August 29, 2003 -- Get out of winter and into summer by flipping the planet upside down. South African Airways is offering very low fares for high season travel to the Southern Hemisphere, an unusual opportunity indeed.
From New York or Atlanta, SAA is charging $899 ($986 including tax) for flights to Johannesburg or Cape Town, and $999 (around $1,100 including tax) for flights to all other points in South Africa (except the airport dedicated to the MalaMala game preserve.)
We checked these fares against other airlines' published fares, and this SAA sale has the lowest fares from either US city into South Africa. The fares are so low, they're worth driving down from Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte or Birmingham so you can get into the game.
These fares are available for two travel periods: outbound from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, returning by Dec. 10, and outbound from Jan. 15 to March 15, returning by March 31. In any case, there's a five-day minimum stay, a one-month maximum and you must buy your tickets by September 15.
To get these low fares, call SAA at 800/722-9675 or go to www.flysaa.com.
What should you do if you don't live within shouting distance of New York or Atlanta? SAA is willing to book you an itinerary all the way through to Africa using their code-share partner Delta, but they often won't give you the best fares. You can either book your own flights to SAA's gateway cities, or try a completely different tactic, connecting through London using the many cheap winter fares to London available right now.
Looking at a trip from Detroit to Johannesburg in November, SAA is charging $1,415 for this journey.
But you can get a Northwest flight to JFK for $250 (found on www.expedia.com) that will give you three hours to catch your $986 SAA flight. You pay only $1,236 and save money; what you lose is the guaranteed connection (so if Northwest cancels your flight to New York, you'll have no recourse with SAA.) A Spirit Airlines (www.spiritair.com) flight to New York's LaGuardia airport would be even cheaper.
Flying through London, you can get a $472 round-trip ticket on British Airways (www.british-airways.com) connecting to a $789 Emirates flight via Dubai (which we found on www.expedia.co.uk) -- that's right, check "local" booking agents). You pay $1,261 (maybe even less if you get a discounted fare from a London-based consolidator), but you're sent on a multi-stop round-the-world odyssey to get to your final destination.
If all this sounds too complicated -- that's what travel agents are for. Arm yourself with these options and call one up.