Avianca redemption scheme
Avianca LifeMiles is mostly a region-based airline program with an exception of United domestic flights scheme in the U.S, which follows a slightly different region / distance scheme. It doesn’t publish the award charts anymore, but it seems to follow them in most cases.
LifeMiles isn’t really a generous program. As a matter of fact, its award charts are quite mediocre.
Since this is the last published LifeMiles chart, you might find that some redemption levels are a little different today. However, while Avianca domestic U.S. United awards have changed more drastically, most other awards are still the same or very close, and you can use this chart as a guide on what to expect.
I know what you’re thinking. You might feel that with a few exceptions this chart might seem kind of ‘meh’.
Well, it isn’t! Avianca LifeMiles has some incredible quirks and glitches that are well worth exploring, so let’s take a closer look.
Avianca airline partners
Star Alliance airline partners
- Aegean Airlines
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air India
- Air New Zealand
- All Nippon Airways (ANA)
- Austrian Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Copa Airlines
- Croatia Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines
- EVA Air
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
- Shenzhen Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Swiss Airlines
- TAP Portugal
- Thai Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- United Airlines
Other airline partners
Avianca doesn’t add any fuel or other surcharges to any partner airline
And that’s actually big. You can fly on the worst Star Alliance YQ offenders like Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss for no out-of-pocket expenses except legitimate airport taxes. Surely, United and Air Canada don’t add surcharges either, but Avianca miles are also cheaper to use in most cases. Besides, there are some obviously good redemption levels right there in the chart, like 20,000 miles in coach to Europe 1 and 50,000 miles in Business to Brazil. Would I call them sweet spots? Not necessarily, but these levels are really good.
Here is another important datapoint about the program.
There are frequent transfer bonuses from most credit card rewards programs
Avianca is a transfer partner with most credit card rewards programs: AmEx Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, Capital One Rewards and Brex, and all of them have had frequent 25% transfer bonuses in the past (just google “LifeMiles transfer bonuses” – I believe there were at least three of them in 2021).
Why is this great? Because who cares if Avianca redemption rates are a little on the high side when you have a chance to transfer points from several programs with a 25% bonus? Think about it this way:
With a 25% transfer bonus from multiple programs (which, I’m sure, will return soon), you can get the following values:
- 40,000 points for Business Class to Brazil.
- 48,000-51,000 points for Business Class to Europe
- 60,000-63,000 points for Business Class to Asia, etc.
And now lets talk about something we really care about!
Avianca LifeMiles sweet spots
- Cheap domestic U.S. flights on United from 6,500 miles
Domestic United flights start at 6,500 Avianca miles oneway. That’s definitely an improvement compared to the old LifeMiles chart (see above), but unfortunately, the only way to figure out the cost now is to try. For example, a flight between New York (EWR) and Chicago costs 7,500 miles.
Longer domestic flights will usually run you from 10,000 to 12,500 miles, although I saw a price of 13,500 miles a few times on transcontinental routes. And the price doesn’t seem to matter whether the flight is connecting or nonstop. This connecting EWR-DTW flight still costs only 6,500 miles.
Note: Avianca has enthusiastically gotten on a dynamic pricing bandwagon selling partners flights. When your search displays “more fare options” instead of a clearly stated price (see above), it means an offer to pay with miles and cash. In my research, I have never found any good “fair option,” so I’ll just leave it at that.
As you can see, Avianca can offer a slightly better deal on a short haul than British Airways (which starts at 7,500 Avios in North America). It can also help when you need a flight within the next few days because American, unlike United, blocks nonstop availability within two weeks of the flight. Keep in mind, however, that Avianca adds $10 – $25 award booking fee to most of its bookings.
- U.S. to Bogota in Economy and Business from 10,000 miles
Avianca flies to 10 cities in the U.S.
- Dallas (DFW)
- Fort Lauderdale
- Houston (Bush)
- Los Angeles
- New York (JFK)
- San Francisco
- Washington (Dulles)
Take a look at the screenshot below. The Avianca redemption rates to northern South America tend to differ depending where you’re flying from. What’s remarkable in the example below is that the flight time from LA to Bogota is over 7 hours – comparable to the flight times to Europe from the Northeast.
As you can see, this promo coach seats are priced at slightly more than 9,000 miles, while the Business Class is only 33,000 miles. However, while Avianca still operates some A330s with lie-flat seats, no one can tell whether you’ll get that coveted seat or an old, tired recliner. Even so, 19,000 miles for a round-trip long-haul between LA and Colombia in Economy is a pure bargain.
And keep in mind that normal (non-promo) saver rates between LA and Bogota aren’t bad either, just 16,500 miles. Here are redemption levels between U.S. cities and Bogota (rounded up where applicable).
- Economy – 18,000
- Business – 40,000
- Economy – 18,000
- Business – 35,000
- Economy – 18,000
- Business – 38,000
- Economy – 15,000
- Business – 33,000
- Economy – 17,000
- Business – 33,000
Cheap Business Class rates from the U.S. to Brazil
- Astonishingly cheap Business Class redemption to Portugal: 35,000 miles!
This looks and feels like a glitch, but it’s been around for years. This Avianca Business Class award from JFK to Lisbon on TAP Portugal is still priced at 35,000 miles instead of 63,000 miles.
Now, it doesn’t work the other way around from Lisbon to JFK. It doesn’t work from EWR. And it doesn’t work from any other U.S. city. Even after spending many, many hours on the LifeMiles website, I’ve never found another glitch (or whatever it is) to Europe that would be as awesome as this one. There are other smaller glitches – but nothing like this.
Once again, there are no fuel surcharges on Avianca award bookings, but TAP Portugal has stopped adding them, anyway.
This is your other secret door to Europe after Iberia, although you’ll have to position yourself at JFK to take advantage of this incredible deal.
Insane First and Business Class values to Japan and other destinations using skiplagging
- What is skiplagging?
Skiplagging is easy. It’s when you book a connecting itinerary with the intention of skipping the final leg. Why? Because it’s often cheaper in both cash and miles than flying to your destination nonstop. Why is it cheaper? Because airlines know that you hate connecting flights and are willing to pay more to fly nonstop. Which is why they often price their nonstop flights higher than routing you through another city.
Think about it this way. Instead of flying from LA to New York, you buy a ticket from LA to Philadelphia VIA New York and miss the second leg at JFK. Oops!
Now that you understand airlines’ motivation, what’s yours? Your motivation is to fly where you want, as cheap as you want and as comfortably as you want. And that puts you and the airline on a collision course. An airline can boot you out of the loyalty program, snatch your miles and, in rare cases, ban you from flying.
So, why even mention this technique then? Because no one is going to throw a book at you for just one or two missed connections. They only fight serial skiplaggers or they’d alienate a good portion of their clientele. In the end, people miss their connections all the time, so getting in trouble for casual skiplagging here and there is unlikely.
- Warning: there are still risks
And these risks go beyond getting punished for bad behavior. For one thing, you can’t check your bag, so it’s a carry-on only. Imagine, you check your bag all the way from LA to Philly while walking out of the airport at JFK. Not smart. 🙂
An airline might also be forced to change the routing due to IROPs (irregular operations). In that case you can find yourself flying to Philadelphia via the North Pole other than New York City.
And yes, I’m exaggerating, but only so slightly. If you want to learn more about skiplagging, google “married segment logic” and you’ll find more details. Just know that with Avianca, taking advantage of skipping the final leg can work for a different reason.
- Avianca awesome mixed-cabin awards
The reason why you can take advantage of skiplagging on Avianca (in premium classes) is this: when you fly a connecting flight they charge you according to the class of service per every segment.
That’s not the case with all airline programs. Many, if not most, charge your whole itinerary according by the highest class of service you book for one segment. That’s what ANA does, for example. Avianca, on the other hand, will charge you for the actual class of service you book on every leg, which is why skiplagging works so well on Avianca awards.
Let’s say you want to book an ANA First Class seat from Chicago to Tokyo with Avianca miles. Who can blame you – ANA First Class service is legendary!
You can book your ticket outright (after finding that awfully elusive award space) for 90,000 miles.
Or you can ask yourself whether there is a better way. After a little research, you’ll find that yes, there is.
If you check a flight beyond Tokyo, let’s say between Chicago and Bangkok, you’ll find that the number of miles required for your ticket goes down considerably.
- 54,340 miles for Chicago to Tokyo in First.
- 15,200 miles for Tokyo to Bangkok in Economy.
So the total cost of your ticket will go down to ~70,000 miles. Now there is a huge difference between 90,000 miles and 70,000 miles. 70,000 miles for an awesome extra-long haul between North America and Asia is a really great deal.
Now, if the second leg was available in First Class on this flight, it would price at 35,660 miles to bring the total to 90,000 miles.
Of course, you do remember that you won’t be taking that second flight between Tokyo and Bangkok. You just grab your carry-on and head straight to the exit. 🙂
But can you do even better?
Yes! Explore other itineraries. Because remember that Avianca’s awesomeness is in its quirks and glitches.
- You can fly in ANA First Class between the U.S. and Tokyo for 63,000 miles!
Take a look at this screenshot. And compare it with the screenshot above. What do you see?
- First screenshot: Chicago –> Tokyo –> Bangkok
- Second screenshot: Chicago –> Tokyo –> Singapore
The first leg (ORD-HND) is the same in both examples.
Then why does the same leg is priced at 54,340 miles for the flight to Bangkok, but only 46,990 miles to Singapore?
I can’t explain it – can you?
In the second example, the total for your skiplagged First Class flight to Tokyo would come up to ~63,000 miles, which is roughly the same you’d pay for a regular Business Class award to Europe. So by playing with the second leg, you can reduce your already awesome 70,000-mile First Class award even further. Basically, you would save 30% off the regular cost of your 90,000-mile ticket.
But hey, who’s complaining? 🙂