Trying to use Delta miles to book award flights is often an exercise in futile trial and error. It is often difficult to find available award seats, the web site is hopelessly flawed, and agents are often unhelpful. Delta’s recent devaluation of its mileage program does not make things any better.
However, every mileage program has its bright spots.
One of the more overlooked and potentially interesting redemption opportunities for Delta miles is to West Africa on Delta’s non-stop flights from New York and Atlanta.
Delta miles are a great option for non-stop flights to West Africa
Delta flies direct flights from New York to Dakar, Senegal and Accra, Ghana. Delta also flies direct from Atlanta to Lagos, Nigeria.
Award seats are readily available most of the year and awards can be booked easily online (something that cannot be taken for granted with Delta).
A round-trip flight from the United States to West Africa would cost 80k Delta miles in Economy or 140k in Business (new price starting June 1st, 2014).
That makes Delta miles your preferred option for going to West Africa since you do not have to connect through Europe when flying on British Airways or Iberia with American miles. (No fuel surcharges either!)
You can also use United miles to fly direct from Washington DC to Dakar on South African Airways or from Houston to Lagos on United, but I would personally much rather burn 80,000 Delta miles to fly to West Africa than 80,000 much more valuable United miles!
Spending 80,000 Delta miles for a flight to West Africa is also a decent value considering that the cheapest tickets I could find around the same time frame were selling for $1,200! (Has anyone heard of Arik Air before??)
Why go to West Africa?
The fact that Delta miles are a good way to get to West Africa is all well and good, but why would you actually want to go there? Most travelers just skip over West Africa on their way to South Africa or the safari opportunities of Kenya or Tanzania.
I have not visited West Africa yet but have always been intrigued by the region. From the rich Islamic history of Mali, to the slave trade in Ghana, to the cosmopolitan cities of Abdijan and Dakar, West Africa always seemed both challenging and rewarding.
I was almost about to book a flight to Ghana using my Delta miles earlier this year before changing at the last second to a flight to Tanzania instead.
Here are some places in West Africa that look particularly interesting to me:
1) Senegal’s old colonial cities: Senegal is known for its beaches and its buzzing capital city of Dakar. One of the places that has always interested me was Saint-Louis, a city in Senegal’s far north that was the seat of the French colonial administration for nearly 250 years! I always thought it would be great to get an apartment in the city for a few months and brush up on my high school French.
2) Ghana’s historic slave forts: After contact with European traders in the 15th and 16th centuries, Ghana quickly became the epicenter of the Atlantic slave trade. For thousands of slaves, the forts and castles of Ghana’s Gold Coast was the final sight of Africa they saw before making the treacherous sailing to the New World. I can only imagine how powerful it must be to visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed slave castle in Elmina or fort in Cape Coast.
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