a few days and continue on to Africa.

They couldn’t find their credit card, and the clock was ticking. These fares never last for more than few hours. I offered to use mine and they happily agreed. Minimum spending on Citi Thank You Preferred card met 🙂

africa flights


Last time they bought tickets, this amount wouldn’t even cover 2 people. If you have a large family and don’t make 6 figures, these promotional/mistake fares can make an exotic, out-of-reach trip a reality. The truth is, miles are almost useless when it comes to flying 6 people to a place like Africa. First, it would cost you an obscene amount in points, and second, you would never find that many award seats on the same flight.

Credit card bonuses to help you pay for airfare

Currently, there are 3 decent sign-up bonuses that can help you offset your travel expenses. Of course, you would have to have the card on hand at the time of purchase. They are: Wells Fargo Propel World Amex card (the bonus can be redeemed for anything, not just travel), Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard and Capital One Venture Rewards card.

The last two pay me commission and you can read more on all of them in my page “Best credit card deals for family.” Feel free to contact me with any questions as well.

Don’t miss another deal

Ariana at PointChaser has put together a good post on how you can stay alert on these type of fares HERE 

A huge thanks to TheFlightDeal for braking the story! They do an amazing job at uncovering the best deals in airfare.

You may also want to keep an eye on obscure airlines that run specials from time to time. For example, if you want to go to Europe, check WOW Airline and Norwegian.  Both are discount carriers who can get  you to the Old World on the cheap.

Sure, they have all kinds of add-on charges, but you will still most likely come out ahead if you compare the price to legacy carriers. Take a look at the deal I found for non-stop one-way Oslo-Orlando flight on Norwegian for next June:


Yes, $232 per person, including all taxes. That airline also flies from other cities in US, not just Orlando. Considering the fact that award flight runs 30K miles one-way (plus around $100 tax) through all major programs, you would be better off paying cash. Not interested in visiting  Oslo? You can always continue on to another European country via Norwegian or another low-cost carrier.

An airplane is just a bus in the sky. It’s meant to get you  places you want to explore. Sure, business class is nice, but it’s not as essential as this industry makes it out to be. Travel is essential, lie-flat seat is not. And frankly, if you want to fly a family of 4 or more and stay together, it’s not really an option anyway.

I’ve said before that you shouldn’t get hung up on only using hotel points for your lodging. The same goes for airline miles. Many times they make sense, sometimes they don’t. Obviously, there is no question that paying $362 (all-in) for a roundtrip flight to Africa is a terrific deal. Oh, and they should earn AAdvantage miles on those tickets too, though only on Abu Dhabi-Africa part. But it’s just a cherry on top and makes this deal even sweeter.

The point

What really makes this deal special, though, is the fact that a little girl will finally be able to see where her mom grew up and meet her cousins and uncle. I just have to quote the song “Africa” by band Toto:

  • She’s coming in, 12:30 flight
    The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
    I stopped an old man along the way
    Hoping to find some long forgotten words or ancient melodies
    He turned to me as if to say, “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you”
  • It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you
    There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
    I bless the rains down in Africa
    Gonna take some time to do the things we never had



Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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9 thoughts on “A Family of Six Is Flying to South Africa in First Class on Award Tickets!

    • @Erik Oh yes, economy! If it was in business, I would just have to get it myself. And to be fair, the flight will be a killer with long layover in Abu Dhabi. But for this family, it made this otherwise unaffordable trip a reality.

      • I saw the tweets when they first started…but looked up the flight duration to Abu Dhabi and thought “I’ll pass”. My decision was reaffirmed a few days later when that 12 hour tarmac delay story broke. But like you said, if you had a need to make a trip to Africa or the Middle East, maybe even India, it totally made sense.

    • @Erik My thoughts exactly! My relatives have been wanting to do this trip for years and couldn’t afford it. So as bad as it is, the savings will make up for inconvenience. Plus, they are super excited to see Abu Dhabi.

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