If you’re sick and tired of reading about LifeMiles, rejoice – this is really going to be the last chapter in my Avianca series. I was going to call it quits with my previous installment, but with every new search, I kept finding more and more Avianca sweet spots. In all honesty, I’m starting to regret not paying attention to this program (not being a “career” travel hacker, you know) when things were really interesting, before most of the Avianca awesome hacks were killed.
On the other hand, we didn’t have any Avianca credit cards or transfer options back then. And we surely didn’t have any transfer bonuses (or transfers) from credit card programs. And while Avianca LifeMiles did have awesome award sales in the past, the current situation is truly unique, because right now we have a combination of the 25% Citi transfer bonus and the Avianca LifeMiles award sales that turns a good redemption into the kind of value that I call “unicorn-grade.”
But it’s not just that. The Avianca LifeMiles award sale only covers Asia, but it’s more than just Asia, as there are great values all over the globe. Before we go any further, let’s recap first. Here are a few Avianca sweet spots created by the Citi 25% transfer bonus (for traveling to/from the U.S. unless stated otherwise).
Avianca sweet spots in the Americas
- U.S. domestic – from 6,000 Citi points
- Colombia or Central America – from 12,000 Citi points
- Colombia in Business Class – from 27,000 Citi points
- Peru in Business Class – from 26,000 Citi points
- Brazil – from 40,000 Citi points
Avianca sweet spots to/from Europe
- Europe in Economy/Business/First – from 16,000/48,000/70,000 Citi points
Avianca sweet spots to/from Africa
- South Africa in Business Class – 63,000 Citi points
- South Africa from/to Israel in Business Class – 28,000 Citi points: obviously, not a U.S. route, but it’s too good not to mention (HT to Dans Deals)
Avianca sweets spots to/from Asia
- Asia in Business Class – from 60,000 Citi points
- Asia in First Class – from 72,000 Citi points
Note that these values don’t reflect the current LifeMiles award sale, which is also slated to last until December 12. If you take into account those sales, you can get values that are almost unreal.
Avianca Sweets spots to/from Asia (LifeMiles award sale)
- Asia in Business Class – from 48,000 Citi points
- Asia in First Class – from 58,000 Citi points
Avianca sweet spots to/from South Pacific and the rest of the world
- To/from anywhere else in Business Class – 64,000 Citi points
Avianca sweet spots using skiplagging
And then there is Skiplagging. Skiplagging is a the practice of throwing away the last leg(s) of your flight in order to save on airfare. It doesn’t often make sense for award travel, but as we’ve demonstrated in this series, it makes perfect sense with LifeMiles.
This is a bit more complex, so I really recommend reading Part 2 of my Avianca series more carefully, but here are a couple of great examples.
ANA First Class
If you fly directly to Japan in First Class, that’s going to cost you 90,000 miles or 72,000 Citi points (which is not too bad, I agree). But you can make it much better by booking a flight to Hong Kong via Tokyo and skipping the second leg between Tokyo and Hong Kong. That’s going to cost you 74,480 miles or 60,000 Citi points. Isn’t it great?
Lufthansa First Class with an added leg (not really skiplagging, but same math)
As I’ve said before, I don’t get why our fellow hobbyists are so obsessed with this Lufthansa First “experience” (perhaps I need to try it to find out 🙂 ), but adding another leg allows you to visit places other than Frankfurt or Munich and save a lot of miles in the process. You can fly directly between the U.S. and Munich or Frankfurt for 87,000 miles (which is a lot miles) or 68,000 Citi points (much better). But you can also fly from the U.S. to Reykjavik (with the second leg between Frankfurt and Reykjavik in Business Class) for 79,280 miles or just 64,000 Citi points. This would be an OK value even to me, and I’m quite miles-stingy as I’m sure you’re already aware.
Again, please read Part 2 of my series to find out if skiplagging is right for you, because there are some risks involved.
And now for something a little different
Alright, so since I simply can’t stop and love playing, I kept at it and found out a curious thing.
So we know that according to the LifeMiles chart, a Business Class award seat between LA and Singapore is on current award sale (14% discount), so subtract 14% from the regular redemption rate to South Asia, which is 78,000 miles, and you’ll arrive at 67,000 miles combined as stated in the screenshot below.
But then how do you explain the First Class pricing?
Am I reading it right? The first leg between LAX and Tokyo is 41,700 miles in Business Class and 43,530 miles in First. That makes the total cost for the flight (with the first leg in First Class) 68,830 miles, which is 1,830 miles more than flying both segments in Business. Does it make any sense to you? Me – no, but I’m not complaining. 🙂
I took it all way down to the payment screen, short of making an actual booking. Is it a bug that won’t ticket? I have no idea. All I know is that flying to Singapore for 68,830 miles (56,000 Citi points) with the Tokyo leg in First Class is beyond amazing!
If it works!
Noticed something else? Here is another screenshot that’s a little less busy.
That’s right! Skiplagging can get you to Tokyo for 61,310 miles or 50,000 Citi points.
50,000 Citi points for a First Class seat to Japan. Without any fuel surcharges. Insane!
Again – if it actually tickets!
But wait, there is more
Do you want to see something funny?
A Business Class seat is priced 100% correctly, at 78,000 miles (there are no current award sale discounts between New York and Singapore). First Class, on the other hand, is 3,590 miles less. Say what?
Like I said – funny!
By the way, Singapore is hardly the only ANA destination that exhibits similar anomalies. Here is New York to Bangkok via Tokyo.
And once again, First Class above is priced only 1,330 miles over Business.
Is it always the same way on the Bangkok route? No. I’ve tried multiple dates, and it seems only the morning flight NH9 has this, hmm, peculiarity, while the afternoon’s NH109 is priced correctly for both Business and First Class seats.
Why? I have no idea!
Like Frequent Miler, I also feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface (once again, read his excellent piece to better understand how skiplagging and Avianca’s mixed award pricing work). But suffice it to say, Avianca LifeMiles offers a lot of opportunities to anyone who’s crazy enough to spend hours researching their options. And because it’s so gamable, I’ve done something I rarely do – I’ve transferred all my remaining Citi ThankYou points to LifeMiles speculatively despite not having any redemptions in mind. After this and my last transfer to Virgin Atlantic, I now have only a few hundred Citi points left.
Now come to think about it, Avianca has also been selling miles like crazy recently at a huge discount; why would they be doing that, hmm…? You think, something might be coming?
Photo by: Joao Carlos Medau