Finding a cheap flight to Africa from the US is easy if you follow some basic rules. There aren't too many airlines servicing the continent, so flights book up really quickly. A decent airfare to most destinations in Africa, from the US, should run about $1200-$1400. If you are traveling to Egypt or Morocco, or Tunisia, your fare should be between $800-$1000. If you are looking for a free flight to Africa check out: How to use your airline miles to fly to Africa.
Here are a few tips to get a cheap flight to Africa and still find a seat:
Book in Advance
Book your flight at least two months in advance especially if you are planning to travel around Christmas. Flights fill up very quickly because they are relatively limited compared to many other world destinations. This is especially the case for African countries with small tourist industries. If you want to use frequent flier miles, you may want to look into schedules 330 days before your trip (when schedules are published).
Fly via Europe
Ask your travel agent to look into flights from Europe to Africa (especially Amsterdam, Rome, Frankfurt, Zurich, and Paris) and then add on a flight from the US. This can work very well during the off-season when flights between Europe and the US are very inexpensive (November to mid-December and January to March). The only drawback you may have is flight time, the trip gets very long when you stop in Europe unnecessarily.
Turkish airlines is a surprising entrant into the African arena. They have flights to 17 destinations in Africa that includes the usual hubs of Nairobi, Cairo, and Johannesburg, but also Kigali and Mogadishu. Layovers in Istanbul are reasonable if flying straight through from the US, and the airline has excellent service.
Flights via London used to be cheap, but hikes in airport and security taxes mean that savings aren't great anymore.
You can still book and price flights from the UK to many destinations in Africa using an online booking engine. Flight Centre UK is one I can recommend, it is easy to use and their prices look very reasonable. You can also use cheaptickets.com and plug in your whole itinerary, it will piece together flights via Europe for you.
Ex-Colonies = More Options
If you are flying via Europe, think ex-colonies to get the most flight options. For example, the most frequent flights to Namibia leave from Frankfurt. If you are looking for a flight to a West African country, use Paris as your hub. For East and Southern Africa, most flights will go in and out of London.
Use Regional Hubs
- For Southern Africa, check out direct flights to South Africa (see below). There are several budget airline companies in South Africa which operate regionally to countries like Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Madagascar. South African Airways (SAA) began offering a direct flight from Chicago in May 2007 (with a stop in Dakar, Senegal) and airlines usually offer good deals on new routes to promote them.
- For East Africa check out flights into Ethiopia and Kenya. Their national airlines have extensive regional connections. Package tours to Kenya are popular in Germany and England so you can get some great deals by flying through Europe and getting a charter flight from there.
- For West Africa, Dakar in Senegal is the main regional hub these days with direct flights on both Delta and South African Airways (from the US). United Airlines started direct service to Lagos Nigeria from its Houston hub, in January 2013. You can also get good deals by flying via Casablanca on Royal Air Moroc but the layovers can be very long. The good thing about flying direct to Dakar is you can get a bus to various neighboring countries, which is often quicker than a connecting flight.
- For North Africa, direct flights from the US to Morocco and Egypt shouldn't set you back more than $800 - $1000. A popular option for travelers to Egypt these days is to add on a Kenyan safari, and using local airlines for this route may be cheaper than flying direct to Nairobi from the US.
Fly via Dubai
The airline offers great service and the stopovers are minimal. Qatar Airways also has a good African network and short layovers (Doha). But these options do add on quite a bit of flying time.
Use an Experienced Travel Agent
Book with an agency that specializes in international flights or adventure travel. Adventure travel agencies will always have an air-only option available. I would recommend calling STA travel and talking to an agent. It's a worldwide student travel agency but anyone can use them and they'll know where Addis Ababa is. A good online source is BootsnAll Travel, they have airline deals per destination city in Africa.
Direct flights from the US to Africa are usually more expensive than those via Europe just because you have far fewer flights and they fill up more quickly. A few examples of direct flights can be found below. For a comprehensive list see - Direct flights from the US to Africa.
- Delta Airlines Delta Airlines currently flies to Dakar (Senegal), Cairo (Egypt) and Accra (Ghana) from JFK, and to Johannesburg (South Africa) and Lagos (Nigeria) from Atlanta.
- South African Airways fly direct to Johannesburg (South Africa) from JFK and Washington DC.
- EgyptAir flies direct to Cairo (Egypt) from JFK
- Royal Air Moroc flies direct to Casablanca (Morocco) from JFK.
- Ethiopian Airlines fly direct from Washington DC to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) four times a week. You fly via Rome and briefly refuel, but you don't get off the plane.
- United Airlines have a daily service from Washington DC to Accra (Ghana) and direct service to Lagos, Nigeria from Houston (Starting January 2013).
- Arik Air based in Nigeria flies from JFK to Lagos (Nigeria) three times a week. You have to e-mail to make a booking.
If you have miles on any airline you should be able to use them for at least part of your ticket to Africa. Even if your airline doesn't fly direct to Africa, alliance agreements may allow you to use miles on different airlines, or you can at least use your miles to get to Europe and book a cheaper flight from there... see more tips on: How to use your miles and/or reward points to fly to Africa...