Last chance: Fly United Polaris to Europe for 39k Citi points, dozens of other awards at up to 43% off

Dec 9, 2019

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Just before Thanksgiving, Avianca’s LifeMiles program put dozens of routes to/from the U.S. on sale at up to 43% off of LifeMiles’ already reasonable redemption rates. And, if you haven’t booked yet, today — Monday, December 9 — is the last day to take advantage of these incredible redemptions.

With this sale, domestic U.S. flights on United are pricing as low as 4,500 miles each way. You can fly to Central America for just 10,000 miles one-way in economy or 18,000 in business class. Flights to Lima, Peru are pricing as low as 14,000 miles in economy or 26,000 in business class. And you can fly business class to Europe from 48,000 miles or to Asia for 56,500 miles each way.

If I didn’t have confirmation from LifeMiles about this sale, I might assume that this award sale was too good to be true — especially as this sale is being run at the same time as a 25% transfer bonus from Citi.

If you’re new to Avianca’s LifeMiles program, it’s worth getting to know. LifeMiles is a great way of scoring Star Alliance awards for cheap. Aside from reasonable redemption rates, easy ways to accumulate miles and no fuel surcharges, it offers somewhat regular promotions — both for buying miles and booking awards.

Let’s break down this award sale by region:

In This Post

Discounted domestic U.S. routes

Here are the 18 domestic U.S. routes that are discounted between 10% and 33% in economy. All of these are valid in either direction:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
Between And Standard Rate Discount Rate Discount
Boston (BOS) Newark (EWR) 6,500 4,500 -31%
Newark (EWR) Pittsburgh (PIT) 6,500 4,500 -31%
Las Vegas (LAS) Los Angeles (LAX) 6,500 4,500 -31%
Las Vegas (LAS) San Francisco (SFO) 6,500 4,500 -31%
Atlanta (ATL) Newark (EWR) 7,500 5,000 -33%
Cleveland (CLE) Newark (EWR) 6,500 5,000 -23%
Cleveland (CLE) New York LaGuardia (LGA) 6,500 5,000 -23%
Washingon National (DCA) Chicago O’Hare (ORD) 7,500 5,000 -33%
Detroit (DTW) Newark (EWR) 6,500 5,000 -23%
Newark (EWR) Chicago O’Hare (ORD) 7,500 5,000 -33%
New York LaGuardia (LGA) Chicago O’Hare (ORD) 7,500 5,000 -33%
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) Philadelphia (PHL) 7,500 5,000 -33%
San Francisco (SFO) Orange County (SNA) 6,500 5,000 -23%
Los Angeles (LAX) San Francisco (SFO) 6,500 5,500 -15%
San Diego (SAN) San Francisco (SFO) 6,500 5,500 -15%
Seattle (SEA) San Francisco (SFO) 7,500 5,500 -27%
Houston (IAH) Chicago O’Hare (ORD) 10,000 9,000 -10%
Houston (IAH) San Francisco (SFO) 12,500 10,000 -20%

The cheapest routes and biggest discounts are on some short hops — like between Boston and Newark for 4,500 miles each way and between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Some of the longer routes that jump out to me as solid options are Newark (EWR) to Atlanta (ATL) for 5,000 miles each way:

Flights from Washington National (DCA) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) for 5,000 miles:

And Newark (EWR) to Chicago O’Hare for 5,000 miles:

Central and South America routes

There are eight routes from the U.S. to Central and South America starting at just 10,000 miles one-way in economy or 18,000 miles in business class:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
Between And Cabin Standard Rate Discount Rate Discount
Miami (MIA) Panamá City (PTY) Economy 17,500 10,000 -43%
Miami (MIA) Panamá City (PTY) Business 30,000 18,000 -40%
Miami (MIA) Lima (LIM) Economy 20,000 14,000 -30%
Orlando (MCO) Medellín (MDE) Business 35,000 24,500 -30%
Orlando (MCO) Medellín (MDE) Economy 20,000 14,000 -30%
Miami (MIA) Lima (LIM) Business 35,000 26,000 -26%
Houston (IAH) Lima (LIM) Economy 20,000 16,000 -20%
Las Vegas (LAS) Medellín (MDE) Business 35,000 28,000 -20%
New Orleans (MSY) Tegucigalpa (TGU) Business 30,000 24,000 -20%
New Orleans (MSY) Tegucigalpa (TGU) Economy 17,500 14,000 -20%
Houston (IAH) Lima (LIM) Business 35,000 30,000 -14%
Las Vegas (LAS) San José (SJO) Economy 17,500 15,000 -14%
Las Vegas (LAS) San José (SJO) Business 36,000 31,000 -14%
Las Vegas (LAS) Bogotá (BOG) Business 35,000 31,500 -10%
Las Vegas (LAS) Bogotá (BOG) Economy 20,000 18,000 -10%

One of the attractive options here is to book a nonstop business class flight from Miami (MIA) to Panama City (PTY) for just 18,000 LifeMiles one-way — or just 14,400 transferred Citi ThankYou points:

Or, you can fly business class to Lima, Peru (LIM) for 26,000 LifeMiles:

Europe routes

New York City is blessed with seven discounted routes to Europe and Tel Aviv starting at 18,000 miles each way in economy or 48,000 miles in business class. Here are the routes:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
Between And Cabin Standard Rate Discount Rate Discount
Newark (EWR) London Heathrow (LHR) Economy 20,000 18,000 -10%
Newark (EWR) Tel Aviv (TLV) Economy 42,500 30,000 -29%
Newark (EWR) London Heathrow (LHR) Business 60,000 48,000 -20%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Budapest (BUD) Business 63,000 50,500 -20%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Frankfurt (FRA) Business 63,000 50,500 -20%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Zurich (ZRH) Business 63,000 50,500 -20%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Geneva (GVA) Business 63,000 52,500 -17%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Vienna (VIE) Business 63,000 54,000 -14%
Newark (EWR) Tel Aviv (TLV) Business 78,000 55,000 -29%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Tel Aviv (TLV) Business 78,000 66,500 -15%

The best option on here for most travelers is going to be on the nonstop between Newark (EWR) and London Heathrow (LHR) for just 18,000 miles in economy or 48,000 miles in business class:

That means you can try out United’s “high-J” Polaris product for just 38,400 Citi ThankYou points transferred during the ongoing 25% transfer bonus.

The Polaris cabin on a United high-J 767. Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.
The Polaris cabin on a United high-J 767. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.)

Asia routes

There are also 18 routes discounted up to 25% off between the U.S. and Asia:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
Between And Cabin Standard Rate Discount Rate Discount
Los Angeles (LAX) Seoul (ICN) Economy 35,000 31,500 -10%
Seattle (SEA) Taipei (TPE) Economy 35,000 31,500 -10%
San Francisco (SFO) Hong Kong (HKG) Economy 35,000 31,500 -10%
Vancouver (YVR) Taipei (TPE) Economy 35,000 31,500 -10%
Los Angeles (LAX) Hong Kong (HKG) Economy 35,000 32,500 -7%
Los Angeles (LAX) Taipei (TPE) Economy 35,000 33,000 -6%
San Francisco (SFO) Seoul (ICN) Business 75,000 56,500 -25%
Los Angeles (LAX) Seoul (ICN) Business 75,000 60,000 -20%
Los Angeles (LAX) Tokyo Narita (NRT) Business 75,000 60,000 -20%
Seattle (SEA) Taipei (TPE) Business 75,000 62,500 -17%
Houston (IAH) Taipei (TPE) Business 75,000 64,000 -15%
Los Angeles (LAX) Hong Kong (HKG) Business 75,000 64,000 -15%
Los Angeles (LAX) Beijing (PEK) Business 75,000 64,000 -15%
Los Angeles (LAX) Shanghai (PVG) Business 75,000 64,000 -15%
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) Taipei (TPE) Business 75,000 64,000 -15%
San Francisco (SFO) Hong Kong (HKG) Business 75,000 64,000 -15%
San Francisco (SFO) Taipei (TPE) Business 75,000 64,000 -15%
Washington Dulles (IAD) Beijing (PEK) Business 75,000 67,500 -10%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Seoul (ICN) Business 75,000 67,500 -10%
Los Angeles (LAX) Taipei (TPE) Business 75,000 67,500 -10%
Vancouver (YVR) Beijing (PEK) Business 75,000 67,500 -10%
Vancouver (YVR) Taipei (TPE) Business 75,000 67,500 -10%
Vancouver (YVR) Shanghai (PVG) Business 75,000 67,500 -10%
Los Angeles (LAX) Seoul (ICN) First 90,000 72,000 -20%
Los Angeles (LAX) Tokyo Narita (NRT) First 90,000 72,000 -20%
Washington Dulles (IAD) Beijing (PEK) First 90,000 81,000 -10%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Seoul (ICN) First 90,000 81,000 -10%
New York Kennedy (JFK) Beijing (PEK) First 90,000 81,000 -10%
Los Angeles (LAX) Beijing (PEK) First 90,000 81,000 -10%

The economy award discounts only max out at 10% off for an award price of 31,500. That’s not especially good considering the number of cheap economy fares you can find between the U.S. and Asia.

However, there are some solid business class discounts like 56,500 LifeMiles one-way between San Francisco (SFO) and Seoul (ICN). That’s just 45,200 Citi ThankYou points:

And there’s pretty good award availability on this route next spring:

You can also fly Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN) or Tokyo Narita (NRT) for just 60,000 LifeMiles — or just 48,000 Citi ThankYou points — each way.

If you book to — or route through — Beijing or Shanghai on Air China’s 747-8, make sure to grab seats either in the nose or on the upper deck.

The nose of Air China’s Boeing 747-8. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.)

For flights to or through Taipei (TPE), check out EVA Air’s solid business class product.

EVA Air’s business class (Photo by Alberto RIva / The Points Guy.)

In first class, you can book products like Air China’s first class suite between Washington Dulles (IAD), New York Kennedy (JFK) or Los Angeles (LAX) to Beijing (PEK) for 81,000 LifeMiles each way.

Air China First Class (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.)

Boosting your Avianca LifeMiles balance

If you’re short LifeMiles, you can instantly transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards (1:1), Capital One miles (2:1.5) or Citi ThankYou Points (1:1) — which currently has a 25% transfer bonus. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 points, and transfers take around 24 hours to complete.

Another option is to purchase LifeMiles. Unfortunately, the incredible 150% buy LifeMiles promotion has ended, but you can still top off your account with miles if needed. To stretch your savings even further, you’ll want to use a credit card that offers a high return on airline spending since LifeMiles purchases are directly processed by Avianca. The Platinum Card® from American Express will earn 5x Membership Rewards points, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve will earn 3x Ultimate Reward points per dollar.

If you’re playing the long game with LifeMiles, you can 40,000 bonus LifeMiles with the Avianca Vuela Visa Card after you make a purchase with the card in the first 90 days of account opening. Also, you can get LifeMiles for as cheap as 1.35 cents each by subscribing to Club LifeMiles for an entire year.

Featured image by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

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