Best Uses Of LifeMiles Pre-Devaluation?

Yesterday Avianca’s LifeMiles program announced a 100% bonus on purchased miles, which they historically have offered several times per year. It’s an opportunity to pick up LifeMiles for 1.5 cents each, which is a great price.

Lifemiles-100-Bonus

What makes this promotion unique is that:

That’s a bit of a double whammy, since both sides of the value equation are worsening — within a two week period they’re going to charge you more for less valuable miles.

With the devaluation in mind, Ivan Y asked the following question:

@ Lucky – given the upcoming devaluation, any opinion on what award(s) we should try booking… or, perhaps a more appropriate term would be “attempt to book” given their restrictions? Oceania/Others and Central Asia are going up the most for First class redemptions but Aus. would be on United (not sure on Central Asia). North Asia on Asiana’s A380?

As I always say, the best use of miles is one that gets you where you want to go in relative comfort. That being said, there are certainly ways to maximize LifeMiles if you’re looking to experience some great airlines. I’ve written a primer in the past about redeeming Avianca LifeMiles, so that’s a good place to start.

Nowadays you really don’t have access to that many international first class products when redeeming Avianca LifeMiles (which is true of the Star Alliance as a whole, in many cases):

Which first class products does that leave readily available? Air China, ANA, Asiana, Thai, and United. It’s certainly not worth going out of your way to fly Air China or United first class. And Thai first class isn’t available on their one flight to/from the US.

Realistically if originating in the US, your best bet is to redeem LifeMiles for ANA or Asiana first class.

Avianca’s LifeMiles program charges 75,000 miles for one-way first class between the US and North Asia (that price will go up to 90,000 miles as of October 15, 2014). So if you’re buying those miles for 1.5 cents each, that’s like paying ~$1,100 for a one-way first class ticket in ANA or Asiana first class between the US and Asia, which is an amazing value.

Anyway, ANA first class and Asiana first class are both fantastic products, among my favorites out there. If I were considering purchasing LifeMiles or had a stash of LifeMiles, I would definitely consider making a booking in first class on one of those two carriers.

ANA first class has amazing food and service, and a very good hard product. And while it has historically been very difficult to find first class award space on ANA, they’ve recently loosened up a bit and are once again releasing quite a bit of space.

ANA-first-class-1
ANA first class cabin

ANA-first-class-2
ANA first class caviar service

Asiana first class has always offered amazing food and service, and finally has a decent hard product on their A380, which they’re flying between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon.

Asiana-First-Class
Asiana A380 first class cabin

Asiana-First-Class-1
Asiana first class caviar service

They’re releasing quite a bit of award space on this route, both far in advance and close to departure.

Asiana-Award-Space

Do you plan on redeeming LifeMiles before the award chart devaluation? If so, how?

Comments

  1. I would like to redeem for Eva from HKG to LAX. Are all flights from TPE to LAX equipped with new business class seats ?

  2. @lucky. Long time reader here. First time poster.

    Can you see any way to get a connecting flight out of Asiana or JAL with this approach? From my understanding, to go onward, you need to find space in three-class first from the Asian hub — and I can’t find any. Is the only way to make this work to end travels in Tokyo or Seoul? Thank you.

  3. @ Brian Sumer — Correct, you have to fly the same class of service throughout. ANA doesn’t have any intra-Asia first class, while Asiana only has first class to a couple of destinations within Asia, including Tokyo. So this is most useful for travel to Tokyo or Seoul.

  4. @Lucky – I believe OZ axed all of its intra-Asia F flights lately, so there are no more short-haul and medium-haul OZ F flights.

  5. @cubed

    I am not a blogger and I never used the German boomerang… but I wanted to. The question is, why block all of LH F and not just shut down the German boomerang? That’s the most disappointing part…

    Lucky, how many times did you use it?

  6. I learned about it in the fall of ’12 through experimenting. Sadly, due to time constraints I didn’t get to use it as well. How many peeps here used the german boomerang?

  7. Lucky, are you sure LM isn’t blocking ANA F space as well?
    I wasn’t able to pull up ANA F space yesterday that appeared on UA and AC.

  8. @ jaywhy — I can’t guarantee availability matches 100%, but all the dates I searched for ANA first class through United/ANA also show through LifeMiles.

  9. @ Lucky – thanks for your advice! You are right – OZ availability is pretty good. So many good ways to get to Asia (on *A or OW) but wish there were good options for traveling to Europe — from Houston TK may be the best bet (absolutely no J on LH in May when I want to travel); I suppose OS is also solid if it flies to your airport.

    P.S. Inability to mix classes is hugely annoying given poor intra-US availability.

  10. Asiana “finally has a decent hard product on their A380.”

    Really? Only decent? Have you flown it?

    I flew it a couple days ago and I found the hard product, aside from the shower, to be better than EK (and LH and TG and KE), without a doubt. More comfortable bed, much better IFE (including a much larger TV and more responsive controls). And that’s not to mention the service.

  11. @ AJK — Haven’t yet, but hope to soon. Meant “decent” as a compliment, in contrast to their old hard product, which was anything but decent.

  12. AS I UNDERSTAND LIFEMILES CHARGE THE SAME AMOUNT TO INDIA-MALDIVES AS TO NORTH ASIA FROM USA. ANY GOOD ROUTES TO THIS REGION ON BUSINESS OR FIRST CLASS? WHICH AIRLINE?

  13. I recently booked this F itinerary on LM:
    BKK-NRT Thai
    NRT-SFO ANA

    I think I’m going to cancel and take Singapore F instead though I hate that I’m not using up my lifemiles.

  14. Lucky, I think you have picked the best realistic use of Lifemiles. There is some F space on ANA to Tokyo and Asiana to Seoul. But if you don’t want to go to those EXACT two destinations, then really you are left with just business class redemptions.

    Also if you don’t live near LAX, what do you suggest as lifemiles doesn’t allow for mixed awards, how do you get to LAX? Or would flying United to LAX be bookable in UA F?

    For the most part, I am finding the redemption options only marginally better then looking for discounted business class fares. Finding fares to Europe for example that are actually CHEAPER then purchasing and using miles especially with the new award chart and rates.

  15. Lifemiles are good value for Intra-Peru or intra-Colombia flights since they start at 3,500 miles one-way.

    The South-East Asia zone is huge for Lifemiles. I’d take advantage of that before they go away.

  16. Lucky

    How many Lifemiles do I need for Thai First Tokyo to BKK then BKK to HKG.

    If I book before October 15, 2014 I can fly in April?

    How do I check availability in April before purchasing Lifemiles?

    Tks

    James

  17. @ Greg — Right, I think I made it clear I was sharing the absolute best, most aspirational redemptions. 😉

    ANA also flies to IAD, ORD, JFK, and SFO. There are plenty of other great options out there as well, but these are the absolute more aspirational, in my opinion.

  18. @ James Mc — Yes, you can fly in April. Those would be considered separate awards, so would be priced separately. You could check award availability on the LifeMiles website.

  19. @Lucky
    Long time reader…first time poster.
    What’s the best way to compare airline/airport taxes on award bookings.
    The lifemiles website rarely lets me get through to that page and every time I speak to the call centre it’s a painful experience.
    Currently looking at London – Sydney return and taxes are US$711

  20. @ Matt — Generally you can always price out a revenue fare, and then just subtract the base fare and fuel surcharges if applicable. If originating in London you’ll be hit with the UK Air Passenger Duty, which is huge for a flight to Sydney.

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