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

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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 Air 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 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.

free trip to iceland

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

free trip to iceland - Taxes

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.

free trip to iceland

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

free trip to iceland

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!


  1. Nick Burch says

    Popping up to Inverness is probably a cheaper way for you to dodge UK APD, though I’ll admit Iceland is probably more exotic!

    (Seems to be some debate on FlyerTalk on if a INV-LHR-longhaul should avoid all UK APD, or just on the domestic leg, but for now at least BA are offering the former. For the cost of a train ticket for you, £17.50 + 4000 avios for someone based near Heathrow, either way it’s a good saving!)

    • Pete Burgess says

      Unfortunately for this trip, INV is not bookable on ABZ is, but taxes are just as high as anywhere else across the country. I’ll bear this in mind when next booking BA though. Besides, who says a few days in Scotland isn’t just as exotic? 😉

      • Nick Burch says

        Aberdeen is too far south(!), it’s only Inverness and onwards north where the airports are exempt from APD.

        Also special exemptions for London Stansted – Dundee and London Gatwick – Newquay, not sure if either of those can be easily incorporated into a miles ticket though?

        • Pete B says

          Too far south! Everything is relative, as they say.

          These are some really helpful tips I’ll make sure to look into next time. Like you say, whether US carriers have ever heard of Newquay, Dundee as the like is a different matter. Great hack for BA though. Thanks!

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