Africa can be a difficult destination to find award flights for and, the farther south you want to go on the continent, the more expensive (and challenging) it becomes both in terms of availability and pricing.
There’s a seldom talked-about about option for getting to Africa that’s become much more interesting recently: the German carrier Condor when booked via Alaska Mileage Plan. For years, Condor was a synonym for “mediocre business class,” but it’s put a ton of money into improving the hard product and, based on most reports, it worked. In addition, the pricing of business class awards via Alaska is terrific: 65,000 miles one-way to the Maldives or 70,000 miles one-way to Southern Africa and Mauritius.
Condor Business Class Award Pricing
- You can use Alaska Mileage Plan to book Condor Business Class to/from the US/Canada at the following rates:
- Southern Africa for 70,000 Alaska miles each way
- North Africa/Middle East for 65,000 Alaska miles each way (includes the Maldives)
- Europe (includes Turkey, Canary Islands, Cyprus, Georgia and Azerbaijan) for 55,000 Alaska miles each way
- Includes one free stopover in each direction
What’s Condor Airlines Business Class Like?
First, a brief recap for those of you saying, “what the heck is Condor?” Condor began in the 1950’s as an airline that was primarily meant to serve German leisure travelers. Lufthansa originally owned ~25% of the airline and it flew to such European sun-worshipping destinations as the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands and, eventually, even Southeast Asia. There were many permutations of ownership, until the travel agency Thomas Cook bought a majority share of the airline and then subsequently collapsed, leading to the current ownership by Attestor Capital.
I originally started using it during the Thomas Cook days, when it was flying 767s from the West Coast to Frankfurt that were an unwelcome step back in time to an era of much less comfortable air travel. Angled-lie-flat seats, poor catering and cheap(ish) prices were what “distinguished” a long-haul on Condor. However, once Attestor bought the airline, there was a huge infusion of cash and the business class product has improved dramatically.
Condor is now phasing out its ancient 767s and replacing them with Airbus A330s that have a sharp, and well-reviewed, business class product. The seating is all 1-2-1 and there is now 78″ of fully-flat bed. WiFi, Bluetooth headphones, copious in-seat power and sparkling 4K in-flight entertainment systems are all on offer. I haven’t had the chance to fly this new product yet, but most of what I’ve heard so far has been good.
Currently, Alaska Mileage Plan is the only US loyalty program to partner with Condor and the combination of pricing, product and availability can create a very desirable points and miles choice to Europe, the Middle East and…Africa.
How to Book Condor Business with Alaska Mileage Plan
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to booking Condor awards using Alaska miles. The good news is that almost all of Condor’s route map can be booked online at Alaska.com. The bad news is that seeing availability isn’t always straightforward. Let’s take a look at the process using one of the more challenging awards to find from North America: the island of Mauritius. We’ll look for availability for two people returning sometime during the end of May, 2024.
How to find transatlantic business availability on Condor
Normally, I would start with a route map like the one shown below. First, I’d try to find availability on a transatlantic leg and then afterwards look for the Europe to Africa portion. Finally, I’d piece the actual flights that I want together onto one award.
Almost all of Condor’s North American flights originate from Frankfurt:
On the West Coast, Condor flies to Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix. I want to search all of those airports at one time, so I’ll turn to seats.aero, probably my favorite platform for this sort of broad-based search. I want to see options for Alaska Mileage Plan on direct flights only, with two open seats. I also want to look for extended availability so that I can see next May (note that extended availability, direct flights and multiple seats are a paid feature):
Also notice that, on the bottom right, I’m refining the search so that I only see flights that are leaving from Frankfurt (FRA). That way I can focus in on the Condor flights that I’m looking for. When I check the results for the last two weeks in May, I find that are a couple of dates showing at least two seats from FRA-San Francisco (SFO):
Sometimes, I find that I can see a few more days of availability on an actual airline’s calendar than I see on seats.aero. That’s the case here when I look on alaskaair.com. There’s two full weeks of 2+ seat business availability between FRA and SFO departing Monday-Thursday at the end of May:
Perfect! Now, to find availability on that Africa-Frankfurt leg and then we’ll be set.
How to find business class availability to Africa on Condor
There’s a hitch in the plan here: Alaska won’t show most of Condor’s onward flights without them being paired with a transatlantic flight. If I just search for Mauritius (MRU) – FRA at the end of May, here’s what I see:
This would seem to suggest that there’s no availability between Mauritius and Frankfurt for the entire month of May. But that’s not correct. Let’s try searching for business class all the way from MRU-SFO since we already know that the FRA-SFO leg is open for eight days at the end of the month (so any open MRU-SFO dates should pair with them). Here’s what the calendar shows:
Eureka! There’s only two flights listed and, as expected, they’re both 70k miles + taxes/fees in business. Clicking on the the 27th, we can see that it’s business class the whole way…almost twelve hours between MRU and Frankfurt and then an additional 11.5 hours between FRA and SFO (with an overnight layover). That’s almost a full day in lie-flat business on the new(ish) A330’s for 70,000 miles + taxes.
Using multi-city itineraries to find more Condor availability
There’s another quirk about booking these tickets with Alaska: not all available flights will show up when entering an origin and destination as a one-way. There will often be additional options when entering the itinerary as a multi-city, with a stopover built-in (remember that a stopover is free on a one-way when booking award through Alaska). So, I kept the Frankfurt-SFO leg at 5/27, which I already knew was available, and then worked the the date of the Mauritius-Frankfurt leg back to see if there were any other MRU-FRA flights in between the 20th and the 27th:
Sure enough, changing the Mauritius leg to 5/23 found another date with (at least) two seats of business availability:
So, to recap, we’ve now found Mauritius to Frankfurt legs for two people in business class available on 5/20, 5/23 and 5/27. We can pair those flights, including a stopover, with any of the eight Frankfurt-San Francisco legs that we found earlier. Any combination, regardless of length of stopover, will be 70,000 miles one-way.
Additional Examples from Africa
The same principles apply to other destinations as well. Here’s what Alaska shows for availability from Zanzibar (ZNZ) – SFO:
Those same two dates (5/20 and 5/27) show as available. But, again, working backwards from the 27th, we can find another date available on a multi-city itinerary, this time on Saturday, 5/25:
Mombasa, Kenya (MBA) shows the same two dates available (5/20+5/27) on a one-way itinerary when searched via the calendar. However, like Zanzibar, there’s another Africa-Europe option available in-between those dates when switching to a multi-city search:
Even more availability to/from East Coast
So far, everything that we’ve looked at has been based around getting to the West Coast, but there’s usually way more availability to the East Coast on Condor, especially JFK and Boston. Check out Alaska’s calendar for 2 people going from Frankfurt to New York (JFK) next May-July:
Literally, almost every day is available. Because of that daily availability, it’s also much easier to find awards to and from Africa, like we see when looking one-way from Mombasa to JFK next June:
For those with Alaska miles, Condor has become an increasingly attractive, good value option to Europe and, especially, Africa. It has a broad and interesting set of European destinations, as well as some compelling options in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. There’s some quirks when searching for availability, but, now that its business class product has become more competitive with other transatlantic carriers, the combination of availability and price makes this a sweet spot worth exploring.