The new year has started, American Airlines shows that I have 0 miles, 0 segments, so it’s time for me to get started on the 2014 mileage runs.

The first comes later this month, the longest in time and distance that I have ever done, a five day trip to Johannesburg, South Africa!

FlyerTalk has listed discount rates to Johannesburg since last October, I finally had the time and money to take advantage of those fares.

I managed to book the following itinerary for my friend and I:

  • We’ll leave Austin on an American Airlines MD 80 at 6:10 p.m., arriving at  DFW at 7:20 p.m.
  • At 8:20 we’ll board an American Airlines 777-200 for the flight to London Heathrow, arriving at 11:20 the next morning.  Then we’ll have one of the worst layovers you can have: almost six hours. That’s long enough to be inconvenient, but not long enough to leave the airport and go into town.
  • At 6 p.m. we’ll board a British Airways 747-400. for the 11 hour flight to Johannesburg, arriving at 7 a.m. the next morning.

I’m Executive Platinum, so I am hopeful of an upgrade on the AA flights. However, the BA 11 hour flight, will be in coach.  We’ll arrive at Johannesburg at 7 a.m. and will take their light rail (built for World Cup a few years ago) to the  main business district of Johannesburg, called Sandton. We have hotel reservations at a property just a few blocks from Nelson Mandela Square. They probably will not let us check in that early, but hopefully they will be able to watch our luggage.

At noon, we’ll board our tour bus for our trip to the local Lion Park. I’m looking forward to this, something that I can check off my bucket list. :-)

We’ll get back to the hotel that evening, look for a place for dinner, then call it a night.

The next day we’ll take the hop-on hop-off bus tour of Johannesburg.

After a full day in Johannesburg we’ll head home.

  • At 8:15 p.m. we’ll board a British Airways A-380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft, for the 11 hour flight to London, arriving the next morning at 5:10 a.m.
  • At 9:45 a.m. we board an American Airlines 777-300 ER for the flight to DFW. I’m looking forward to this, this is AA’s most modern aircraft.
  • We’ll arrive at DFW at 2:05 p.m., clear customs, and, at 4:30, take an AA MD-80 to Austin, arriving at 5:30 p.m. We will have been gone for five days.

Is it worth it? The ticket cost $1,215.00. I’ll earn 21,742 Elite Qualifying Miles, and 42,848 redeemable miles, at a cost of 2.79 cents per mile. Is that great? No. But lately, any flight under 3 cents per mile from Austin is a good deal. The 21,742 EQMs will give me a good jump on my elite qualifying for the year, and the 42,000 redeemable miles is a huge number. So yes, it’s worth it.

Johannesburg the sequel

Exactly one month later my friend and I will be heading back to Johannesburg. Our itinerary is completely different.

We’ll leave Austin at 8 p.m. on a British Airways non-stop flight to London on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This is the first major international flight from Ausitn-Bergstrom International Airport, and will start just a few weeks before our trip. I’m extremely excited to be able to fly on the Dreamliner, which I first saw almost two years ago when it made its first trip to DFW Airport.

We’ll arrive at London at 10 a.m. and then have an 8-hour layover. I think that will be enough time to get into town, eat a meal, and then get back to Heathrow on time for our 6 p.m. departure on a Airbus A-380-800. We’ll arrive JNB at 7 a.m.

What will we do during this trip? I don’t know, I haven’t made plans yet, Hopefully we’ll get some good ideas during our first JNB trip.

We’ll spend one night in JNB, flying out at 9:45 p.m the next night. on a 747-400 to LHR, arriving 6:45 Tuesday morning. Another long layover — we’ll take the BA 787 back to Austin, leaving LHR at 12:35 p.m. arriving AUS at 6 p.m.

Is it worth it? The ticket costs $1,165.00. I’ll earn 21,072 EQMs and 42,144 RDMs at a cost of 2.76 cents per mile. As I said, anything less than 3 cents per mile has been very difficult to find lately from Austin, so I am happy with this rate.

By the time the miles have posted from both flights, I’ll have 42,814 EQMs, making it almost certain that I will earn Platinum Status this year, and making EXP a reasonable goal. I’ll have earned almost 85,000 redeemable miles: with what I have in my account that will almost cover our first Business Class ticket to Bali for November 2015.

These are long trips, but I have always wanted to go to Africa. The visit to the Lion Safari will let me check off one more box from my bucket list. I’ll also be able to fly on the 777-300 ER, the A-380, and the 787 Dreamliner. I have wanted to fly on all three of those so that is another positive. (If that doesn’t prove that I am an aviation geek, what does?” :-)

So, in answer to the “is it worth it” question, I reply with an emphatic YES! Trip reports to follow.

Disclaimer: I own stock in American Airlines and Boeing.