Avianca LifeMile’s Offers Great Opportunities Using Transfer Partners SPG and Citi ThankYou
LifeMiles is the frequent flyer program of Avianca, a Colombian airline that is a Star Alliance Member. Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance with 28 members and a huge network. You can use LifeMiles to book awards on all Star Alliance members as well as Iberia Airlines. This week, Citi ThankYou added the ability to transfer ThankYou points into your LifeMiles account at a 1:1 ratio. You can also transfer points from SPG, with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 SPG Points transferred. Below I’ve elaborated on what makes the program a good one and why I think these are a viable use of your transferable Points.
What Makes Avianca a Great Option for Award Redemptions
No Fuel Surcharges
LifeMiles is a great program because they do not impost fuel surcharges on any award tickets, in fact it’s one of the few Star Alliance members that don’t pass them on. Instead there is a $25 fee for booking award flights.
Ability to Purchase Points at a Discount
Another major strength of the LifeMiles program is that it offers several opportunities throughout the year to purchase miles at a cheap rate around 1.4 Cents each. This presents many opportunities for valuable redemptions. First, you can compare the value of an award flight with the cash price to see which makes more sense. Let’s look at an example to be clear.
A non-stop flight on United from Newark to Rome in business class costs $2,952 on the dates I selected. We know that award tickets from North America to Europe cost 63,000 miles each way- so 126,000 Miles RT. If you multiply the price you pay for miles during one of Avianca’s sales- you’ll see the total price.
126,000 (miles) x .014 (price for each mile) = $1,764.
That’s $1188 less than the cash price! This is an excellent value and you’d be hard-pressed to find a round trip fare for less.
Cash + Points Booking Option
Another great aspect of the LifeMiles program is the ability to buy award tickets using a combination of Cash and Points. This basically allows you to buy miles at a discount rate when you’re short on points for an award. Keep in mind, you must have 40% of the miles needed to book the ticket and you may purchase up to 60%. Depending on the percentage, the price to purchase miles with this option is between about 1.5 and 1.7 cents each. You can play around and do the math for the exact percentages. This is still a good value for these miles and makes it easier for you to utilize the miles you already have.
Ability to Book One-Way Tickets
With so many options requiring round trip travel to book awards, it’s really great to have the option to book one way flights. Anything that adds flexibility adds value and that is certainly the case here. Maybe you are only travelling in one direction or you don’t have enough miles for round trip etc. You can see why this is a nice perk.
Some Great Redemption Options
The Avianca Award Chart for Star Alliance Partners is pretty average with the exception of a handful of sweet spots. As you can see below, there are several routes that offer excellent value and remember there are no fuel surcharges. Routes with good value:
- One Way US to Europe in business class for 63,000 miles (available on many carriers including Swiss Air, Lufthansa, United, TAP)
- One Way transcontinental flights within the US in Business Class for 25,000 Miles on United
- One Way US to Europe in first class for 87,000 miles on Lufthansa (this is a popular use and seemingly everyone’s favorite, but can be very hard to book)
- One Way US to Japan in first class for 90,000 miles on Asiana or ANA (these tickets cost $4,500+- so this is a huge bargain)
- One Way to New Zealand or Australia in economy for 40,000 miles
- One-way US to Thailand in first class for 99,000 miles (ANA, Asiana, Air China etc)
- Flights within the US starting at just 7,500 miles
Avianca is by no means perfect. The online search tool can be a little clunky and I’ve read that they don’t always show all availability for every Alliance member. (To be fair, I’ve heard the same about the others.) Another big setback is that the Lufthansa First Class product is only available 2 weeks before booking. Other wise, it’s great to be able to book awards online for all Star Alliance members.
The value of Avianca is not so much in the miles themselves as it is in the ability to cheaply acquire miles and leverage those for discounted tickets. There are also some excellent sweet spots and I think this is a great addition to the ThankYou transfer list.