Avianca LifeMiles sweet spots for award flights

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Avianca LifeMiles is one of my favorite airline programs because of unique sweet spots, the ability to “hack” awards to pay fewer miles than the published award chart rates, and the fact that there are no fuel surcharges. The purpose of this post is to provide an overview of the strengths of Avianca LifeMiles as a reference when considering transfer partners of the major transferable currencies.

Avianca LifeMiles Sweet Spots

Collecting miles

Transfer points

Avianca LifeMiles is an Amex transfer partner, Brex transfer partner, Citi transfer partner, Marriott transfer partner, and Capital One transfer partner, so it is easy to accumulate miles from transfers. We sometimes see transfer bonuses to LifeMiles, so you may be able to stretch your transferable points a bit further. Standard point transfer ratios are as follows:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioChase Transfer RatioCiti Transfer RatioMarriott Transfer RatioCapital One Transfer RatioBrex Transfer Ratio
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 11 to 1
(instant)
60K to 25K1 to 11 to 1

Buy points on sale

LifeMiles offers frequent sales on points. We will list any current offers in this post. When on sale, LifeMiles typically offers miles for somewhere between 1.2c each to 1.4c each.

Avianca LifeMiles credit cards

Avianca LifeMiles offers two credit cards. Current bonus information these cards is as follows (click the card names to go to our dedicated card pages for more key card details):

Card Offer
Card Offer

Hacking Avianca LifeMiles awards to pay less

Avianca LifeMiles sweet spots
Use Avianca LifeMiles to fly Lufthansa First Class with no fuel surcharges and for less than sticker price with the right hacks.

Avianca LifeMiles is a very hackable program in the sense that there are a multitude of ways to pay less than the award chart rates. Note that the rates shown in the sections below are generally before considering methods to reduce the price. There are generally three ways to save on LifeMiles awards: award ticket sales, award pricing anomalies, and mixed-cabin awards.

Award Ticket Sales

Avianca occasionally puts flights to select regions on sale for reduced-rate award tickets. This has most commonly happened for awards to Asia or South America, though it is certainly possible that they may offer sales to other regions. It is worth keeping your eye out for emails from LifeMiles and/or subscribing to your favorite blogs to be alerted when a region is on sale.

Award Pricing Anomalies

Avianca inexplicably prices some specific flights well below their award chart rates. We’ve written a number of posts about this phenomenon:

For reasons that aren’t clear, these anomalies pop up in various regions and routes. In many cases, the reduced pricing has stuck around for years and makes for good sweet spots on select routes. I expect there are some that have either not been found or not been widely reported, but here are some examples of this phenomenon:

  • New York (JFK) to Zurich for 16.5K miles one way in economy class (should be 30K)
  • New York (JFK) to Lisbon for 35K one way in business class (should be 63K)
  • Mixed-cabin awards (more on these in the next section) sometimes price differently depending on the combination of partners

There are many more examples of this. You never know when you may stumble on one of these sweet spots that will fit your needs.

Mixed-cabin awards

The real hack on Avianca LifeMiles is in leveraging mixed-cabin awards. That’s because LifeMiles prices mixed-cabin awards roughly based on the percentage of distance traveled in each cabin. In other words, if you book a trip that is 10,000 miles in total distance and you will travel 4,000 miles of it in economy class and 6,000 miles of it in business class, Avianca will charge roughly 40% of the economy class price for that itinerary and 60% of the business class price. Note that this is a simplification; the exact price does work out exactly down to the mile by these percentages and there are some other variables (and sometimes outright glitches), but the final price is roughly based on percentage of total distance flown in each cabin. This makes for some great opportunities in the right situation.

As an example, the price for business class from most of Europe to the USA should be 63K miles one-way. See this flight from Paris to Newark at 63K in business class (right side) as an example.

However, if you add some economy class segments beyond Newark, the total price decreases. For instance, here is Paris to Newark on that same business class flight and then continuing on to Seattle via Houston.

As you can see in the small print at the bottom of that screen shot, that itinerary costs only 47,390 miles. That represents a savings of 15,610 miles — almost 25% less than the cost of Paris to Newark alone (during the recent Citi transfer bonus, you only would have needed to transfer 38,000 Citi ThankYou points to cover that itinerary). If you only want to travel to Newark, you could conceivably get off the plane in Newark and not take the connecting flights and save a large chunk of miles. Be aware that there are some potential issues there: if there are irregular operations, you may end up rebooked on a route that doesn’t connect at Newark. If your bags get misplaced and don’t show up in Newark when you do (remember that you need to collect them and pass through customs at your first point of entry to the US, so you would ordinarily pick them up in Newark), I assume that United is going to try to deliver them to you in Seattle. Airlines don’t like people taking advantage of this type of ticketing loophole on paid tickets, so it is possible that United and/or Avianca could get upset with you if you make a habit of doing this regularly. On the other hand, people miss connecting flights all the time, so if you do this once or twice it may not even be noticed. See the section titled “LifeMiles Skiplagging (advanced flyers only)” in this post for more warnings and considerations.

This is one example, but Greg has many more similar examples in his post: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less. Note that in some scenarios, mixed-cabin award pricing even varies by partners (see Does LifeMiles play favorites? for more).

In the coming sections, keep in mind that using the above techniques, you may be able to pay even less than the award rates shown by using the techniques and scenarios above.

Avianca LifeMiles Sweet Spots (Economy Class)

Africa in economy from 40K each way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 40K each way in economy class to South Africa (which includes most of Africa) or 42.5K each way to North Africa (and the Middle East). Note that there is sometimes variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), though we are not aware of any such pricing anomalies to Africa.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Comparison point: ANA Mileage Plan charges just 65K round trip on Star Alliance and is an Amex transfer partner, though they do pass on fuel surcharges so you’ll want to avoid Lufthansa Group flights. See our Best ways to get to Africa using miles (economy edition) for more information and a full comparison of options.

Caribbean in economy for 12.5K one-way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United to the “rest of North America” (i.e. not the US) for 12,500 miles each way in economy class.
  • Miles required: 12,500 miles each way in economy class
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Comparison point: Turkish Miles & Smiles charges just 10K each way to international destinations in North America or 7.5K to Caribbean destinations that are part of the United States (though booking through Turkish is often more challenging than the LifeMiles booking tool). See our Best ways to get to the Caribbean / Central America using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

Europe in economy: 20-30K each way (exceptions from 16.5K one-way)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, with some routes to Europe inexplicably pricing lower than the award chart.
  • Miles required: Officially, the LifeMiles award chart offers economy class at 20K one-way from the Northeastern US to the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Russia or 30K one-way on all other routes between the US and Europe. However, there is some inexplicable variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), with some routes pricing well under the expected 30K economy class price (such as JFK to Zurich for 16,500 miles or Denver to Brussels for 23K). Also see: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com, though note that you may be able to make a manual booking if individual segments are available separately. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer fromAmex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Citi Thank You, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy

Comparison point: Air France / KLM Flying Blue offers monthly promo awards routes and we sometimes see a couple of routes from the US for 10K-15K each way in economy class. See our Best ways to get to Europe using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

North America from 7.5K in economy (or less on some routes)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United within a single "zone" at excellent prices. Some flights price even less than the "official" rates.
  • Miles required: As per the old award chart, the US is split into 3 zones. Within a single zone is officially 7.5K one-way in economy class or 10K one-way in business class. Between Zone 1 (most of the East Coast) and Zone 2 (most of the states apart from the far west) is 10K one-way in economy or 15K in business class. Note that some routes price below the chart for no clear reason. Note also that mixed-cabin itineraries can price favorably in some instances. See: Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Comparison point: Turkish Miles & Smiles charges just 7.5K each way for domestic Star Alliance flights, which means that flights entirely within the US on United or entirely within Canada on Air Canada cost just 7.5K miles each way. International flights between the US and most North American international destinations cost 10K each way in economy class. See our Best ways to get to the US and Canada using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

South America in economy from 20K/30K or less

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive Star Alliance pricing to both Northern and Southern South America with no fuel surcharges. Note that you can mix cabins on partner awards to save miles, which means that in some cases you can fly your long-haul flight in business class for not much more.
  • Miles required: According to the old award chart, flights to Northern South America are 20K each way in economy class and Southern South America costs 30K one way in economy class. However, flights on Avianca metal may price out at less than 20K each way in some instances (and always keep your eye out for Avianca pricing anomalies).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Comparison point: Virgin Atlantic charges as few as 12,500 miles one-way on the shortest routes to South America on Delta and Etihad has slightly better rates for flying American Airlines. See our Best ways to get to South America using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

Avianca LifeMiles Sweet Spots (Business and First Class)

Asia in business class from 75K one-way or first class from 90K one-way (or less)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers decent pricing to Asia with no fuel surcharges. Business class awards may be semi-hackable by finding the right partners and/or adding a long economy class leg.
  • Miles required: From 75K each way in business or 90K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Comparison point: ANA Mileage Club has a phenomenal award chart with round trip awards to Japan from 75K round trip in business class (with many other sweet spots for both ANA and Star Alliance flights to Asia). See our Best ways to get to Asia using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

Africa in business class for 78K each way or first class for 105K each way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 78K each way in business or 105K each way in first class with no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). In short, it is possible to pair the long-haul flights in business with connecting segments in economy class to pay fewer total miles.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy

Comparison point: ANA Mileage Plan charges just 104K round trip on Star Alliance and is an Amex transfer partner, though they require round trip booking and they do pass on fuel surcharges so you’ll want to avoid Lufthansa Group flights. See our Best ways to get to Africa using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

Europe in business class for 63K each way or first class for 87K each way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, especially in first class, with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: 63K each way in business or 87K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance, with some routes inexplicably pricing well below the official award chart like Newark to Lisbon for 35K miles in business class (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). Mixed-cabin business class itineraries can price from as low as 49K. See: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com, though you may be able to email for a manual booking. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Capital One, Citi Thank You, Marriott Bonvoy

Comparison point: Iberia charges as few as 34K miles each way in business class on its flights to/from Europe. See our Best ways to get to Europe using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

North America from 10K in business class (or less on some routes)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United within a single "zone" at excellent prices. Some flights price even less than the "official" rates.
  • Miles required: As per the old award chart, the US is split into 3 zones. Within a single zone is officially 7.5K one-way in economy class or 10K one-way in business class. Between Zone 1 (most of the East Coast) and Zone 2 (most of the states apart from the far west) is 10K one-way in economy or 15K in business class. Note that some routes price below the chart for no clear reason. Note also that mixed-cabin itineraries can price favorably in some instances. See: Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Comparison point: Turkish Miles & Smiles charges just 12.5K each way for business class domestic Star Alliance flights, which means that flights entirely within the US on United or entirely within Canada on Air Canada cost just 12.5K miles each way in business. International flights between the US and most North American international destinations cost 15K each way in business class. See our Best ways to get to the US and Canada using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

Oceania for 80K each way in business class

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles might have somewhat hackable awards if you could find premium cabin space on the long-haul.
  • Miles required: 80K miles in business class from the US to Australia / New Zealand / Oceania, but see Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for info on how this might be hackable if premium space exists. Note also that Air New Zealand economy class flights price lower than the chart shows for flights to/from Los Angeles. Business class may also price lower if you can find availability.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you'll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.

Comparison point: ANA Mileage Plan charges from 105K round trip in business class on ANA flights during low season, but they do require round trip booking. See our Best ways to get to Oceania using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

South America in business class from 35K one-way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive Star Alliance pricing to both Northern and Southern South America with no fuel surcharges. Note that you can mix cabins on partner awards to save miles, which can be useful if you need a positioning flight.
  • Miles required: According to the old award chart, flights to Northern South America are 35K each way in business class and Southern South America costs 60K one way in business class. However, flights on Avianca metal appear to be pricing out at 40K - 55K (while partner awards follow the old chart).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Comparison point: Alaska’s award chart options are slightly better given that American Airlines to much of northern South America is 30K each way and LATAM award flights cost 45K miles each way. See our Best ways to get to South America using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

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