LifeMiles Changes Domestic US Redemptions: What It Really Means

by Enoch

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Readers of this blog know how much I love LifeMiles, Avianca’s frequent flyer program. Their miles can be easily acquired—either bought at a low price or transferred from most of the major flexible credit card points (often even with a bonus). Now, LifeMiles has announced some changes when redeeming for domestic United flights — and it’s not all bad.

Redeem Cheap Domestic Award Tickets with LifeMiles

Less than two years ago, LifeMiles introduced a new award chart for travel within the continental US. This opened the door for award tickets at a cost much lower than what United, their Star Alliance partner, would charge.

LifeMiles currently divides the continental US into three separate zones.

Map of Award Zone on LifeMiles Award Chart in the US

Map of Award Zone on LifeMiles Award Chart in the US

The costs for award travel are as follows, in Economy/Business/First Class.

  • Within the same zone: 7,500/15,000/35,000
  • Between Zone 1 and Zone 2: 10,000/15,000/35,000
  • Between Zone 1/2 and Zone 3: 12,500/25,000/35,000

Historically, this is much cheaper than what United would charge their own loyalty program’s members. For instance, you can pay just 7,500 LifeMiles to fly from Boston to Cincinnati. However, United’s asking price is much higher, at 12,500 MileagePlus miles for the same flights.

In many ways, this is similar to how you can use British Airways Avios to redeem for domestic travel on American Airlines. I personally love that a one-way flight between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which could cost upwards of $500, would cost just 7,500 Avios. However, unlike British Airways, which charges per segment, LifeMiles prices its awards based on origin and destination only. In other words, you can make connections with LifeMiles without otherwise increasing the cost of the award. 

LifeMiles is Changing Award Costs for Domestic Travel within the US

Today, LifeMiles has announced that they will be changing the cost for domestic award travel within the continental US. 

Currently, domestic awards run between 7,500 to 12,500 LifeMiles each way, plus a flat $25 in award fees, depending on the origin and destination. Starting July 15, 2019, the cost will go from 6,500 to 13,500 LifeMiles each way, with an award fee that ranges from $10 to $25. 

This is very likely a result of United’s recent announcement to price award travel dynamically. I think LifeMiles will still be pricing awards based on city pairs (i.e. not distance or cash cost), but expanding the range of prices allows them more granularity in assigning award “zones.”

LifeMiles Pricing Chart Anomalies?

I will note that LifeMiles did publish a chart filled with examples of routes that will go up and down in price. However, I can’t for the life of me figure out any hard and fast rule that can help predict the cost for other city pairs. I honestly think some of the information on the chart are plain mistakes. For example, the current price for Washington-Dulles (IAD) to San Francisco (SFO) is listed as 12,500 LifeMiles outbound, but 10,500 inbound? Meanwhile, the current price for Washington-National (DCA) to Chicago (ORD) is listed as 8,000 LifeMiles one-way, which is not even a published price bucket.

I think we will have to wait until the new pricing go live to see what the effect of these changes are.

Examples of Changes in Award Cost with LifeMiles' Upcoming Changes

Examples of Changes in Award Cost with LifeMiles’ Upcoming Changes

Accumulating More LifeMiles

American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Venture Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy can all be transferred to Avianca LifeMiles. For AMEX, transfers are at a 1:1 ratio. See if you’ve been targeted for the 100,000 point sign up offer on the Platinum Card by American Express (with the CardMatch tool). For Venture Rewards, the Capital One Venture Rewards Card is another solid option that offers 50,000 miles as an initial sign up offer.

The Upshot

Given the examples LifeMiles provided, it would appear that LifeMiles will continue to price awards based solely on origin/destination pairs, but with a wider range of award cost. I am happy to see that award fees will only be going down, not up (the new scheme maxes out at $25, while the previous chart charges a flat $25 for all flights).

My big fear is that LifeMiles might start charging per segment, à la British Airways. However, I honestly don’t think their system is even capable of doing that (at least not yet 😜), and would run counter to the rest of their award chart.

Ultimately, though, I think it is too early to tell what the true “award chart” will look like before the new pricing kicks in. If you are eyeing a domestic ticket, it’s probably not unreasonable to lock in the current pricing now, unless it is on the list of examples that is going down in price.

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