The Avianca LifeMiles program is one of the Citibank ThankYou Point airline transfer partners. They’ve also partnered with American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One as a transfer partner.
Avianca LifeMiles gives these flexible currencies unquestionable value. While such broad reach makes LifeMiles accessible to a wider population of award travelers.
You’re sure to be excited about some of the newly opened up possibilities Avianca and its Star Alliance membership bring to these transferrable points partnerships.
In this guide, we’ll discuss:
- the pros and cons of the LifeMiles program,
- all the ways to earn LifeMiles, and
- the details highlighting some of the more notable redemptions.
How to Use Avianca LifeMiles for Cheaper Star Alliance Flights
Avianca is a Colombia-based airline and Star Alliance partner along with airlines like United, Aeroplan, Lufthansa, Singapore Air, Thai Airways, and more.
Airline alliance partnerships are extremely valuable for award travelers because miles earned on 1 airline can be redeemed on another airline, as long as they’re in the same alliance.
Avianca doesn’t have an award chart for its own flights but it does have a Star Alliance award chart for flights operated by partners. The award chart is based on regions, for example, North America to North Asia.
Just keep in mind that even despite having an award chart, LifeMiles pricing can still be a bit goofy. Sometimes the price is exactly as you’d expect, while other times it can be higher or even lower than what the award chart says.
Whether flying to Colombia or parts of Latin America on Avianca or elsewhere on a Star Alliance partner, LifeMile redemptions tend to be quite reasonable with a few notable redemptions for award travelers.
If you’re someone affected by Chase’s 5/24 rule with an inability to earn Ultimate Rewards points and/or United miles, Citi ThankYou points, Amex Membership Rewards points, and Capital One miles transferred to Avianca LifeMiles gives you access to Star Alliance partner award availability.
Before diving into a few of the award chart sweet spots, let’s cover some of the Avianca LifeMiles program basics.
Some of the LifeMiles program pros include:
- Avianca LifeMiles can be used to book Star Alliance partner awards with no fuel surcharges imposed on the ticket.
- This is noteworthy all by itself because no one likes to pay high taxes and fees. But especially on award tickets, high fees can negate the value of the miles you’re redeeming altogether.
- Avianca offers cash and points bookings on award flights.
- You must have at least 40% of the necessary LifeMiles for your redemption but can pay for the remaining amount by purchasing additional LifeMiles.
- Keep in mind, Avianca offers LifeMiles sales every few months for less than 1.5 cents apiece. Typically these LifeMiles sales are a better deal than when buying them to complete a booking.
- There’s no close-in booking fee.
- No need to worry if you book a last-minute award flight! You won’t be charged an additional fee.
- LifeMiles won’t expire as long as your account has activity at least once every 12 months.
- Transferring a small number of flexible points from Citi, Amex, or Capital One counts as activity, as does purchasing LifeMiles during a sale.
Some of the cons of the LifeMiles program are:
- Avianca charges a $25 fee for all bookings.
- Just ugh! Unfortunately, there’s no way around this when redeeming LifeMiles.
- No stopovers are allowed.
- Not to mention, it’s best to stick with straightforward routings and itineraries when searching for award space. See the next point below.
- Avianca’s website has been overhauled and updated for a smarter search experience, but…
- Glitches still happen. In fact, the LifeMiles website can sometimes show phantom space and also not show space that seems availble on other Star Alliance websites like United or Aeroplan. As frustrating as it is, if you see award space on United’s website and it doesn’t show on the LifeMiles website, it’s unlikely the agents will be able to see it either.
- Reports on the LifeMiles call center experience are not great, to say the least.
- The language barrier gets in the way and agents don’t understand the ins and outs of partner awards. This also poses a challenge when you need to cancel or change your flight.
How to Earn LifeMiles
- Citi ThankYou points transfer to Avianca at a 1:1 ratio.
- Earn Citi ThankYou Points with the Citi ThankYou Premier and Citi Prestige credit cards.
- American Express points also transfer to Avianca at a 1:1 ratio.
- Earn Membership Rewards points with cards like The Platinum Card from American Express, American Express Gold Card, or a business card like the Blue Business Plus Credit card from American Express.
- Capital One miles transfer 1:1 to Avianca LifeMiles as well.
- Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to LifeMiles.
- Avianca LifeMiles offers co-branded airline credit cards through Banco Popular.
- Earn LifeMiles by shopping or from other partner offers.
- For example, hotel stays or car rentals could earn you extra LifeMiles.
- Consider taking advantage of a LifeMiles sale.
- It’s possible to find LifeMiles promotions every few months, but really do the cost-benefit math to understand if this type of purchase makes sense. Generally, it’s best to have a specific premium award in mind that you are ready to book.
- Credit paid Star Alliance flights to Avianca.
- Use a tool like Where to Credit to check the LifeMiles you’d earn based on the airline and fare class of your ticket.
For U.S.-based travelers flying domestically, one of the best ways to use LifeMiles is for domestic flights on United. Make the United/Avianca airline alliance partnership work for you to book domestic award tickets for cheaper than you can find on United using United miles.
UPDATE: Avianca’s award charts have gone missing in action. I’ve left the information about domestic zones in the guide to help you know if the pricing you see is in the ballpark to what the award charts said it should be. In my experience, many domestic awards still price out at these pricing levels.
Avianca has divided the U.S. into 3 zones. When departing from and arriving at an airport in the same U.S. zone, even if you’ve connected somewhere out of that zone, LifeMiles charges 7.5k miles each way in economy or 15k miles round trip.
Here’s what the award chart looks like for one-ways, based on zones and economy/business/first seating.
- Within the same zone: 7,500/15,000/35,000
- Between Zone 1 and Zone 2: 10,000/15,000/35,000
- Between Zone 1/2 and Zone 3: 12,500/25,000/35,000
Let’s take a closer look at an example.
If you’re a family whose home airport is Omaha and you want to fly to Orlando, United would charge 12.5k MileagePlus miles each way per person in coach, or 25k miles round trip.
If you booked using LifeMiles, you’d pay just 7.5k miles each way per person in coach, or 15k miles round trip.
Avianca doesn’t fly from Omaha to Orlando but their partner United does. Your family would fly the exact same United flights but pay less by using LifeMiles.
United charges10k miles each way in economy for domestic flights going less than 700 miles.
Consider a flight from Salt Lake City to Portland. Great Circle Mapper shows the distance flown as 630 miles, therefore, qualifying for United’s short-haul pricing.
However, the same flight booked with LifeMiles is just 7.5k miles.
Even when flying between Zone 1 and Zone 2, the LifeMiles pricing works out cheaper than United. Avianca LifeMiles charges just 10k miles for a one-way coach flight from Philadelphia to New Orleans, but 12.5k United miles.
Prefer to fly a premium class?
Consider the first example from above. Omaha to Orlando is just 15k LifeMiles one-way or 30k round trip for business class. United charges 25k round trip in economy class for the same flight.
Another solid LifeMiles redemption is in business class between North America and Europe for just 63k LifeMiles each way.
United charges 70k+ miles one-way in business for Star Alliance partner flights between North America and Europe, while business class seats to Europe on United metal would be just 60k United miles.
It pays to do your research, as well as decide on the routing and the business class product across United and the available Star Alliance partners.
Let’s take a look at an example of a route from NYC-JFK to Geneva, Switzerland. After logging into my LifeMiles account and searching for this flight here’s what showed.
You can see the Swiss Air flight 23 with business class seats for 63k LifeMiles and $24.70.
When pricing the same flights on United, here’s what showed.
This is the exact flight from above, Swiss Air 23. Note the pricing at 73k United miles and $5.60 in taxes for a business class seat from NYC-JFK to Geneva, Switzerland.
Also, a good deal for premium seating from North America to Europe is using 87K LifeMiles one-way to fly first class on Lufthansa.
Yes, it’s a great experience and Avianca doesn’t impose surcharges, but the challenge is finding the award space. Don’t lose hope, though. It’s not impossible!
It’s also worth a comparison of award flight costs between North America and Latin America.
For example, flights booked with United miles between Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Cartagena, Colombia are a minimum of 44k miles round trip in coach depending on the dynamic pricing on United’s website. I also saw United pricing on this route for100k United miles round trip in coach! (Nuts!)
But, for flights operated by Avianca and booked with LifeMiles award seats cost just 45k miles round trip in coach.
Similarly, a redemption from New York City to Quito, Ecuador was on sale for just 32k LifeMiles for a round trip in coach, while United was charging between 44k and 100k(!) miles round trip in coach for the exact same route and flights.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Avianca LifeMiles is a valuable airline currency with access to great Star Alliance redemption possibilities.
With Citi ThankYou points, American Express Membership Rewards points, and Capital One miles transferring 1:1 to the LifeMiles program, these miles are easier to earn for travelers with credit cards like the Citi ThankYou Premier, the American Express Gold, or Capital One Venture X.
All that’s left is to run your award searches and compare pricing to maximize your miles and points!
Would you transfer your Citi ThankYou Points to LifeMiles?
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