Avianca’s LifeMiles is one of the best points programs that many people don’t know about.
LifeMiles is a great option for flying business or first class to Europe or Africa.
LifeMiles also has fairly relaxed routing rules, which allows you to create some very interesting awards via a manual booking, which we detail below.
Airlines You Can Fly with LifeMiles
You can use LifeMiles to fly any airline in the Star Alliance, which is my favorite alliance because it includes many great airlines in all parts of the world.
|Star Alliance Airlines|
|Air China||Air India|
|Air New Zealand||ANA|
|Asiana Airlines||Austrian Airlines|
|Copa Airlines||Croatia Airlines|
|EVA Air||LOT Polish|
|TAP Portugal||Thai Airways|
|Turkish Airlines||United Airlines|
One of the biggest advantages of LifeMiles is that they do not pass on the fuel surcharges of their partner airlines.
This will save you about $1,300 in fees on a round-trip Lufthansa business class flight!
The airlines that normally have very high fuel surcharges are Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian, and Brussels Airlines.
If you are flying to or from Europe, you should consider using LifeMiles on these airlines due to this sweet spot.
Additionally, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand rarely offer long-haul premium cabin award space to their partners, so only consider those airlines for regional award travel.
Lastly, you can spend LifeMiles on Iberia and Aeromexico, whose award charts are detailed below.
LifeMiles Award Charts
Below are the award charts for LifeMiles.
We recommend you also review the Award Zones below because LifeMiles divides both the U.S. and Europe into three separate regional zones.
Here is the LifeMiles Award Chart.
It is hard to read, so we created our own “Unofficial LifeMiles Award Chart,” which is a Google Spreadsheet that is easier to understand. Plus, we highlighted some places we think LifeMiles offers good value in comparison to other programs.
In our chart, we noted two quirks of the LifeMiles award chart.
First, flights departing Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania are more expensive than flights going to that zone.
Second, LifeMiles confusingly prices out the Brazil zone on this chart. We discovered that the horizontal price for Brazil is for Avianca operated flights and the vertical zone for Brazil are the Star Alliance operated flights.
Rest of North America= Alaska and Canada.
North of Central America= El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua.
South of Central America= Costa Rica and Panama.
North of South America= Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
South of South America= Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia.
United States 1= Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
United States 2= Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
United States 3= Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
Caribbean= Anguilla, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadalupe, Haiti, Martinique, Jamaica, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, Santa Lucia, San Martin, and Cayman Islands.
Europe 1= Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden.
Europe 2= Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.
Europe 3= Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, and Turkey.
Middle East/North Africa– Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Yemen, Armenia, Palestine, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, and U.A.E.
North Asia= China, South Korea, Philippines, Guam, Hong Kong, Mariana Islands, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, Palau, Taiwan, and North Korea.
Central Asia= The Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kirghistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
South Asia= Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.
Others= Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania.
South Africa= South Africa, Angola, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Congo, Madagascar, Nambia, Chad, Sudan, Guinea, Senegal, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Gambia, Tanzania, Togo, Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Sahara, Zambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Djibouti, Ruanda, Burundi, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, St. Helena, Burkina, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Comoros, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauricio, Niger, DR Congo, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, and Reunion.
Below is the LifeMiles’ AeroMexico chart, and regions definitions.
The values listed are for one-way travel.
Below is the LifeMiles award chart for Iberia. You can only book round-trip flights with Iberia.
You can only use LifeMiles to fly routes:
- Between Spain and Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
- Within Spain.
- Between Madrid and Paris (Orly).
You can also use LifeMiles to upgrade your ticket with Star Alliance Airlines.
Here is a downloadable PDF of the award chart for one-way travel.
To upgrade, you need to have a cash ticket in a certain fare class, which is usually typically the more expensive ticket designed for business travelers.
You can when the airlines’ schedule opens up except for ANA (56 days) and Air New Zealand (28 days)
You can find each airline’s policy on upgrades online under their terms and conditions, but below are the most popular upgradable fare classes from economy class to business class:
- Air Canada- B, O, or Y.
- ANA- B, E, G, and Y.
- Asiana- B or Y.
- EVA- B, K, or Y.
- Lufthansa- B or Y.
- Thai- B or Y.
- Turkish- B or Y.
- United- B or Y.
You can also use LifeMiles to upgrade from economy class to business class on Avianca flights.
The amount required depends on where you depart, but below is for departures from the U.S. and Canada (excluding Florida).
The prices below are for one-way travel.
There must be an “I” fare class ticket available for business class to upgrade, and your economy ticket must not be in N, R, and X fare classes.
When I did a search of cheap economy tickets, the fare booked into M class, which would be eligible for upgrades.
LifeMiles Rules and Fees
No Stopovers – Stopovers are defined as connections longer than 24 hours, which are not allowed by LifeMiles.
Award Booking Fee– LifeMiles charges a non-refundable award booking fee for all awards including those booked online. The standard fee is $25, but it is reduced for some U.S. flights, which is divided into 3 zones detailed above.
- $10 for U.S. flights within the same zone.
- $15 for U.S. flights to/from “United States 2.”
- $25 for “United States 1” to/from “United States 3.”
Cancel and Redeposit Fee– The fee to cancel and redeposit depends on the route. The fee is generally $200 for long-haul flights, $100 for short-haul flights, and $50 for U.S. domestic flights.
However, I canceled several manual booking awards for free, which is detailed below. There are no published rules on a manual booking, so your experience may vary.
Change Fee- LifeMiles charges a $150 fee to make any change to an award. This fee is standard across all awards.
Booking a LifeMiles Award Online
Below is a video detailing how to search award space and book a LifeMiles award online.
You will need to create a LifeMiles account to use their online award search system, which only takes a few minutes.
Other helpful websites for booking an award is Flight Connections, which shows the routes airlines fly, and the United Airlines’ website, which can show 30 days of award availability for Star Alliance airlines.
Mixed Cabin Awards
Another cool feature of LifeMiles is the ability to save miles by doing a mixed cabin award.
A first class award between the U.S. and Japan is 90,000 miles.
However, you could save 19,420 LifeMiles by booking an additional leg in economy class.
The first-class segment would now price out at 56,000 instead of 90,000 plus 14,580 LifeMiles for the economy class flight between Tokyo and Bangkok.
Whether you want to actually fly that final flight is up to you.
Some people may book the Bangkok flight and exit in Tokyo with a carry-on bag since a checked bag is sent to your final destination. (This is also called a hidden city award/flight similar to Skiplagged.com)
I am fine with economy flights under 5 hours, so I find mixed cabin awards can be a good way to save LifeMiles when flying long-haul business or first class with a later connecting flight in economy.
This is especially true in situations where regional business class is subpar like in Europe, where it is merely an economy class seat with a blocked middle seat.
Expert Mode: Manual LifeMiles Booking
I book all of my LifeMiles flights via a manual (non-online) booking to maximize the amount of time in the air in business or first class.
It requires a lot of extra work and creativity to fully maximize a manual LifeMiles award, but you can book some really cool bookings.
For example, I booked a LifeMiles award from South Africa that included two segments in ANA’s amazing first class and two segments in Ethiopian’s business class.
The award routing was South Africa to Ethiopia to Germany to Tokyo to Chicago.
Almost every points program prohibits this type of award because it would too much flight time. Those programs would require you to transit through either Europe or Asia, but not both continents.
There are very few routing rules with a manual booking, but there are three ones you need to be aware of:
- You are limited to a maximum of four segments.
- All connections must be under 24 hours.
- The award must last four calendar days or less from the first departure to landing at your final destination.
If you are creative, you can think of some really interesting routings like flying from Japan to Australia via the the United States.
I recommend using the website Flight Connections and select the “Star Alliance” option to help you find potential flight options to search on LifeMiles.com.
You will need to email [email protected] to book a manual booking, which sometimes takes a few days to respond.
LifeMiles support will require a few things:
- A screenshot of EVERY segment on LifeMiles.com showing award space.
- A screenshot of no award availability when trying to book the award online. In my example, an online search of South Africa to Chicago showed no results, but when I searched each segment individually, there was award space.
- Your LifeMiles number.
- Your full name.
- Your birthday.
I also highly recommend you try to send multiple flight options just in case one option doesn’t work out.
You would hate to wait five days for LifeMiles to respond to you and state that the award is gone.
My email is typically:
“Subject: URGENT Manual Award Booking
Hi. My name is ___, my LifeMiles number is ___, and my birthday is ____. I would like to do a manual award booking. The award cannot be booked online (see attached). I have also verified the award space on each segment of the award (see attached). All the connections are below 24 hours.
- Segment 1: JNB to ADD on Ethiopian Airlines (flight number) that departs on (date) at ___ and arrives at ____ in business class.
- Segment 2: ADD to FRA on Ethiopian Airlines (flight number) that departs on (date) at ___ and arrives at ____ in business class.
- Segment 3: FRA to HND on ANA (flight number) that departs on (date) at ___ and arrives at ____ in first class.
- Segment 4: HND to ORD on ANA (flight number) that departs on (date) at ___ and arrives at ____ in first class.
Second Choice (similar info as above with a different routing)
Third Choice (similar info as above with a different routing)”
The support will review your request and decide whether to forward it to the manual booking department, which can take another day or two.
I lost a few top first class awards due to this delay in booking, so weigh the pros and cons of a manual booking.
If everything works out, the manually booking department will give you a call to complete the booking.
Sometimes LifeMiles will quote a very high number of taxes and fees if you don’t have enough LifeMiles in your account because they assume you will buy LifeMiles at their standard rate of 3 cents per point.
If this happens, just ask for the breakdown of the taxes and fees. You can then transfer points to LifeMiles or buy LifeMiles separately during a sale to bring your account up to the required amount.
American Express Membership Rewards points transfer instantly to LifeMiles, so I transfer my points to LifeMiles and complete my booking during the same call.
If you miss their call, it can be difficult to reach the manual booking department since there are only a few select people at LifeMiles that complete manual bookings.
Best Ways to Spend LifeMiles
There are several great ways to redeem LifeMiles.
Below are some of my favorite redemptions. All prices below are for one-way travel, unless otherwise noted.
1. The U.S. and Canada to Europe
One of my favorite ways to use LifeMiles is business class to Europe for 63,000 LifeMiles one-way or 126,000 LifeMiles round-trip.
LifeMiles is a great way to fly to/from Europe is that LifeMiles does not charge the high fuel surcharges associated with awards on Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines, and Brussels Airlines.
For example, a round-trip business class flight from Charlotte to Munich on Lufthansa would cost 63,000 LifeMiles one-way or 126,000 LifeMiles round-trip plus only $144.39 in taxes and fees.
The only other major Star Alliance points program to not impose fuel surcharges is United Airlines, which charges 70,000 miles one-way or 140,000 miles round-trip from the U.S. to Europe for Star Alliance airlines.
You can also save 3,000 LifeMiles each way for business class if you are departing from “United States 1” (East Coast) and flying to “Europe 1” which consists of Great Britain, Russia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden.
I find it interesting that LifeMiles divided Europe into three zones, but then included Iceland and Russia in the same zone.
Lastly, you can only book first class on Lufthansa and SWISS until 15 days before departure, who only allows their own frequent flyers advance access to their first class.
2. The U.S. and Canada to Africa
You can fly to the entire continent of Africa for only 78,000 LifeMiles in business class or 105,000 LifeMiles in First Class.
Very few airlines fly first class to Africa, but you could fly first class to Europe or Asia with a business class connection to Africa.
LifeMiles would take the weighted average of the distance flown, so that first and business class award would cost 85,000 to 100,000 LifeMiles based on where you go in Africa.
If you are going to the southern part of Africa, you may have to do a manual booking because the LifeMiles’ online system is not great at putting together very long flights together.
A manual booking would also allow you to route through Asia, which gives you a lot more flight options.
For the fastest way to Africa, you should try to book Ethiopian Airlines or Turkish Airlines, which has a vast route network to Africa.
3. The U.S. and Canada to Australia and New Zealand
LifeMiles prices the U.S. and Canada to Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania at 80,000 Lifemiles each way for business class, 105,000 LifeMiles for first class from Australia and New Zealand, and 111,000 LifeMiles for first class to Australia and New Zealand.
Finding a direct flight from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand is very hard, but LifeMiles gives you a lot of flexibility in routing via Asia.
Or even flying via both Europe and Asia to get to Australia and New Zealand with a manual booking.
You can fly several great airlines from Asia to Australia and New Zealand including ANA, EVA, Thai Airways, and Asiana.
4. LifeMiles Promotional Awards
Every few months LifeMiles will publish an award sale where you can book discounted flights on Star Alliance partners.
The sales are generally limited to certain city pairs (e.g., New York to Seoul), but there can be some great deals.
Previous deals included:
- New York JFK to Seoul or Beijing in First Class for 72,000 LifeMiles (normally 90,000 LifeMiles)
- Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco to Taipei for 60,000 LifeMiles (normally 75,000 LifeMiles).
5. Hawaii to/from North Asia, South Asia, and Australia
Hawaii has some nice sweet spots for LifeMiles:
- North Asia for 48,000 LifeMiles in business class or 66,000 LifeMiles in first class.
- South Asia for 51,000 LifeMiles in business class and 75,000 LifeMiles in first class.
- Australia/New Zealand for 60,000 LifeMiles in business class and 80,000 LifeMiles for first-class.
For Australia and New Zealand, you would most likely route through Asia, which would allow you to fly some great Asian airlines such as ANA and EVA.
If you live on the U.S. West Coast, an interesting trip option could be:
- Book a cheap one-way economy ticket to Hawaii and spend a few days there.
- Book a one-way LifeMiles award from Hawaii to North Asia, South Asia, or Australia.
- Book a one-way LifeMiles award back directly home.
Other LifeMiles Sweet Spots
6. Europe to Central Asia (India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, etc.) for 45,000 LifeMiles in business class.
7. Europe to Southern Africa for 55,000 LifeMiles in business class.
8. North Asia to/from South Asia for 36,000 LifeMiles in business class or 50,000 LifeMiles in first class.
9. North Asia and South Asia to Australia/New Zealand for 40,000 LifeMiles in business class (50,000 LifeMiles from Australia/Zealand to North Asia and South Asia)
10. North Asia to Guam and Saipan for 15,000 LifeMiles in economy class or 22,500 LifeMiles in business class.
- These flights typically are expensive to book with cash but can be a very good deal with LifeMiles.
LifeMiles is one of my favorite points programs along with ANA to fly business or first class on Star Alliance airlines.
You can do some really cool and creative routings with a manual booking if you want to maximize your time in business or first class.
Or you could get to your destination quickly and in luxury by flying one of LifeMiles’ great Star Alliance partners.
I would love to know what trip you book with LifeMiles. Just shoot me an email and let me know.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best ways to use LifeMiles?
The best ways to use LifeMiles are either through a manual booking, or flights to/from Europe, Africa, or Australia.
How do I contact LifeMiles?
You can contact LifeMiles by either calling 1-800-284-2622 or emailing [email protected]
How do I cancel a LifeMiles award ticket?
You will have to call 1-800-284-2622 to cancel a LifeMiles award ticket.
How do I create a LifeMiles account?
You can create an account easily online by filling out your information.
How do I earn LifeMiles?
There are several ways to earn LifeMiles:
- Transfer instantly from American Express Membership Rewards.
- Transfer from Marriott Bonvoy, which takes 24 to 48 hours.
- Transfer instantly from Capital One.
- Open one of the LifeMiles credit cards.
- Buy LifeMiles. We recommend you wait for an award sale of at least 130%. The average cost per LifeMiles should be around 1.4 cents per point during a very good sale.
When do LifeMiles expire?
LifeMiles expire 12 months from the last time you earned any LifeMiles.
If your LifeMiles are close to expiring, you could transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy points, or Capital One miles to reset the 12-month expiration.
What are LifeMiles worth?
We value LifeMiles at about 1.7 cents per LifeMiles when redeeming for business or first class.
LifeMiles sells its miles a few times per year at 1.37 to 1.4 cents per mile, which can be a good deal if you have an award planned.
Can you transfer LifeMiles to United?
You cannot transfer LifeMiles to United MileagePlus, but you can redeem LifeMiles for flights on United and Star Alliance partner airlines.