Cracking The Code On The Avianca Lifemiles Secret Award Chart: How I Booked A $459 Ticket For 6,500 Miles

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Avianca is a Star Alliance member and their Lifemiles program is an interesting one. Lifemiles can be used to book travel with partner airlines like United and Air Canada within North America.

Back when I used to give regular seminars I talked about many of the glitch cities that existed that allowed you to fly to Europe or Asia for just 12.5K Lifemiles, but a blogger managed to have them killed by complaining to the DoT about a flight that involved a trip from North America to Guam via Asia that Lifemiles used to count as a domestic US award.

They recently got rid of their award charts, so I set about figuring out what they now charge for awards.

On their old award chart, Lifemiles split up the US into 3 zones:

US Zone 1: Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC.

US Zone 2: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin

US Zone 3: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

This used to be the one-way mileage requirements for travel within the US:

From/ToUS Zone 1US Zone 2US Zone 3
US Zone 1 7.5K Coach
15K Business
10K Coach
15K Business
12.5K Coach
25K Business
US Zone 210K Coach
15K Business
7.5K Coach
15K Business
12.5K Coach
25K Business
US Zone 312.5K Coach
25K Business
12.5K Coach
25K Business
7.5K Coach
15K Business

The new formula isn’t published, but first I tried to figure out if it could be based off of the previous zones.

It soon became clear that the old zones are dead and things were working based on the distance of the flight.

I used GCMap.com to calculate the distance between airports and try to figure out what their new award chart is.

I included the distance flown in parenthesis in the sample routes below. Based on those I believe that Lifemiles typically charges:

  • 6.5K miles in coach and 15K-16K miles in business for flights under 500 miles in distance.
  • 7.5K miles in coach and 15K-16K miles in business for flights 500-799 miles in distance.
  • 10K miles in coach and 15K-25K miles in business for flights 800-1,199 miles in distance.
  • 12.5K+ miles in coach and 15K+ miles in business for flights 1,200+ miles in distance.

There are some exceptions. The short haul pricing only seems to apply within the US, as flights between NYC and Toronto or Montreal are 10K in coach or 15K in business. Chicago to Great Falls is 1,210 miles in distance and should cost 12.5K miles in coach, but only costs 7.5K miles. But for the most part, domestic routes in coach seemed to follow this formula.

Business class pricing though is all over the place.

Lifemiles used to always charge a $25 booking fee on top of tax, but now the booking fee is variable and starts at $10.

Note that Lifemiles also allows cash plus points. For example you can use 3.5K miles+$45 instead of 6.5K miles.

  • All of these routes are under 500 miles in distance, cost 6.5K miles each way in coach, and had a $10 booking fee:
    • Chicago-Kansas City (403): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Cleveland-Chicago (315): 6.5K coach, 16K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Houston-New Orleans (305): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • LaGuardia/Newark-Cleveland (404): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Newark-Boston (200): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Newark-Columbus (463): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Newark-Detroit (488): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Newark-Pittsburgh (319): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Newark-Washington/IAD (212): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-Las Vegas (236): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-Phoenix (370): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-San Francisco (337): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Washington/IAD-Charlotte (322): 6.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
  • The following routes cost 7.5K miles in coach and vary between 500-799 miles in distance. The booking fee on these is $10 as well:
    • Newark-Atlanta (746): 7.5K coach, 16K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Newark-Charlotte (529): 7.5K coach, 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Newark-Cincinnati (569): 7.5K coach, 16K business. $10 booking fee.
    • LaGuardia/Newark-Chicago (719): 7.5K coach, 16K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-Jackson Hole (784): 7.5K coach. 15K business. $10 booking fee.
    • San Francisco-Seattle (679): 7.5K coach, 25K business. $10 booking fee.
    • Washington/IAD-Orlando (758): 7.5K coach, 16K business. $10 booking fee.

Exception route: Chicago-Great Falls (1,210): 7.5K coach, 15K business. $25 booking fee.

  • The following routes cost 10K miles each and vary between 800-1,199 miles in distance. The booking fee on these ranged from $15-$25:
    • Chicago-Bozeman (1,186): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Chicago-Denver (888): 10K coach, 25K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Cleveland-Orlando (895): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Chicago-Fort Lauderdale (1,182): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • LaGuardia/Newark-Toronto (357): 10K coach, 15K business. $25 booking fee.
    • LaGuardia/Newark-Montreal (324): 10K coach, 15K business. $25 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-Colorado Springs (833): 10K coach. $15 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-Denver (862): 10K coach, 25K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-Seattle (954): 10K coach, 25K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Newark-Fort Lauderdale (1,065): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Newark-Kansas City (1,094): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Newark-Orlando (937): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Newark-New Orleans (1,167): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Washington/IAD-Fort Lauderdale (901): 10K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
  • The following awards over 1,200 miles in distance cost 12.5K or more miles:
    • Chicago-El Paso (1,236): 12.5K coach, 25K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Chicago-Salt Lake City (1,250): 12.5K coach, 25K business. $15 booking fee.
    • LaGuardia/Newark-Houston (1,400): 12.5K coach, 15K business. $15 booking fee.
    • Newark-Vancouver (2,429): 12.5K coach, 25K business. $25 booking fee.
    • Newark-Los Angeles (2,454): 13.5K coach, 25K business. $25 booking fee.
    • Los Angeles-Honolulu (2,256): 15K coach, 40K business. $25 booking fee.
    • Newark-Honolulu (4,962): 15K coach. Keep dreaming in business. $25 booking fee.
    • JFK-Zurich (3,931): 16.5K coach, 63K business. $25 booking fee.
    • Newark-Sao Paulo (4,758): 30K coach, 50K business. $25 booking fee.
    • Newark-Tel Aviv (5,692): 42.5K coach, 78K business. $25 booking fee.

 

Back in the day I’d use 7.5K BA Avios for a last minute flight. However American now blocks nonstop saver award space within 2 weeks on the route. Plus, American seems to know when I fly as they delay or cancel nearly every single flight I have on them.

A paid last minute ticket is a small fortune:

 

But 6.5K miles? Now that’s a bargain!

 

While I typically book all of my travel as one-way as that allows the most flexibility, with Lifemiles you’ll pay the booking fee twice if you book 2 one-way awards instead of a round-trip award.

It’s worth noting that Lifemiles has non-existent customer service and their website does not see all of the awards that it should, so you should always check for availability before transferring miles.

Want to earn Lifemiles?

-You can earn miles on the Banco Popular Lifemiles Visa cards here. The standard card offers a 20K signup bonus, while the premium card offers a 40K signup bonus.

  • You can transfer AMEX Or Citi points to Acianca at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One points at a 2:1.5 ratio, or Marriott points to Avianca at a 60K:25K ratio.

AMEX cards with transferable Membership Rewards points to Avianca include:

  • AMEX Blue Business Plus
  • AMEX Platinum Business
    • $595 annual fee, earn 1.5 points per dollar on eligible $5K+ transactions, $200 in annual airline fee credits, $200 in annual Dell credits, 1 year WeWork Global Office Space, Marriott and Hilton Gold status, 35% points rebate on paid airfare redemptions, Global Entry/Pre-check, AMEX Global lounge collection access.
    • For rates and fees of the AMEX Platinum Business Card, please visit here.
  • AMEX Gold Business Card
    • $295 annual fee, 25% points rebate on paid airfare redemptions, earn 4 points per dollar on your most common spending categories each billing cycle.
  • AMEX Gold Consumer Card
    • $250 annual fee, 40K points welcome bonus, $100 in annual airline fee credits, earn up to 4 points per dollar.
  • AMEX Platinum Consumer Card
    • $550 annual fee, up to 60K points welcome bonus, earn 5 points per dollar on airfare, $200 in annual airline fee credits, up to $200 in annual Uber credit, up to $100 in annual Saks credit, Marriott and Hilton Gold status, Global Entry/Pre-check, AMEX Global lounge collection access.
  • AMEX Everyday Preferred Consumer Card
    • $95 annual fee, up to 20K points welcome bonus, earn between 1.5-4.5 points per dollar everywhere with 30+ monthly transactions.
  • AMEX Everyday Consumer Card
    • No annual fee, up to 15K points welcome bonus, earn between 1.2-2.4 points per dollar everywhere with 20+ monthly transactions.

Capital One cards with transferable points to Avianca include:

Citi cards with transferable points to Avianca include:

  • Citi Premier offering 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in 3 months, 3 points per dollar on travel and gas, and 2 points per dollar on dining and entertainment. $95 annual fee.
  • Citi Prestige offering 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in 3 months, 5 points per dollar on airfare and dining, and 3 points per dollar on hotels. $495 annual fee.
  • The Citi Rewards+ Card offering 15,000 points for spending $1,000 in 3 months. This card can’t transfer points on its own, but can transfer points if you have one of the Citi cards above. This card automatically rounds up rewards earned on every purchase to the nearest 10 points, meaning you earn 10 points on a $0.50 Amazon balance reload. Earn 2 points on $6K in annual spending at supermarkets, 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and a 10% points rebate when you redeem points, up to a 10K points rebate per year. If you also have a Citi Premier Card you can transfer points into miles or get a 25% added value for paid airfare, plus get a 10% points rebate on transferred or redeemed miles. No annual fee.

Marriott cards with transferable points to Avianca include:

Will you book any Lifemiles awards?

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53 Comments On "Cracking The Code On The Avianca Lifemiles Secret Award Chart: How I Booked A $459 Ticket For 6,500 Miles"

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zow

Dan, great tutorial. Thanks. What would United have charged in United miles for that CLE-LGA flight?

Ethan

$459

Eli

Didn’t he ask in “United miles”?

mo2

How much Lifemiles would YYZ-MCO or MCO-YYZ cost? Is it better than using United miles for flying AC on that route?

Expert Flyer

I booked 2 tickets on Friday for Tomorrow EWR-BUF 13.000 RT Cash price $600 What a good way to get to Niagara falls

steve

# of points?

CtownBin

He wrote, 13,000 for round-trip.

emak

amex transfers instantly, correct?

Yelped

You had to put ZRH in there? 🙂

For some reason it’s only from JFK and only in that direction.

Abe

Do not give out the secrets

Pointer

GVA as well. Really weird.

But who’s complaining?!

Yossi

What are their international awards like, e.g. ORD-LHR?

jstu

Is there YQ for flights on AC?

Pointer

Avianca and United, the 2 SA carriers that never pass on fuel charges

Shaq

Why can I find flights EWR – MIA, but not MIA – EWR?!

Jason

Do they charge per segment?

BewareThe4thNightFree

Which blogger killed the old deal?

Frédérique

Still scratching my head as to why that blogger would complain to the dot

jfkeze

If I’m not mistaken it was Canadian KM or something like that.. He used EVA? On a West Coast Asia Guam, denied boarding as Cabotage and complained .. I think that was the story, maybe 4 years ago?

Woodmere

Looks like you can obtain 20,000 extra miles for entering the code SB4060 when you apply for the card

Elli

Delta Flight 1218 just returned passengers to gate after boarding and a delay. LGA to Denver

Elli

Check out delta flight 1218

Elli

Sorry, i meant flight 834
My brother is on that flight. its delayed for hours and when they finally boarded the plane they sent them off the plane back to the gate.

Elli

Are we commited to go on this flight if its so delayed?
With the hotel plans and car rental, its pretty messed up.

Elli

still diverted!

Elli

Update on Flight 834: Delta rebooked the flight out of LGA airport into another and finally arrived in Denver this morning. It was supposed to leave yesterday 6:10PM.
How can we get refunded for having to take a cab to the other airport?
How can we get refunded for missing a day of the hotel which was already paid for?
How can we Get refunded for paying an extra extra day of a car rental?
How can we get compensated for a missed day at work and the misery of being kept a whole night at the airport without getting a hotel to sleep and ruining the vacation?
Can you please do a write up about this?
Thank you Dan!

somy

How do you book the flights using Lifemiles? directly on the website?

Yitz

So if UA shows the flight and LIfemiles not then Im pretty much out of luck?

Leah

My husband was booked on a 10:30 am Ord-LGa flight Sunday norning. Severe weather conditions wreaked havoc. He’s still enroute with a Ord-Logan flight that landed at 2:50 and a 6 am flight into LGA. Any recourse??

Dovid

“their website does not see all of the awards that it should”
Does that mean if found on United website it’s available through phoning in with LifeMiles, or if not on website then not on available?

CtownBin

Needed a last-minute flight that was showing on United and Aeroplan, but not on LifeMiles. Tried calling in, it was after hours but the system said we’re transferring to agent, but 2 hours later and still hold music 🙁 Ended up using Aeroplan and paying 12.5k miles.

1) After LifeMiles, what is the next best Star Alliance program for short-haul last-minute United flights? Anything better than Aeroplan, which is 12.5k miles but no close-in fee or fuel surcharge?
2) Anyone know what I could have done to find a way to use LifeMiles when the website doesn’t show it? Maybe by phone it is bookable and there is a better number for them out there?
Thanks 🙂

shalom

how do you use lifemiles in english?

CtownBin

On the top-right corner of the website click the flag, then you can change to English.

HeavenlyJane

I’m interested in the LAX-JAckson Hole flight but Jackson Hole doesn’t come up as an Avianca destination. Did you make a mistake or am I missing some piece of information?

Maifriend

I assume you can use your miles to book for someone else like on any US carrier right?

rivki

Can you earn lifemiles by flying other star alliance airlines? Or would that be a waste?

rivki

No way to transfer from Chase? Do you think that might change?

Kevin

How about getting rid of this stupid lifemiles thing. I can’t ever be able to book an award ticket on their website, always an issue with my credit card that required me to call in. They always charged me a booking fee, no exception to waive the fee.

ZA

Sorry, I’m new to the whole points system. I need a last minute flight (next week) from NYC-RDU (North Carolina) I have a decent amount of AMEX points and Chase points. Can anyone guide me? Should I transfer to Avianca?

Question

Is there any solution if an United airlines award flight that is showing on United and AC isn’t showing up on avianca??

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