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Avianca’s LifeMiles program 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. 

The latest sale allows members to redeem for Star Alliance flights to/from and within Asia with up to a 31% discount. You’ll need to redeem by October 18, 2019, but your flights can occur beyond that.

The discounted awards are valid only on certain routes and city pairs. The discount routes from North America to Asia are the following:

  • Chicago (ORD) to Taipei (TPE) — 15% off business class
  • Houston (IAH) to Taipei — 15% off business class
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG), Seoul (ICN), Shanghai (PVG) and Taipei — up to 15% off business class and up to 10% off economy
  • New York (JFK) to Beijing (PEK) — 10% off first class
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong and Taipei — up to 15% off business class and 10% off economy
  • Seattle (SEA) to Taipei — 15% off business class and 10% off economy
  • Washington D.C. (IAD) to Beijing — 10% off first and business class
  • Toronto (YYZ) to Shanghai — 10% off business class
  • Vancouver (YVR) to Beijing and Taipei — 10% off business class and economy

There are four routes discounted between Europe and Taipei (TPE):

  • Amsterdam (AMS) to Taipei — 15% off business class
  • London Heathrow (LHR) to Taipei — 10% off business class
  • Paris (CDG) to Taipei — 10% off business class
  • Vienna (VIE) to Taipei — 15% off business class

And there are 11 intra-Asia routes that are discounted up to 31% in business class and 27% in economy:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.

The maximum 31% discount only applies to business class awards between Bangkok (BKK) and Seoul (ICN), which will bring the cost to 25,000 miles one-way instead of 36,000 miles each way.

The discounts vary by route and class of service, and there can be variances in the discount between classes of service on the same route. You should see the discount automatically applied in the search results on the Lifemiles website.

For example, Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) is discounted 15% in business class but only 7% in economy class. These discounts reduce awards on this route to 64,000 LifeMiles for business class (down from 75,000 miles) and 32,500 LifeMiles for economy (down from 35,000 miles). And, you can fly either EVA Air through Taipei or Air China through Beijing to get to Hong Kong.

Airline products you can fly

Avianca doesn’t actually operate any of the routes on sale, you’ll be flying on its Star Alliance partners like Air China or EVA Air. You can book products like Air China’s first class suite to Beijing on the following routes:

  • Washington DC (IAD) to Beijing (PEK): 81,000 miles each way (10% discount)
  • New York Kennedy (JFK) to Beijing (PEK): 81,000 miles each way (10% discount)
(Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

Or you can fly in business class on Air China — including on at least the following routes:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai (PVG): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • Toronto (YYZ) to Shanghai (PVG): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • Vancouver (YVR) to Beijing (PEK): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • Washington Dulles (IAD) to Beijing (PEK): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)

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

(Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)

EVA Air’s business class on flights to Taipei are also discounted — including at least the following route options from the US and Canada:

  • Chicago (ORD) to Taipei (TPE): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • Houston (IAH) to Taipei (TPE): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Taipei (TPE): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) via Taipei: 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) via Taipei: 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Taipei (TPE): 67,500 miles each way (10% discount)
  • Seattle (SEA) to Taipei (TPE): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • Vancouver (YVR) to Taipei (TPE): 67,500 miles each way (10% discount)

And on (at least) the following routes from Europe:

  • Amsterdam (AMS) to Taipei (TPE): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
  • London Heathrow (LHR) to Taipei (TPE): 67,500 miles each way (10% discount)
  • Paris (CDG) to Taipei (TPE): 67,500 miles each way (10% discount)
  • Vienna (VIE) to Taipei (TPE): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)
f (Photo by Alberto RIva / The Points Guy)

You can fly Asiana business class on flights to Seoul on at least the following route:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN): 64,000 miles each way (15% discount)

There’s likely plenty of other route options that route via Seoul, so make sure to check your routing options.

(Photo by Emily McNutt / The Points Guy)

While it’s possible to fly United’s Polaris business class to Asia through this sale, we were unable to find any award availability on United metal on the discounted routes. However, if availability appears before the sale ends, you should be able to score a discounted award.

Your odds of flying in the "real" Polaris seat keep getting better as United retrofits more of its fleet.
United Polaris business class on the airline’s 777-200. 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). 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. The program just launched a new sale which allows members to buy LifeMiles with up to a 145% bonus. By pairing the buy miles promotion with this award sale, you could effectively buy a first class flight to Beijing for under $1,100 in purchased miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. These first class flights normally cost $8,000+ one-way.

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 points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve will earn 3x Ultimate Reward points per dollar.

If you’re playing the long game with LifeMiles, you can earn 60,000 bonus LifeMiles with the Avianca Vuela Visa Card when you apply by September 30, 2019 using promo code “SB4060” and spend $1,000 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 of Air China’s 747-8 business class by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

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