Avianca’s LifeMiles frequent flyer programme is probably off the radar screen of most miles and points collectors. However, it is quite interesting for travel hackers and, in fact, seems almost designed so that Avianca can take advantage of award space offered by its Star Alliance partners. LifeMiles sells miles to its members and those members subsequently book awards on Star Alliance airlines in premium cabins. Avianca presumably earns more from selling those miles than it pays to its partners for the award seats.
In order for this game to work, LifeMiles regularly sells miles at a discount. The latest promotion period has arrived. Between 22-28 November, 2016, LifeMiles members can get up to a 140% bonus when buying miles. Unlike other similar promotions, the bonus applies to small purchases from 5,000 miles upwards.
Since the regular price is $33 for 1,000 miles, this promotion brings the per mile cost down to 1.38 cents, or around 1.1p.
You can purchase LifeMiles by logging into your account here.
Some of the things I like about LifeMiles are:
- One way awards are allowed
- No fuel surcharges are added
- They have a Cash & Points scheme, so you don’t need to have all the required miles ahead of an award booking – you only need 40%. Buying miles this way usually costs roughly 1.5 US cents per mile.
- Star Alliance frequently have the best “last minute” award availability. On several occasions I’ve found myself cancelling a less-than-ideal Avios booking, because I’ve found a better and cheaper routing on Lufthansa or Turkish Airlines (using my LifeMiles). British Airways used to open premium cabins when it became clear they weren’t going to sell – this appears to no longer be the case, not so with Lufthansa and other Star Alliance members…
LifeMiles do have some disadvantages:
- You can’t make multi-city bookings. Overnight stopovers are rarely allowed either. (which can often be the only way to get from Point A to Point B)
- The call centre is horrible – perhaps a bit better if you speak Spanish, but still pretty bad… I struggle to manage a conversation via skype and have to wait until I am in North America to call their toll-free number
Does this promotion make sense? You should check out the award chart here. A one-way in Business Class between Europe and North America will cost 63,000 miles. That works out to $870. Add some taxes and you’re looking at $900-1,000 (£720-800) for a one-way flight. Not ideal for sure, but still better than paying cash in many instances… But if you can only find availability in one direction with your Avios or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, being able to access Star Alliance award space through LifeMiles could mean the difference between thwarted plans and a great holiday.