We previously explained that buying frequent flyer miles can be a cheap way of booking premium cabin flights. In this article we will look at the frequent flyer scheme of Avianca, the Colombian flag carrier which has been flying for almost a century. Despite not being well known in Asia, their frequent flyer programme offers some good value opportunities for travellers based in Asia.
Avianca Airways’ frequent flyer scheme is called LifeMiles. You can find more information and a link to join here. Normally for purchased miles promotions, you need to be a member before the promotion started, so it may be worth signing up now in case you see an attractive promotion in the future.
Using LifeMiles on Partner Airlines
Avianca is a member of Star Alliance. That makes it a good option for travellers in Asia who are interested in redeeming tickets on a Star Alliance carrier. Although Hong Kong isn’t a Star Alliance hub, there are a lot of excellent Star Alliance members in the region, including Singapore Airlines, Thai, Asiana, ANA and EVA. Other Star Alliance members also offer direct flights from Hong Kong, such as Lufthansa to Germany or Air Canada to Canada.
The LifeMiles Partner Award Chart from Asia
You can look at their chart here to see what mileage is needed for a redemption. Hong Kong is counted as being part of the North Asia region.
Awards in different partner airlines require the same number of miles. The cost from Hong Kong is shown below: this for a one-way ticket: a return is double.
|South East Asia||Other North Asia||India||Australia, New Zealand||Europe||North America exc. Hawaii|
There is a US$25.00 fee per ticket for flights booked on partner airlines, and no fuel surcharges which makes LifeMiles even more attractive. Availability can be an issue, however, and there are some anomalies, for example anything more than eight hours is considered a stopover.
You can buy LifeMiles here. Normally there is a cap on purchasing miles in any given year, at 150,000.
They offer a lot of promotions offering bonus miles, which typically get richer the more you are buying. Also, in some promotions, the annual miles cap is increased.
As an example of one rich promotion last year, it was possible to buy 337,500 LifeMiles for US$4,950 (HK$38,500).
In other words, if you bought in that promotion and then used your cache of miles, you could as an example have travelled (sometimes with a few miles left over):
- Two first class returns between Hong Kong and Sydney, a business class return to Japan and one business class single between Hong Kong and Bangkok. (Separately: a one way to Bangkok is a good way to position to take advantage of Cathay’s cheaper fares for paid journeys starting in Thailand).
- A first class return trip to Sydney, another to New York City and a business class one way trip to Japan.
- Seven business class returns between Hong Kong and Japan on ANA.
- A business class return to San Francisco with Singapore Airlines, a business class return to Frankfurt with Lufthansa and an economy class return to Taipei with EVA.
- Economy class return trips to Australia, London, New York, Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan.
That is excellent value in general, although you will notice that some redemptions offer a proportionately much greater saving than others compared to the normal ticket cash price.
Avianca has in the past devalued their award chart without much notice so you may not want to keep a high balance of LifeMiles in your account indefinitely.
Redeeming LifeMiles from Asia
Australian Business Traveller has a useful, more detailed post on using Avianca Miles.
You may also be interested to read our reviews on some of the products redeemable using LifeMiles, including Thai business class (pictured) and economy class, ANA economy class, Singapore Airlines economy class, United economy class and Lufthansa business class.