Avianca LifeMiles Award Chart And Redemption Basics

Avianca LifeMiles is the combined mileage program for AviancaTACA, a South American airline that joined Star Alliance a few years back. The LifeMiles program is potentially interesting even if you never plan on flying their airline, as LifeMiles can be potentially useful in redeeming for first and business class awards on other Star Alliance carriers.

There’s no doubt that premium cabin Star Alliance award seats are less attainable than ever before, not due to lack of award space, but due to having fewer economical ways of redeeming for first and business class seats:

In January I wrote a post sharing my thoughts about which Star Alliance programs are best for first and business class awards in a post-United/US Airways world, and I think one program that really stands out is Avianca’s LifeMiles program.

Aside from United MileagePlus (and US Airways, but they’re leaving the Star Alliance next week), Avianca LifeMiles is the only Star Alliance program to not impose fuel surcharges on award tickets for travel on any airlines.

So with that in mind I figured I’d go over the Avianca LifeMiles chart, and share some of the basics of redeeming Avianca LifeMiles, as well as my thoughts on the program in general.

Avianca LifeMiles Award Chart & Regions

The LifeMiles chart is fairly straightforward award, and is region-based, with the same redemption rates regardless of which partner airline you fly.

Here’s the LifeMiles award chart:

Avianca-Lifemiles-Award-Chart-1

And here’s a listing of which countries fall into which regions:

Avianca-Lifemiles-Award-Chart-2

Best Ways To Earn LifeMiles

One of the awesome things about LifeMiles is that they frequently offer promotions whereby miles can be purchased for 1.5 cents per mile.

These promotions typically come in two forms:

100% bonus on purchased LifeMiles:

  • You can purchase between 1,000 and 150,000 LifeMiles per calendar year
  • With the 100% bonus, each mile costs 1.5 cents including tax
  • LifeMiles seems to offer this promotion a few times per year
  • Historically in order to be able to take advantage of this promotion, your LifeMiles account must be open before the promotion begins

100% bonus on shared LifeMiles:

  • You can share between 1,000 and 50,000-75,000 LifeMiles per calendar year (depending on which rules you’re going by, as there are inconsistencies)
  • With the 100% bonus, each generated mile costs 1.5 cents including tax
  • LifeMiles seems to offer this promotion a few times per year

LifeMiles co-branded credit card:

  • The card is issued by US Bank
  • It presently has an increased sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after the first purchase, and an additional 20,000 miles after spending $3,000 within 120 days of account opening

For what it’s worth, LifeMiles isn’t offering a bonus on the purchase or sharing of miles at the moment.

How To Book LifeMiles Partner Award Tickets

You can book travel on all of LifeMiles’ partners directly at lifemiles.com.

The search engine is pretty intuitive. You can enter your origin and destination, dates, and preferred class of service.

Lifemiles-Award-Search-1

What’s unique about their search engine is that you can then either specify only one airline to search, or can search availability on all partner airlines at once.

Lifemiles-Award-Search-2

If there is availability for the route you’re searching for, you’ll simply get results with the desired itinerary.

Lifemiles-Award-Search-4

If there’s not availability, you’ll be shown a calendar that will list which dates are available in all classes of service. Then you can easily search availability for surrounding weeks as well.

Lifemiles-Award-Search-3

LifeMiles Flexible Payment Option

One of the greatest things about the LifeMiles program is that they have a flexible payment option, which is the equivalent of “Cash & Points” in the hotel industry.

This means that as long as you have 40% of the miles needed for an award ticket, you can purchase the remaining miles at the time of ticketing. This is awesome for a couple of reasons:

  • There’s a cap to the number of LifeMiles you can purchase per year, though there’s no cap to how many tickets you can book under the flexible payment option, so it basically increases the number of awards you can book if you’re just buying miles
  • It kind of hedges your bets in case there’s a LifeMiles devaluation (which they have a history of doing without advance notice), since you can just purchase 40% of the miles you think you’ll need, and then buy the rest at the time of booking

If you use the flexible payment option, it’s worth noting that the cost per purchased mile decreases the more miles you buy.

Take the following Lufthansa first class award from Detroit to Frankfurt, for example, which costs 72,500 miles without the flexible payment option:

Lifemiles-Award-Search-5

However, if you choose to purchase 1,000 miles through the flexible payment option it will cost you $30, which is three cents per mile:

Lifemiles-Award-Search-6

Meanwhile if you choose to purchase 43,000 miles through the flexible payment option (which is 60% of 72,500 miles), then they would cost you $672.83, which is ~1.55 cents per mile:

Lifemiles-Award-Search-7

One other thing worth noting is that if you use the flexible payment option and have to cancel your booking, you don’t get your cash back. Instead you’d get back the full miles the award would have cost. So in the above case if I made a booking for 29,500 miles plus purchased the remaining miles for $672.83, I would get back 72,500 miles if I canceled the booking.

Yes, this is a potential way to generate additional LifeMiles as well, and doesn’t count towards the annual “limit” of purchased miles. However, there are some risks and drawbacks to doing so, as I’ll discuss a bit later.

LifeMiles Ticketing, Cancellation, And Change Fees

As I mentioned above, LifeMiles doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on award tickets, though they do charge a $25 ticketing fee per person regardless of whether your reservation is booked online or by phone.

Lifemiles-Award-Search-8

LifeMiles also charges $50 for redepositing an unused award ticket, which can be done up until the departure date.

Lastly, they charge $150 for a change to an award ticket. Yes, it makes no sense that they charge three times as much to change a ticket as they do to cancel it, but such is life…

It’s worth noting that all changes and cancellations need to be made by phone. This is not an easy process, and involves providing your passport number to the call center agent, among other ridiculous processes.

While you should get the taxes back in theory when you cancel, I don’t they’ve ever actually posted to my account. So I would not really recommend making speculative bookings with LifeMiles, as the cancellation process is really inconvenient.

LifeMiles Routing Rules

Another ridiculous thing about LifeMiles are their routing rules. Basically you can book whatever the website will let you book. They allow one way awards at half the cost of a roundtrip, though don’t allow stopovers.

You typically can’t have more than an eight hour connection, or else the option won’t appear online. And you can certainly try phoning their call center at (800) 284-2622 to see if they’ll book you a longer connection, though that can be really time consuming and frustrating.

Typically the website will only display options with one connection, or sometimes two connections at most. They’ll usually let you route from the US to Asia via Europe, for example, assuming you specify the airline you’re trying to book.

Ridiculous LifeMiles Rule — You Can’t Mix Cabins On An Award

LifeMiles’ single most ridiculous rule has to be that you can’t mix cabins on an award ticket.

That means that on a first class award you can’t have a segment in business class (even if you’re connecting to an intra-Europe flight where there isn’t even a first class cabin), if you’re on a business class award you can’t have an economy class segment, etc. It’s ridiculous.

Bottom Line

The LifeMiles program can simultaneously be ridiculously lucrative and ridiculously frustrating.

It’s a program that’s tough to beat for premium cabin Star Alliance redemptions nowadays, though just remember this isn’t like a traditional program in terms of stopovers, mixed cabins, routing rules, etc.

If you’re hoping for a complicated routing through multiple cities, Avianca LifeMiles is not the program for you. LifeMiles are best used for simple, hub-to-hub bookings, or otherwise straightforward redemptions.

Given all that, I would caution against making speculative purchases of LifeMiles, unless you anticipate being able to use the miles in the near future, or for a specific redemption.

However, I’d recommend signing up for a LifeMiles account so that if they do offer another 100% bonus on purchased miles you can take advantage of it (since your account has to be open before the promotion starts in order to be eligible).

And if you have any questions, please do let me know below!

Comments

  1. It’s well known that geography isn’t the strength of this airline. It’s great seeing that Yugoslavia is still going strong!

  2. @ ABC

    One could wonder where exactly Yugoslavia is located… given that there are Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia in Europe… maybe Yugoslavia is a small island in a Pacific? 😉

  3. Lucky,

    What is the routing rules for Avianca Lifemiles in round trips? 1 stopover and 1 openjaw?

    Your post did not state the rules for stopovers and openjaws for round trips, but one-way I see you wrote there will be no stopovers.

  4. Thank you for this helpful post Lucky! I’m not a Lifemiles member (yet) since I recall your post on how frustrating it was to call the call center for a non-Spanish speaker. I may give this a try though.

  5. There are two “hidden” secrets on LM. You can route to GUM through Japan and “miss” your connection in Tokyo, paying the chart for a intra – USA flight. The same applies to KVR (not sure if it’s this code) in Russia, miss your flight in Seoul and pay for intra – Europe flight.

  6. Lucky,

    Just a quick side note – “premium cabin travel” doesn’t mean just first class. Business class travel is just fine in my book, and is only marginally more difficult with the UA deval and us departure.

  7. The two tricks of LifeMiles are widely known and have been around and blogged about for over 2 years now. Also, the GUM trick requires flying UA the whole way even if originating from Canada, and the KHV (this is the code) trick requires getting a Russian Visa.

  8. Lucky,

    On the award chart, the only options for Central Asia are Central Asia, South Asia and Other. Does that mean that Central Asia to anywhere other than South and Central Asia costs the number of miles under Others? Why isn’t Central Asia to Europe, for instance, listed there? Thanks for your help!

  9. If I had a LifeMile for each time I’ve read about GUM… No “secret” there, hidden or otherwise.

  10. @ JayH — For Central Asia pricing you’ll want to look at Central Asia from the top row rather than the Central Asia heading on the left sidebar.

  11. When do they often open the award seats? should i book a few days ago? (I did it once) or I should book half year ago (or even one)?
    Thank you

  12. @ Su — It all depends on the airline you’re trying to redeem miles on. Some partners release tons of space as soon as the schedule opens, while others only open up space last minute (like Lufthansa).

  13. Hi there, I travel more than 6 times/month, and I hate to loose my miles, have you any idea of a company which can redeem it ? I ve heard about giift, is anyone here knows them ?

  14. Thank you for answering me. Let me just give you an example. I was checking the availability of the flight from TPE to SFO. I set the date in April then I can quickly get the seats to and fro on BR, SQ, TG, UA, NH without any problem, but when I set the date in late June, I got nothing.The web page just told me the message “Sorry, There was problem while processing your transaction. Please try again.If the problem persists or you need additional information please contact LifeMiles Support.” So, that’s why I asked you about the “right” time to look for the award seats through LM. Thank you once again.

  15. @ Su — Sounds to me like a website glitch. I’d maybe wait a little bit or try a different browser. Are you specifying one airline, or just searching all of Star Alliance?

  16. hi, neither…I use “smart search”….maybe it’s my safari…thank you anyway, I’ll try again…

  17. I use firefox and chrome to do the same search..it all come out with the same result. ““Sorry, There was problem while processing your transaction. Please try again.If the problem persists or you need additional information please contact LifeMiles Support.” If you could, try 6/24-8/31 TPE-SFO. tell me what you get. thank you

  18. @ Lucky – is Hong Kong considered North Asia under LM chart like China? UA put HKG in S. Asia and China & Taiwan in N. Asia. Also, how “real” is SQ J award availability via LM? I can see it but have never tried going all the way through purchasing it.

    Re: Guam — this only works going to Tokyo and for coming back to the US we’d have to book it regularly, right? It’s cheap but flying United… hmm…

  19. @ Ivan Y — Yep, they do indeed consider Hong Kong to be North Asia.

    As far as Guam goes, if I’m not mistaken EVA flies there as well…

  20. From the U.S., can we not fly ANA to Narita then ANA onward to Guam for 25K in business? Or is United the only option?

  21. Has anyone noticed the pacific island trick not working anymore? or worse yet, UA awards being blocked?

  22. UAwards being blocked–absolutely. I verified the space with ANA. It’s happening quite often but not all the time.

  23. Having trouble finding the answer to this but I have a Lifemiles account. Am I able to use my miles to book awards for my parents i.e. in other names apart from mine? Thanks for the informative website.

  24. If I cannot see any flights available, will calling make any difference? Will the agents see flights not available on the web site?

  25. @ Erik — Only if there’s actually award space. Sometimes there’s a glitch whereby some award space won’t show online, in which case they should still be able to see it by phone. But they can’t just “open up” space over the phone.

  26. @ Lucky – Can I build a trip using United or Aeroplan’s search engines and then call to get the exact trip I want, or do I have to take what LifeMiles offer? Once with Aeroplan, I couldn’t find flights I needed using their search engine, so I just used the search engine to find many one-ways, which were al the segments I needed, and then called Aeroplan and booked my trip. Do you know if the same can be done with LifeMiles?

  27. @ Erik — Some space doesn’t show up on the LifeMiles website, so there is some space you’d have to call to book. Just keep in mind their rules about connection lengths, not mixing cabins, etc.

  28. I tried to book oneway YVR to BKK via FRA (LH arrive FRA @11:00am and TG depart FRA @22:00pm,less than 12 hours layover) website both show LH & TG are available when I search segment by segment but not the whole legs. Lifemiles reservation rep said 12 hours layover was the max in this case is less than 12 hours, but they couldn’t find an availability and they are not allow to search segment by segment, an agent told me the flight was not available as she search YVR to BKK with out breaking the segment.
    Please help,
    Thanks.

  29. Hi lucky,
    I need urgent help from you.
    I was trying to book a life miles redemption ticket for 6 of us. Luckily i got 6 seats on the date i wanted. After the payment page my internet crashed so the payment dint go thru. So now those seats are mot coming back up in the redemption system. I called up the customer care number and spoke to the lifemiles dept. they confirmed that the booking did not go through and i should try again online.
    I wsnted to know how long should i wait for those seats to come back up in the system so that i can book them again. It has already been around 10 hours. Please let me know. Thanks 🙂

  30. @ Kapil Pahilwani — If it was apparently never booked then the space should have never disappeared. Personally I’d recommend checking again a few hours later, as it could be at that the space is temporarily being held, for whatever reason.

  31. @ Lucky
    Thank you so much for your reply!
    yeah thats what i thought, it should have never disappeared and it just disappeared as i came back to book them again. I was getting them everyday since the last 5-6 days. I just spoke to an agent again they said they cannot see any seats available on that sector for that date. Until when do u think i should wait and then loose hope and look for more options.
    I was booking on LX J BOM-ATH via ZRH on 19th May for 6PAX.

    Thank you so much for your help one again.

  32. So it sounds like they’d let you route Australia-USA via Asia? Assuming the option appears online? I know UA allows that, and AA doesn’t. Good thing I bought some in the latest promo! thanks

  33. Thanks, though comparing UA to Lifemiles, nothing UA’s site shows comes up on Lifemiles with such a routing 🙁

  34. Hi Lucky, I’m in Peru right now & I have a Lifemiles redemption one way from Lima to Bangkok via transits in Bogota & London ie: Lima (Avianca) Bogota (Avianca) LHR (Thai) BKK on 7 Sept. The transit in LHR is now 20hrs due to a change in flight times by Thai. This is ok but now I am thinking of stopping over in London for 2 nights instead. The routing rules says no stopovers but do you think it would be possible if I check w Avianca in Lima? The only problem is I don’t speak Spanish…. & I would need to call them right? Or do you think I should try asking Thai airways when I am in transit in LHR instead? Any thoughts on this? I would really appreciate it!!! 🙂 thanks!

  35. If i see available on air new zealand on the united site (saver award) but do not see the same availability on LM site, is there any chance an agent will be able to see it or am i SOL?

    Best
    Ryan

  36. I am new to LifeMiles and am really interested in flying to France. The site says they fly to France but nothing is coming up. Can you fly to Paris(CDG), or is that not an option?

    Thanks,
    JZM

  37. I realize this is an old post but my question is pertinent to many readers:

    If we see a *A flight available on a partner site (like UA, or LH) but NOT on LifeMiles, should we call the LM rep? Will the rep book the flight?

    Well, I have contacted FIVE award booking services with this question (and a request for UA saver award booking that showed on UA but not on LM) and only TWO people replied back: both said absolutely not; the LifeMiles rep will not book the *A partner flights. One respondent was very brusque (that is putting it mildly!) and said he wouldn’t do the work of calling a LM for under $250- per person, it was that mjuch of a hassle, and even then he wouldn’t get any results. He was adamant–as was the other award booker–that the seats may be available on the partner, but LifeMiles doesn’t care.

    If anyone has a recent experience that negates this, please share.

  38. @ Kimmie A — Yikes, I hope we weren’t one of the people you emailed!

    Sadly though, the other responses you’ve received are correct. The Avianca reps use the same system as the website does, so they really can’t get anything for you that isn’t available online. It’s very frustrating, but there isn’t a magic workaround that we’ve found. 🙁

  39. Hi Ben and Tiffany

    I tried to book CA from Syd to PEK using miles recently bought. Lifemiles always shows availability on multiple dates, then when i click continue, it lands on an error page. It happens to CA and NH flights.

    I tried the screenshot method, and got a reply saying it was sold out. However, when i checked on UA, it still shows availability.

    Am I missing something here? Is there any trick to book the CA flight?

  40. Since it seems people still follow this thread, I have a question please.

    I have tried on multiple occasion to find flights on South African Airways in First Class between New York and Capetown but I never see any availability ever (even 330 days out).

    LM faithfully shows me Ethiopian Airlines availability however. Not only have I flown them before but I know something good about their pilot training program…so while I am not averse to flying them, I really wanted to take my mother on SAA. Or, do the powers that be believe Ethiopian to currently be better in service than SAA in Business/First?

    Thanks.

  41. Hi Lucky,

    I am thrilled by the awards and I have booked two tickets on Singapore Airlines.
    However, I cant seem to select seats on the SQ website based on the reservation code provided by life miles. Is there any way to this?
    Would I be issued with eticket eventually?
    Thanks much!!

  42. @serene: i guess you already figured it out, but the code you received is an avianca reservation number. there will a different SQ reservation number associated with your booking (which you can get by calling avianca). go on the SQ website, enter that confirmation number, and you’ll be able to select your seats.

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