How to book UK to South Africa – with a free trip to Iceland

For anyone who’s ever booked an award ticket departing from the UK, you will be familiar with the hefty UK taxes. While some airlines impose fuel surcharges on award tickets and others don’t, every airline is bound to charge the ‘UK Passenger Duty’. It ranges depending on the distance of the flight and the cabin booked, but it can add up to £200 per ticket. So much for ‘free flights’.

So here’s a handy trick to turn those lemons into lemonade.

We are planning to visit some friends in South Africa this April. There aren’t many options to get down there using our American Airlines miles, so we are making use of the Star Alliance by transferring our Chase credit card points into our United Mileage Plus account. There are plenty options with Turkish, Ethiopian, Lufthansa, Scandinavian, South African and more.

So here’s the deal. On United’s website, an economy award ticket from Edinburgh to Durban costs 30k miles plus $130.


Looking at the fare breakdown, you can see how much is attributed to the tax – $103.30 per passenger:


So the solution is simple. Book your ticket from a nearby airport that is NOT in the UK, and then book a cheap flight to get there.

Dublin is close, and a popular choice.  A couple of years ago when we flew with Thai to Bangkok, we booked our ticket from Frankfurt. We all know how cheap it can be nowadays to get around Europe with budget carriers, so take your pick! We’ve long wanted to visit Iceland and Easyjet could get us there for £90pp a few days before we needed to be in South Africa.


Flights on the same date from Reykjavik (instead of Edinburgh) cost less than $30 plus the same 30k miles.


So bottom line – take the money you would have spent on the UK duty, and use it to book a low cost flight elsewhere in Europe. In our case, this lets us fly from Edinburgh to South Africa with a flight to Iceland at no extra cost.

Now I just need to get my head around how to pack!


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