As sub-Saharan Africa’s economic and tourism hub, South Africa is well served with flights from London and the rest of Europe. The majority of these touch down at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International, but there are also frequent flights into Cape Town. From North America there are a relatively small number of nonstop flights into Johannesburg.
Airfares depend on the season, with the highest prices and greatest demand in June, July, August, December and the first week of January. You get the best prices during the low season in October and November and from the last three weeks of January until March.
Flights from the UK and Ireland
From London there are nonstop flights with British Airways (wwww.ba.com), South African Airways (wwww.flysaa.com) and Virgin Atlantic (wwww.virgin-atlantic.com) to Johannesburg and Cape Town. Flying time from the UK is around eleven hours to Jo’burg, about an hour longer to Cape Town; nonstop fares from London start from £800 in high season and £500 in low season. You can save up to £200 by flying via mainland Europe or the Middle East, and changing plane at least once.
From the Republic of Ireland, a number of European carriers fly out of Dublin to South Africa via their hub airports.
Flights from the US and Canada
From the US there are three nonstop flights a week from New York (JFK) to Johannesburg operated by South African Airways (SAA) in partnership with United Airlines (wunited.com). These take between fifteen and sixteen hours. Most other flights stop off in Europe, the Middle East or Asia and involve a change of plane. There are no direct flights from Canada; you’ll have to change planes in the US, Europe or Asia on hauls that can last up to thirty hours.
On the direct flights from the US to Jo’burg, expect the high/low season fare to start from $2600/1700 for a round trip; you might save from $100 to as much as $700 if you fly via Europe. Fares from Vancouver to Jo’burg start at Can$2200.
Flights from Australia and New Zealand
There are nonstop flights from Sydney (which take 12hr) and Perth (just under 10hr) to Johannesburg, with onward connections to Cape Town. Flights from New Zealand tend to be via Sydney. South African Airways and Qantas (wqantas.com) both fly nonstop to South Africa from Australia; several Asian, African and Middle Eastern airlines fly to South Africa via their hub cities, and tend to be less expensive, but their routings often entail long stopovers.
Direct flights from Sydney to Johannesburg start at Aus$2800 in high season and Aus$1800 in low; a flight to Europe with a stopover in South Africa, or even a round-the-world ticket, may represent better value than a straightforward return.