a woman in uniform holding a gift on a bed

While Avianca LifeMiles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou Points, it seems people still forget about them. If you would include yourself in this camp, you might be missing out on a great way to book Star Alliance awards.

Not only can you find some great redemption rates but you can save a ton of cash as Avianca does not pass on carrier-imposed — “fuel” — surcharges.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at 10 great ways to redeem Avianca LifeMiles to get you a head start.

Let’s get into it!

First Class To North Asia

asiana first class seat

If you’re looking for a way to fly first class to North Asia, your best bet to find award space is often Asiana Airlines. While you could drop 120,000 United miles, you’d be much better served to use 90,000 LifeMiles for the same one-way award.

Whether you’re flying from Los Angeles (LAX) or New York (JFK), you’re looking at flying 13-14 hours so you might as well enjoy some champagne and caviar in your own suite. The top-tier crew service will be a treat as well.

While award space isn’t as easy to find, you can also book ANA first class to Tokyo from several airports in the U.S for the same number of miles. If you’re booking one-way award, LifeMiles is the way to go.

If you can book round-trip, we’d suggest looking at using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book. Check out our brilliant ways to use Chase points to learn more.

Lufthansa First Class To Europe

Lufthansa First Class Wine And Champagne

Let’s be honest, Lufthansa first class is famous for a reason. You can enjoy Cuvee Louise or Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle champagne throughout your flight and they even offer to pair your caviar with ice cold vodka.

However, what really sets Lufthansa apart from the first class competition is the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt (FRA). When we say terminal, we really mean it. There’s a dedicated terminal for first class passengers complete with:

  • Its own duty-free shop
  • À la carte dining plus a buffet
  • A champagne list for the discerning palate
  • Extensive options at the bar including a rum tasting
  • Showers and bathtubs complete with a collectible rubber ducky
  • A cigar bar

If that’s not enough, when it’s time to board your flight, your personal assistant — yeah, you have a personal assistant to look after you — will escort you to your ride to your flight. It’s often a Porsche so enjoy.

Is it any wonder why we’re more than happy to use 87,000 LifeMiles to book a one-way Lufthansa first award? The fact that Avianca doesn’t tack on surcharges just makes this one even sweeter. Keep reading and we’ll show you an even cheaper way to book this.

This is also one of our favorite ways to use Amex points, check out the others for some more inspiration.

Short-Haul Flights On United

United 737 MAX 9

Changing gears a bit, Avianca LifeMiles is also a great way to book domestic short-haul flights on United. While many of us are accustomed to using 7,500 British Airways Avios for short-haul flights on American Airlines, don’t forget this option.

With Avianca, you can book an economy award ticket on United for as few as 7,500 LifeMiles. Here are the award rates between each of the 3 zones in the U.S.

Economy Class

 Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3
Zone 1 7,500 miles 10,000 miles 12,500 miles
Zone 2 10,000 miles 7,500 miles 12,500 miles
Zone 3 12,500 miles 12,500 miles 7,500 miles

The key to using LifeMiles on these short domestic flights is understanding how Avianca divides up the U.S. into zones for domestic flights.

  • 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, D.C.
  • Zone 2: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Zone 3: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

Compared to the 12,500 miles that United requires for many short-haul awards, 7,500 or 10,000 LifeMiles is the way to go. One thing to keep in mind is that Avianca charges a $25 fee for partner awards so you’ll want to factor that into your decision.

If you’re booking a flight within 21 days of departure, the choice is easy as United not only requires more miles but will hit you with a nasty $75 fee for booking in that time frame.

ANA First Class Between Hawaii and Japan

ANA First Class Seat

Jumping back into first class, All Nippon Airways (ANA) will start operating an Airbus A380 between Honolulu (HNL) and Tokyo Narita (NRT) as of May 24, 2019.

If you’ve flown ANA first class on their Boeing 777, you know exactly what to expect: great service, nice champagne, great food and a fun Samsonite amenity kit. The first class check-in and lounge at Tokyo Narita just add to the luxury feeling.

One-way first class awards on this route will cost you 66,000 LifeMiles. You can also book business class for 48,000 miles. Considering the flight time is comparable to flying between the east coast and Europe, these are great redemptions.

United Transcontinental In Business Class

polaris united seat

Sometimes, when you need to fly across the U.S., you just really don’t feel like being cramped in economy. If that’s the case, consider using LifeMiles to book a United flight in business class.

Keep in mind that some of these flights will have a domestic first class cabin with recliners — still better than coach. If you can find award space, there are a number of flights with true business class cabins, though, so you can lie down for the long flight. If you have a red-eye from the west coast, you’ll really appreciate this.

You can book a one-way business class flight on a transcontinental route for 25,000 LifeMiles.

Thai First Class Between Japan and Australia

Thai Airways First Class Cabin

If you want to combine a trip to Australia and Japan, we’d strongly suggest you look into flying Thai Airways first class. It’s not a non-stop flight, but we think you’ll really enjoy the connection.

Not only do you get Dom Perignon and a fun Rimowa amenity kit inflight, but you also get to enjoy one of the more fun ground experiences in Bangkok (BKK). Once you arrive, you’ll be picked up from the gate in a buggy to take you to the first class lounge.

Once at the lounge, there are a few semi-private rooms if you want some time to yourself or with your friends or family. However, what sets the Thai first class lounge apart is the massage service. If you have time, you can book a full-body massage — complimentary. If you know of a better way to relax during a layover, by all means, let us know!

This is only made better by the fact that you can book a one-way first class award from Tokyo Narita (NRT) or Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Sydney (SYD) for 50,000 LifeMiles.

Business Class To Europe

swiss biz

Since Lufthansa first class is a tough award to find with partner miles and you have to be flexible enough to book within 14 days of departure, we really like the option to book business class.

From Austrian Airlines to Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) to SWISS and more, there are plenty of great options if you want to fly business class. At 63,000 LifeMiles and no worry of surcharges, this is a great way to book.

If you like coffee, we’d suggest trying Austrian Airlines. They also have an appetizer cart from which they plate your choices right at your seat. It’s a great touch that adds to the fun.

United Business Class To Brazil

united 787-9 polaris business

Avianca considers Brazil its own region for awards on Star Alliance partners and that’s a good thing for us. If you fly to other countries in southern South America, you’ll need 60,000 LifeMiles for a business class award. To book a United business class award to São Paulo (GRU) or Rio de Janeiro (GIG), you’ll only need to 50,000 LifeMiles though.

Business Class To The Middle East

Turkish Airlines Business Class Seat

Whether flying Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines or connecting in western Europe, there are plenty of great business class options to the Middle East. While you could book with fewer miles, there are a couple of reasons that make LifeMiles a good choice.

First, as we’ve discussed, Avianca doesn’t impose surcharges. Second, LifeMiles are easy to earn thanks to its transfer partnerships with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou Points.

At 78,000 miles for a one-way business class award to the Middle East, it’s tough to beat. Now, all you have to do is figure out which Star Alliance partner you’d like to fly and find award space.

A Cheaper Way To Fly Lufthansa First

Lufthansa First Class Porsche

Yes, we’re back to Lufthansa first class. Hopefully, you’re okay with that since we’re going to touch on a way to fly first class for fewer miles. To book first class for fewer miles, the key is to include a connection in business class.

Since you’re not flying first class for the duration of the award, Avianca basically prorates the mileage required. So, rather than flying Lufthansa non-stop from Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK) — or vice versa, you could include a connection to a city such as Paris (CDG) or Rome (FCO) and save a few thousand miles. It’s still a great deal to book at 87,000 miles, but you might as well get it for less if you can.

Besides, if you’re flying into Frankfurt, you definitely want a (long) connection so you can enjoy the First Class Terminal and Porsche ride across the tarmac.

Pro-Tip: Amex And Citi Transfer Bonus Promos

American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points both run transfer bonus promotions with Avianca LifeMiles on occasion. These bonuses range from 15% to 30% which means you can get a ton of LifeMiles during these promos.

We don’t suggest speculative transfers as an airline could devalue their program and your points are safer in a transferable program such as Amex or Citi. However, if you’ll be booking soon — ideally, you will have found award space already — then a promo is a perfect time to transfer.

Currently, Amex is running a 15% transfer bonus until April 1, 2019.

How To Earn More Avianca LifeMiles

amex platinum cards

Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on LifeMiles when you need them. Probably the easiest source is Amex Membership Rewards cards (Learn More) as there are several options with useful bonus categories.

If you’re looking for a simple option, Capital One provides a personal and a business card that earn 2X on all purchases (Learn More). These points transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio so you can effectively earn 1.5 LifeMiles on all purchases.

Citi ThankYou Points is another great option but you’ll have fewer cards from which to choose but they can provide a great to supplement the points you earn with Amex and Capital One.

You could also transfer Marriott Bonvoy point at a 3:1 ratio and receive a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 60,000 points — that’ll get you 25,000 LifeMiles. You can earn Marriott points from any of several co-branded Amex and Chase cards (Learn More).

If you don’t have access to these points or need LifeMiles in a pinch, you can often find promotional bonuses for buying miles. Since LifeMiles sells miles directly rather than through Points.com, make sure you use a card that earns bonus miles on airfare purchases.

Final Thoughts

As with any airline program, it’s all about finding the sweet spots and Avianca has several that can help you get where you want to go in style. Pair that with several easy ways to earn the necessary LifeMiles and you should be on your way in no time.

Spencer Howard

Spencer Howard is a credit card rewards and award travel expert. He’s living proof that points and miles can unlock many of the greatest travel experiences and uses his skills to tick off new bucket...

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  1. The cheapest way for transatlantic LH F would be doing something like FRA-EWR-SFO, with the EWR-SFO booked in UA Y. (The Y segment must be long enough and end in the same region)

    One MUST claim bags at US immigration and re-check them for onward domestic connections.

    So why not just claim the bags, and not bother with checking in for the domestic legs? If I were planning to go to NYC I would do just that. Add it on with the intra-Europe J connection too…

    1. With LifeMiles, you can search for award space without miles in your account. They recently revamped the site — it’s still having some issues.

  2. Top article as usual Howard. Just two questions if you don’t mind. Does Lifemiles have an awards chart anymore, I can’t seem to find it anywhere. My old favorite booking was Australia to Paris on Thai for it’s availability. Doesn’t seem to be bookable? Does the old email work around still work?
    Thanks for your contributions from a long suffering Aussie who is sick of paying the Down Under tax on premium travel!

    1. Thanks so much, Phil! The chart doesn’t appear to be in the new site. Tried to find a link when I wrote this actually. Email method should work though. Going to include that in another post that goes into how to book with LifeMiles. Best of luck down there. You all seem to have some decent card offers to help you along.

    1. Haha, you weren’t the first and you won’t be the last. 🙂 When your first name is also a last name and your last name is also a first name, you get used to it!

  3. Hi Spencer,

    Just a quick help. Need connections from Mumbai, India using lifemiles. Could we use the same on Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines and also on Air India.

    Also a very good article indeed

  4. Can you redeem Lufthansa first class awards shown on United.com but not on Lifemiles by calling into Lifemiles and just pay for the call fee? Thank you!

  5. When I go on the life miles website and enter, say Chicago to Zurich (for a swiss air flight), it says “We cannot process your request). So how do we book any flights to europe from the US? There’s definitely award space via experflyer for that flight.

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