Comfortable and economic flight to Africa

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Oct 6, 2019
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#1
I'm going on safari in June and can't afford First Class but want to be as comfortable as possible with the fewest stops. Which planes have the best seats? Which airlines are best? I keep seeing companies that offer cheap Business and First Class but I don't want to get scammed. Are any legit? Is it bad to be a mileage broker?
Thank you!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,130
19,012
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
You are usually better off booking direct than booking through a third party - if there are problems with the flights, you add a layer of finger pointing to try and get something fixed. Just read the many airline complaints we have here about errors or cancellations from people booking through discounters and third parties.

The best airline depends on the city you are flying from. You have to find the best of what is available to you.
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
1,518
2,643
113
#3
You are usually better off booking direct and booking through a third party - if there are problems with the flights, you add a layer of finger pointing to try and get something fixed. Just read the many airline complaints we have here about errors or cancellations from people booking through discounters and third parties.

The best airline depends on the city you are flying from. You have to find the best of what is available to you.
I know that @Neil Maley meant to write this:

You are usually better off booking direct THAN booking through a third party.......
 
Dec 19, 2014
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#4
This response is not intended to come off as being curt, but it needs to be said. This forum is for travel advocacy not an online travel agent. There are many resources on the internet that can help you answer your question. However, no one here can endorse or give specific advice on routing, recommendation for airlines, etc.

Africa is a big place.... are you going to East Africa (ie Kenya) or South Africa (ie South Africa), or ???
As far as flight options.... do you have a non-stop option or will you need to connect in Europe?
Are you booking your safari through a travel agency? or direct? They may have some advice as to flights

As far as "discount First class or Business class" sites, you need to vet these sites carefully. Some are scams, some aren't. Legitimate ones are consolidators, and there are risks with using them.

Good luck.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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the United States
#5
My advice to you will be general in nature. Flights to/from Africa can exceed 12 hours, so consider stops accordingly. Schedule permitting, you could add stops that allow for sightseeing in Europe (for example). That way you arrive in Africa more rested.

Also, be cautious with luggage. You will likely need checked bags, which factor into the cost. @jsn55 has offered good advice in other threads about "cross packing" (you and a companion place some clothing in each other's bags).

Finally, if you are bring medications, place those in a small "container" that will fit under the seat in front of you.

All of this is preventative: you don't want to arrive with no clothing or valuables in the event luggage is lost.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
2,292
2,693
113
Maui Hawaii
#6
I'm going on safari in June and can't afford First Class but want to be as comfortable as possible with the fewest stops. Which planes have the best seats? Which airlines are best? I keep seeing companies that offer cheap Business and First Class but I don't want to get scammed. Are any legit? Is it bad to be a mileage broker?
Thank you!
Regardless of the airline you choose, if you have a date/time where you absolutely need to be in a specific location in Africa to begin your safari, plan to arrive AT LEAST 2 days before the start of the safari. Unlike a cruise or other type of trip, if you arrive after the start of the safari, it may not be possible (or very expensive) to catch up. This site is full of travelers who plan to arrive on the day of or the day before a cruise or other planned trip and miss the beginning (or all of the trip) because of delays in traveling long distances to the start location.

Your tour operator can make suggestions about air travel, but DO NOT ACCEPT an itinerary that gets you to the start location less than 2 days prior to the starting date. It is generally better to book your air tickets yourself directly with the airline.

If you post your originating and ending locations we can make some more general suggestions without giving any specific travel operator suggestions.

You can research plane configurations and airline seats on : https://www.seatguru.com/
 
Sep 19, 2015
5,295
7,505
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#7
I'm going on safari in June and can't afford First Class but want to be as comfortable as possible with the fewest stops. Which planes have the best seats? Which airlines are best? I keep seeing companies that offer cheap Business and First Class but I don't want to get scammed. Are any legit? Is it bad to be a mileage broker?
Thank you!
Be wary or just avoid the online travel agencies that offer "cheap" or highly discounted first/business class travel -- often they are mileage brokers and you run the risk of ticket being cancelled.

Watch for fare sales -- I have bought international tickets directly from the airlines during those times and saved a considerable amount of money.

Do plan on arriving days before the safari.

Be wary of some of the Ultra low cost carriers that are on shaky financial ground.
 
Sep 12, 2018
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#8
Depending on the airline, purchasing an economy ticket and then buying a paid upgrade to premium economy or business class is often quite a bit less expensive than buying the higher-class fare initially. You are of course gambling on whether a paid upgrade will be available, and whether you’ll be comfortable with the price of that upgrade. But it’s a way to get a nicer seat for less money without going through third-party ticket sellers, which can cause any number of problems, as many posters to this site can attest. You can also pay for upgrades on individual flight segments, so you might choose to just upgrade the longer segments of your flight, if it’s not direct.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
8,721
9,069
113
San Francisco
#9
Carol, there are a billion factors that go into a successful "big trip" like this. I'm 3 weeks away from our first trip to China which is way beyond my comfort level, so here are my observations. Some pax swear by premium economy, others won't fly across the state if they're not in biz/first. By all means look for an airline who will offer you a decent fare, but just forget about "deals". Many inputs: your size, your ability to sleep "sitting up", your tolerance for sitting still ... I would advise you to review SeatGuru to see their reviews, and the posts of people reporting their individual experience on planes. A couple hours of reading will give you a little foundation for what's going to be important to you. For instance, I get out of my seat every 20 minutes and walk around; I can barely sleep an hour on a flight; so I chose an aisle seat. My legs don't fit in a coach seat, so I buy a seat up front with cash or miles. I don't like the idea of spending endless hours diddling with cancellations and delays, so I book only well-known airlines. Check your credit cards to see if you have any perks or ability to discount the fares (such as Delta American Express, United Chase Explorer).

Use anything you like to do the research on which airline flies where and when. If you'd like to make some stops, I'd engage an experienced travel agent, the cost is neglible. Don't try to buy a cheap tix unless you're incredibly flexible and accommodating and don't care exactly what day you'll arrive at your destination. If you've booked a Safari with a big company, they may have info and/or recommendations for you. "Cheap tix" are often just a cocktail-party conversation piece. There are horrific stories of people who scrounge the bottom of the barrel for the cheapest tix. It's a gamble ... but some people enjoy that.

Plan your bags very carefully. Think about existing 3 or 4 days without your checked bag. As one of our advocates once said "I pack like I'll never see my bag again". Pack a complete outfit that coordinates with what you're wearing into your carryon. Everything needs to be hand-washable. If you can cross-pack with a companion, so much the better. I can think of nothing worse than wasting valuable Africa time trying to find something to wear.

Be ruthless with your packing list. I envision handling my own big bag and my carryon by myself on a cobblestone street, then up a steep ramp in boiling sunshine or pouring rain. I want to take as little as possible ... but be able to walk the streets for 5 hours plus have a dinner in a nice restaurant. Project the kinds of clothes and accessories you usually take on a trip, scrutinize them one by one and determine if you really need that extra shirt or evening top. I travel with only black skirts/pants and black shoes. A formal dinner means a pretty scarf and some nice earrings.

In the outside pocket of your carryon, place a weightless cloth tote bag. You can put all your valuables, meds, anything you can't replace in Africa (easily) in case you have issues on the flight and the airline wants you to check your carryon. Be sure your luggage has a full itinerary in the outside top pocket in addition to your luggage tags.

When I was compiling our "meds/personal care" list, I thought very seriously about what I would do with an upset stomach, a terrible headache, a nasty cut on my foot ... anything that would affect my ability to enjoy the experience. Leave out that extra jacket and/or pair of shoes and bring what you might need for your personal comfort so you don't miss a minute of your trip. For me it's a full bottle of Pepto Bismol and a huge assortment of bandaids plus some extra contact lens solution and cleaner. Good face cream and minimal makeup take up very little space or weight. hand-wipes, Off towelettes, disinfecting wipes ... just pack according to your experience and needs. I'm assuming that I can get items like shampoo, toothpaste, and bath soap anywhere. I try to bring only what I couldn't live without even overnight. Know the difference between electrical adapters and converters so you bring the right stuff. I have an engineer friend who bid on an African safari a couple of years ago at a charity auction ... Ishe still hasn't scheduled it and I know the planning is so daunting that she just keeps extending the eligibility dates . Going to Africa on Safari is a huge undertaking. Once you get the air squared away, hop on Trip Advisor and read reviews until your eyes fall out ... it's my absolute best source of "the little details" of a trip.

Research the weather carefully ... my impression of Africa is one of extreme heat and cold. I have travelled the world in every season except winter with a heavy cotton cardigan, a weightless windbreaker with a hood and a long raincoat made out of something unknown that is warm and doesn't wrinkle. I have never been uncomfortable anywhere. Send me a PC if I can answer questions and have a TERRIFIC TRIP!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,130
19,012
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#10
Having been to China I can say I would not have gone without being in business class and being able to sleeping laying flat.

We also went to Africa on Emirates and I would never do this again without having business class. And I’d probably never do Emirates again (flying to Kenya) because we flew to Dubai and then backwards to a Kenya, adding too many hours we didn’t need. Next time, Delta to Amsterdam and then to Kenya. Or better yet, Kenya Air from JFK to Nairobi. Direct.
Without knowing where the OP is flying from and to, we really can’t give the right advice.
 
Likes: ADM and VoR61
Oct 6, 2019
3
3
3
66
#11
This response is not intended to come off as being curt, but it needs to be said. This forum is for travel advocacy not an online travel agent. There are many resources on the internet that can help you answer your question. However, no one here can endorse or give specific advice on routing, recommendation for airlines, etc.

Africa is a big place.... are you going to East Africa (ie Kenya) or South Africa (ie South Africa), or ???
As far as flight options.... do you have a non-stop option or will you need to connect in Europe?
Are you booking your safari through a travel agency? or direct? They may have some advice as to flights

As far as "discount First class or Business class" sites, you need to vet these sites carefully. Some are scams, some aren't. Legitimate ones are consolidators, and there are risks with using them.

Good luck.
Thank you. I didn't mean to use this as a travel agency. I was hoping for someone with knowledge of different planes since that has been a crapshoot for me in the past. Also hoping for advice about the mileage brokers so I don't get scammed. Other than reading online reviews, which are mixed, I don't know what I can do to "vet" these consolidators.

Since you and some other folks asked, I can fly from anywhere on the East coast of the U.S. and I'm going to Victoria Falls. The safari is booked. I'm not using any travel agent for any of this although I can certainly try that if it's recommended. I did see that South Africa Airways flies non-stop from New York to Johannesburg, which would be lovely, but it's a 14 hour flight and I'd like to know more about the actual plane.

I appreciate any guidance and want to respect this forum. Thank you
 
Oct 6, 2019
3
3
3
66
#12
Carol, there are a billion factors that go into a successful "big trip" like this. I'm 3 weeks away from our first trip to China which is way beyond my comfort level, so here are my observations. Some pax swear by premium economy, others won't fly across the state if they're not in biz/first. By all means look for an airline who will offer you a decent fare, but just forget about "deals". Many inputs: your size, your ability to sleep "sitting up", your tolerance for sitting still ... I would advise you to review SeatGuru to see their reviews, and the posts of people reporting their individual experience on planes. A couple hours of reading will give you a little foundation for what's going to be important to you. For instance, I get out of my seat every 20 minutes and walk around; I can barely sleep an hour on a flight; so I chose an aisle seat. My legs don't fit in a coach seat, so I buy a seat up front with cash or miles. I don't like the idea of spending endless hours diddling with cancellations and delays, so I book only well-known airlines. Check your credit cards to see if you have any perks or ability to discount the fares (such as Delta American Express, United Chase Explorer).

Use anything you like to do the research on which airline flies where and when. If you'd like to make some stops, I'd engage an experienced travel agent, the cost is neglible. Don't try to buy a cheap tix unless you're incredibly flexible and accommodating and don't care exactly what day you'll arrive at your destination. If you've booked a Safari with a big company, they may have info and/or recommendations for you. "Cheap tix" are often just a cocktail-party conversation piece. There are horrific stories of people who scrounge the bottom of the barrel for the cheapest tix. It's a gamble ... but some people enjoy that.

Plan your bags very carefully. Think about existing 3 or 4 days without your checked bag. As one of our advocates once said "I pack like I'll never see my bag again". Pack a complete outfit that coordinates with what you're wearing into your carryon. Everything needs to be hand-washable. If you can cross-pack with a companion, so much the better. I can think of nothing worse than wasting valuable Africa time trying to find something to wear.

Be ruthless with your packing list. I envision handling my own big bag and my carryon by myself on a cobblestone street, then up a steep ramp in boiling sunshine or pouring rain. I want to take as little as possible ... but be able to walk the streets for 5 hours plus have a dinner in a nice restaurant. Project the kinds of clothes and accessories you usually take on a trip, scrutinize them one by one and determine if you really need that extra shirt or evening top. I travel with only black skirts/pants and black shoes. A formal dinner means a pretty scarf and some nice earrings.

In the outside pocket of your carryon, place a weightless cloth tote bag. You can put all your valuables, meds, anything you can't replace in Africa (easily) in case you have issues on the flight and the airline wants you to check your carryon. Be sure your luggage has a full itinerary in the outside top pocket in addition to your luggage tags.

When I was compiling our "meds/personal care" list, I thought very seriously about what I would do with an upset stomach, a terrible headache, a nasty cut on my foot ... anything that would affect my ability to enjoy the experience. Leave out that extra jacket and/or pair of shoes and bring what you might need for your personal comfort so you don't miss a minute of your trip. For me it's a full bottle of Pepto Bismol and a huge assortment of bandaids plus some extra contact lens solution and cleaner. Good face cream and minimal makeup take up very little space or weight. hand-wipes, Off towelettes, disinfecting wipes ... just pack according to your experience and needs. I'm assuming that I can get items like shampoo, toothpaste, and bath soap anywhere. I try to bring only what I couldn't live without even overnight. Know the difference between electrical adapters and converters so you bring the right stuff. I have an engineer friend who bid on an African safari a couple of years ago at a charity auction ... Ishe still hasn't scheduled it and I know the planning is so daunting that she just keeps extending the eligibility dates . Going to Africa on Safari is a huge undertaking. Once you get the air squared away, hop on Trip Advisor and read reviews until your eyes fall out ... it's my absolute best source of "the little details" of a trip.

Research the weather carefully ... my impression of Africa is one of extreme heat and cold. I have travelled the world in every season except winter with a heavy cotton cardigan, a weightless windbreaker with a hood and a long raincoat made out of something unknown that is warm and doesn't wrinkle. I have never been uncomfortable anywhere. Send me a PC if I can answer questions and have a TERRIFIC TRIP!
This is awesome! Thanks for taking the time.
 
Aug 29, 2018
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#15
Mar 17, 2017
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#16
We recently flew to Africa from Chicago to South Africa (economy -Lufthansa/Swiss). Our flights had a stop in Frankfurt on way over and Zurich on the way back. I can definitely say that had a nonstop option been available for us, even at 14 hours, it would’ve been very preferable to the flights we had. One flight approximately 8/9 hours, then layover, then another 11 hour flight. Our trip was made bearable because I paid to select seats and had the front row of economy for every leg. Those seats were slightly narrower (can’t move armrest) but had wonderful legroom allowing me to get up as much as I wanted because no row in front of you. We upgraded to Premium Economy on one leg for reasonable fee by asking at gate. If I ever get to go to Africa again, I’d definitely look into the nonstop option.

We flew South African airways four times within Africa. Those planes were much nicer and more comfortable than our long Lufthansa/Swiss Air flights. I would be happy to try their nonstop service.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
20,130
19,012
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#17
We recently flew to Africa from Chicago to South Africa (economy -Lufthansa/Swiss). Our flights had a stop in Frankfurt on way over and Zurich on the way back. I can definitely say that had a nonstop option been available for us, even at 14 hours, it would’ve been very preferable to the flights we had. One flight approximately 8/9 hours, then layover, then another 11 hour flight. Our trip was made bearable because I paid to select seats and had the front row of economy for every leg. Those seats were slightly narrower (can’t move armrest) but had wonderful legroom allowing me to get up as much as I wanted because no row in front of you. We upgraded to Premium Economy on one leg for reasonable fee by asking at gate. If I ever get to go to Africa again, I’d definitely look into the nonstop option.

We flew South African airways four times within Africa. Those planes were much nicer and more comfortable than our long Lufthansa/Swiss Air flights. I would be happy to try their nonstop service.
Same with us! It’s 14 hours directly no matter how you slice it or dice it. Connecting flights can easily turn it into 24 hours or more.
 
Mar 17, 2017
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#18
Also, we had to take the flights we did because of group travel. They were code share flights through United which offered no benefits. Had we booked directly with the actual airlines operating the flights, we could’ve upgraded after booking the economy tickets. I watched the flights as we got within a few weeks of travel and I could’ve upgraded to premium economy or business class for a fraction of the original price because they didn’t sell out. Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade with code share flights. So keep that in mind - I would never do that again either!
 
Sep 12, 2018
13
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#19
Having been to China I can say I would not have gone without being in business class and being able to sleeping laying flat.

We also went to Africa on Emirates and I would never do this again without having business class. And I’d probably never do Emirates again (flying to Kenya) because we flew to Dubai and then backwards to a Kenya, adding too many hours we didn’t need. Next time, Delta to Amsterdam and then to Kenya. Or better yet, Kenya Air from JFK to Nairobi. Direct.
Without knowing where the OP is flying from and to, we really can’t give the right advice.
I flew Vienna to Atlanta via Instanbul, there is no direct flight and it was significantly cheaper, but connecting in the wrong direction was fairly miserable. I was flying alone, I would not do that with my kids, although I did video the safety video for them. So a cheaper routing may not be the most comfortable one.
 

AMA

Verified Member
Dec 11, 2014
1,215
1,593
113
#20
The airline sites will tell you the type of aircraft that is SCHEDULED for that particular flight and you can look it up on Seatguru. Bear in mind, there is always the real possibility that your particular flight will end up with an equipment change, and your nice forward-aisle seat can end up being right next to the lavatories in the back.