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How to Use Avianca LifeMiles for Cheaper Star Alliance Flights

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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.

Star Alliance Airpane
Avianca is a Star Alliance member along with LOT, United, Tap Air Portugal, ANA, & others.

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.
White chalk stick on greenboard and list of rules, top view
  • 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

There are a variety of ways to earn LifeMiles. Luckily, the award program’s currency is accessible from several transferable points programs. These are listed below.

Credit Card Close Up
  • 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.
    • Earn Capital One miles with cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards or the Capital One Venture X.

Click Here to compare travel rewards credit cards.

  • Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to LifeMiles.
    • But, be sure to transfer these points in 60k increments to get the 5k bonus. In other words, 60k Marriott Bonvoy points = 25k LifeMiles. The Marriott Bonvoy Bold or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express cards can help you earn Marriott Bonvoy points.

Click Here to compare hotel credit cards.

  • 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.

LifeMiles Redemptions

Disney World Castle
Family trip to Disney World?

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
Avianca LifeMiles

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.

3 days in New Orleans Itinerary French Quarter
French Quarter, New Orleans

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.

Aerial View on Zermatt Valley and Matterhorn Peak in the Morning, Switzerland
Swiss Alps, anyone?

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.

Avianca LifeMiles JFK-GVA BIZ Screenshot

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.

United JFK-GVA BIZ Screenshot

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.

Things to do in Quito Ecuador

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 travel rewards 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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17 thoughts on “How to Use Avianca LifeMiles for Cheaper Star Alliance Flights”

  1. Hi there! Quick question, can I still earn Lifemiles points by buying plane tickets only? I’m not really looking for a credit card..

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Alexis. You can earn Lifemiles from paid flights, but you can also transfer Citi ThankYou points into Avianca. They’re a 1:1 direct transfer partner. Hope that helps! 🙂

  2. Pros of Avianca vs United:
    1. Ability to earn elite status credits on award flights for an additional surcharge based on a distance flown, I am not sure of any other airline that does this.
    2. Earn Star Alliance Gold with 10000 miles less then United and no $6000 dollar qualify spend.
    3. Gold status tier doubles your earned life miles *10 vs * 8 points on United.

  3. Quick questions – I am looking for a flight from EWR – BOM for 17th June in Business Class operated by United. United website shows availability for the direct flight but the same flight is not available on Lifemiles website. Is there a way to still book the flight? thanks a lot

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Parag. I would try to do the same search on another Star Alliance search tool like Aeroplan or ANA. Does the award also show on these sites? If so, I might try to call Avianca but their call center can be frustrating. If it doesn’t show up, it could be phantom space. Good luck!

  4. I recently earned 4,800 from my trip to Costa Rica with Avianca. Can I use these lifemiles as a sort of coupon on my next flight and have the price reduced? That is what is really confusing me.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Lexi. Avianca does allow cash and points redemptions, where you can pay cash to offset the miles you’re short for the flight. However, you do need to have 40% of the miles in order to supplement with cash. This could work for shorter haul redemptions with the 4,800 miles you have.

  5. hi, if you book economy united flights with lifemiles, is the ticket on united going to be basic economy( no carry on) or regular economy ( yes carry on)?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Gabriel. They should be regular economy but always check the details of the booking.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Natalia!

      You cannot earn LifeMiles status from transferring points.

      Thanks for your question and reading TGT!

  6. I can see award space in LH F from FRA-US on United, Air Canada and Singapore search engines. LifeMiles does not see it at all. I am worried they may be blocking LH F.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Claire!

      LH F is typically hard to see on LifeMiles. Unfortunately, if it’s not showing on LifeMiles then it’s likely not bookable there. You can try the call center but they are notoriously difficult to book on the phone.

      Hope this helps, Claire!

      Thanks for reading and your question.

  7. HI,
    I have life miles point and I am looking to buy a trip from berlin to bogota witha vianca. How can I use these points towards the ticekt?
    Thank you

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Maria. You can search for Star Alliance flights on the Lifemiles website. If there’s availability, you will be able to book with your Avianca Lifemiles.

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