Avianca LifeMiles is an extremely popular frequent flyer program for mileage maximizers, points hounds or whatever term you would like to call us. The use of buy miles bonuses to fly business or first class on Star Alliance airlines around the globe has been a key factor in that popularity. However the program is rarely looked at for flights within North America but that may change now. As reported earlier today by Ben at One Mile at a Time, LifeMiles has made some changes to their redemption model for flights in Canada and between Canada and the U.S.. And unlike most changes to programs this one actually makes it better if you can find flights to redeem for!
The program has moved to a distance based model for these regions and for all but one you are looking spending the same or less miles than before. Only one redemption is going up in price and only by 1,000 miles Here are the new redemption rates and the previous amounts in brackets:
Within Canada (all one way)
- 0 – 500 miles: LM6,000 Economy | LM15,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
- 501 – 1,500 miles: LM10,000 Economy | LM20,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
- 1,501+ miles: LM12,500 Economy | LM25,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
Between Canada and the U.S. (all one way)
- 0 – 500 miles: LM6,500 Economy | LM15,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
- 501 – 800 miles: LM7,500 Economy | LM16,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
- 801 – 1,200 miles: LM10,000 Economy | LM18,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
- 1,201 – 2,000 miles: LM12,500 Economy | LM20,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
- 2,001+ miles: LM13,500 Economy | LM25,000 Business (12,500 & 25,000)
As you can see the only redemption to go up in mileage cost is 2,001+ miles to the U.S. in economy classa and that’s by 1,000 miles each way. Right away, if you are familiar with Air Canada Aeroplan’s redemption model you’ll notice a lot of similarities. Here is AC’s redemption chart for North America:
You’ll notice for flights in Canada the LifeMiles redemption amounts are exactly the same as Air Canada’s partner flights and for the most part on the low end for travel on Air Canada. Where LifeMiles gets better are their 501 and up redemptions to the U.S.. For the majority of those LifeMiles has more attractive pricing but that doesn’t take into account the discounts that Aeroplan co-brand cards and elite status provide.
There are two issues that arise however, the first I would consider a major issue and the second could be considered minor and those issues are availability of flights via Avianca and actually obtaining LifeMiles.
We’ll tackle availability first – as I wrote this post I had another tab open in my browser looking for flights within Canada on LifeMiles’ site and for the most part they came up as unavailable. Meanwhile on yet another tab I had Air Canada’s site up searching the exact same routes and dates and was finding a ton of availability and some at really good rates like 4,000 points one way between Calgary and Vancouver. On other routes like Vancouver to San Francisco there was availability, LifeMiles wanted LM7,500 + US$67.04 one way on United (Air Canada did not come up in the results) while Aeroplan wanted 8,500 miles for direct Air Canada flights but only C$61 in taxes. So Aeroplan in that example is 1,000 miles more but over $20 less in fees so almost a wash between the two.
Next up was Vancouver to Honolulu – Aeroplan came out ahead for economy class namely because it was a direct flight for less miles, Avianca was only bringing up United flights via LAX, PDX and SFO. For the most part in most of my searches Aeroplan was better but I feel that’s due to the current pricing situation with flights. Since Aeroplan prices dynamically a lot of those routes aren’t expensive cash wise right now. That will change in the coming months as more and more travel opens up and the prices go up. Avianca’s pricing is fixed so if there is availability on those higher priced routes it may become the better option. Hopefully Avianca also gets better access to flights within Canada as I could not find any domestic flights using their search engine. Perhaps their call center agents would have better luck? Who knows. If you find any availability do let us know!
FYI these are the routes I tried to find availability on:
There actually ended up being one route I did find availability on Air Canada but again it wasn’t domestic. It was Vancouver to Seattle on December 7 and Avianca wanted LM6,500 + US$66.75 while Aeroplan was 5,100 miles + C$61. I know which I’d pick.
The other issue we have as Canadians with the Avianca LifeMiles program is actually earning the miles. Avianca is a Star Alliance partner so you can earn LifeMiles for flying on any Star Alliance airline but I know most of you would rather credit to Air Canada for status reasons and such. You have hotel and car rental earning options as well but by far the only method a lot of us point and mile chasers have utilized is buying LifeMiles. The program is beyond famous for their bonus offers on buying miles ( right now you can earn up to a 155% bonus by November 16) and when those are combined with decent to excellent redemption rates (with low carrier surcharges) on Star Alliance airlines (and they often have discount offers as well) you get an excellent value proposition. So now, with even better redemption rates for travel within Canada and to the U.S. so long as we can find availability those buy miles sales will more than likely garner more traction here in Canada. Especially if they bring back their 200+% Black Friday offer in a couple of weeks!
Wrapping it up
In theory this is great news from the Avianca LifeMiles program as you’ll be able to use less miles for flights within Canada and between the Canada and the U.S.. In reality however if they don’t have availability or access to those flights, namely on Air Canada, then this change may be fruitless. I really hope this changes and if it does with said availability I’ll change the title of this post and remove ‘potentially’ from it.