Who Is Avianca LifeMiles Good For?
Avianca, the combination of the national airline of Columbia and a conglomerate of five Central American airlines, is not a carrier you expect your everyday Joe to have a frequent flyer account with, but it is actually set up perfectly for just that type of traveler.
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South African Airways
Unlike many airlines, which give free flights grudgingly unless–and sometimes even if–you are a status holder, Avianca is happy not only to tell you how its LifeMiles program works, but how to maximize to get the most bang for your reward miles. They even go so far as the give you a comparison chart to see if their program is better than competitors, which doesn’t rank them highest in every category.
If you are interested in flying first and business class with your miles, particularly in the wide range of luxury cabins available in Star Alliance, LifeMiles is one of your best bets now that US Airways is out of the picture and the United program has taken a huge hit.
- El Dorado International Airport (Columbia)
- Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero Airport (El Salvador)
- Jorge Chavez International Airport (Peru)
- Mariscal Sucre International Airport (Ecuador)
How Can You Use Avianca Miles?
Redemptions on Avianca follow your standard region-based reward chart, which thankfully applies to all flights no matter what partner airline you use to get there. It’s one of the great ways the airline simplifies the reward process.
But where they really shine in terms of understanding what their frequent flyers need is in the search capabilities. You can choose to search for award flights on any or all partner airlines. Want to use Avianca just to fly United? No problem.
You can also get award flights by purchasing miles at a very advantageous rate, either during frequent 100 percent bonus promotions or when you book at the Miles/Money fare, paying at least 40 percent of the ticket in miles and the remainder in cash at a rate of 1.5 cents per mile.
On the flip side, LifeMiles does not make it easy, or frankly very possible, to do complicated itineraries, so this program is best for simple point-to-point travel with a single-level, straightforward award redemption system.
- One-way awards
- If you cancel a Miles/Money ticket, you get to keep the miles you bought
- Purchase up to 150,000 miles per year
- Routes typically have only one or two stopovers
- No fuel surcharges
- Can credit miles flown on other Star Alliance partners for elite status
- $25 ticketing fee both online and by phone
- $50 fee for redepositing miles
- $150 change free
- Changes and cancellations by phone only
- No extended stopovers
- No mixing cabins on one itinerary
- Call center is known for poor service
- Devaluations are known to happen with no notice
Best value awards:
The best awards on Avianca are a heavily-guarded and debated secret among frequent travelers and travel hackers, due to some incredibly generous loopholes in the zoning of the airlines award chart.
By far, the best opportunity lies in the South Pacific, where Avianca zones Guam as part of North Asia zone, allowing you to reach it with 35,000 LifeMiles or one way for 17,500 miles. Since these flights are typically routed through Japan or Taipai, you can use stopovers on these awards for an Asian vacation at a fraction of the miles most airlines require.
The big loopholes are rumored to be written out of the system with every program update, but the number of miles required for award flights has actually decreased when traveling within one region in Asia or Central and South American or between Australia and many other regions, particularly in upper classes.
Worst value awards:
The worst way to use your miles may be to fly on Avianca itself. Not because of the redemption rates, which can be quite good, but because the airline has consistently received negative reviews for its customer service and experience in the air.
Star Alliance partner flights between U.S. and Europe are expensive through the LifeMiles program. You’re better off sticking with United MileagePlus for those flights.
The Good Stuff: Upgrades and Elite Status
The Upgrades With Miles product is only available on Avianca flights and can only by booked by phone, though you can upgrade a cash fare from any fare class.
Star Alliance upgrades on partner airlines can be used to upgrade a Y or B economy class ticket to business or a C or D business-class ticket to first class, but you can only request an upgrade for a maximum of two flight segments. You can request these upgrades online.
LifeMiles elite levels and perks
LifeMiles allows you to achieve status which includes recognition from the Star Alliance elite program crediting the majority of your miles from partner flights, but there is a minimum mileage-flown-with-Avianca requirement for each level as well.
All subsequent levels include the perks of the previous level unless otherwise specified.
- Silver: Star Alliance silver status, unlimited upgrades 48 hours before departure, access to Avianca VIP lounges, 25 percent LifeMiles bonus, priority check-in line, priority boarding, priority baggage handling, Elite call center
- Gold: Star Alliance gold status, additional lounge access for one guest, access to third-party contracted VIP lounges with one guest, 100 percent LifeMiles bonus, one additional cabin bag, one additional checked bag
- Diamond Four LifeMiles upgrade certificates per calendar year, access to exclusive VIP lounges, LifeMiles redemption fee waiver
Associated Credit Cards
In the past, U.S. Bank offered the LifeMiles Visa Signature Card, but Avianca does not currently have a co-branded credit card for U.S. residents.