I’m a big fan of Avianca’s LifeMiles program. They have attractive premium cabin redemptions rates on Star Alliance partner airlines, and they don’t add any carrier imposed surcharges to award tickets.
Best of all, LifeMiles sells miles at a discount quite often, so it’s a great way to score a deal on a first or business class Star Alliance ticket. For example, today is the last day to register for a special OMAAT bonus of 140% on purchased miles. After you register you’ll have to wait 24 hours before buying miles, so tomorrow is the last day to buy miles. In the interest of full disclosure I don’t get anything out of this, I just appreciate that they offer a special deal to you guys (well, and to me — I’m buying miles under this offer as well).
In this post I wanted to provide a positive update on LifeMiles award availability that I’ve noticed lately.
Historically LifeMiles has blocked some award space
Historically LifeMiles hasn’t had access to all Star Alliance award availability. For whatever reason they often didn’t have access to Lufthansa first class award space, Austrian business class award space, and all Air China award space. I’m not sure why exactly this was, but I’d guess there are a few possibilities:
- These redemptions cost LifeMiles the most, so they were doing what they could to prevent members from booking these seats
- Perhaps the other airlines didn’t want LifeMiles booking the award space
- Perhaps there was a technology issue or some other contract issue; for example, several Star Alliance programs have had issues booking Air China award space, so LifeMiles wasn’t alone there
I always try to add the warning that availability with LifeMiles may not match what you see with other programs when writing about the program.
How to approach the LifeMiles program
Do you want to plan a multi-segment itinerary or book an award with lots of stopovers? Then LifeMiles isn’t for you. I take a very simple approach to the program — only book one-ways, and what you see online is what you get. In my experience the call center can’t see space that isn’t available online.
Sometimes you’ll be disappointed, because the seats you want won’t be bookable through LifeMiles. However, more often than not I seem to have luck booking through them.
So you just have to come in with the “what you see is what you get” expectation, and you won’t be disappointed. Given the good price at which they sell miles, it’s tough to go wrong buying LifeMiles for premium cabin tickets, in my opinion.
How much award space is LifeMiles blocking nowadays?
Historically LifeMiles didn’t have access to Lufthansa first class award availability, or any Air China award availability.
However, lately I noticed that LifeMiles has access to Lufthansa first class award availability again, which is great news (for a while they had access to more Lufthansa first class availability than other partners, but that’s not the case anymore).
Similarly, Air China awards are once again bookable with LifeMiles, and they generally are good about releasing premium cabin award availability.
After noticing those two things, I figured I should do a quick “audit” of LifeMiles award availability. Specifically, I searched one premium cabin award seat on each of the over two dozen Star Alliance member airlines. I used United’s website to search, and then once I found a saver level award seat I went to LifeMiles’ website to see if they also saw that. In all cases I searched premium cabin award availability, since historically that’s what has been blocked.
I didn’t cherry-pick here, but rather just chose dates and routes at random, to/from North America whenever possible.
What did I find? With the exception of SAS and South African Airways (which haven’t been bookable with LifeMiles for years), LifeMiles availability matched what other Star Alliance airlines had access to. This includes in ANA first class…
And Asiana first class…
And Austrian business class…
And United business class…
And LOT business class…
I could keep sharing the screenshots, but cropping them is a bit cumbersome, so just take my word for it that availability matched on other partners as well.
Does this mean LifeMiles has access to full Star Alliance award availability (minus SAA and SAS)? Absolutely not. I just searched one flight on each airline. That hardly represents what you might find if searching for many flights on each airline. However, it’s a great sign that the randomly picked flight in each case also showed through LifeMiles.
This suggests to me that LifeMiles has access to more Star Alliance award availability than at any point I can recall in the past, as there were always several partners on which they couldn’t book space, as far as I can remember. So this is great news, in my opinion, and they should be commended for this.
I figure it’s something to be aware of before the current LifeMiles promo ends.
What has been your experience with LifeMiles having access to award space lately?