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Book Now: United Flights Pricing From 3,500 Miles via Avianca LifeMiles

May 16, 2019
6 min read
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United sent shock waves through the frequent flyer world last month when it announced that it would be removing award charts in a full-on shift to dynamic award pricing. However, there are still ways to book United award flights using other Star Alliance award charts and mileage currencies, and this morning, we're seeing some phenomenal deals through one such program: Avianca LifeMiles.

Under the carrier's Star Alliance award chart, you can redeem LifeMiles for United-operated flights starting at just 7,500 miles each way, depending on the cities from which you are departing and arriving. The carrier will be changing this scheme slightly as of July 15, 2019, but the online chart still reflects the current pricing. For whatever reason, we're seeing certain flights pricing at less than half the posted amount, even on longer routes that cross regions.

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RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Avianca LifeMiles

For example, award flights from Houston (IAH) to Denver (DEN) are pricing at 3,500 miles.

Return flights from DEN-IAH are slightly higher but still a bargain at just 4,500 miles.

These prices don't seem to be a limited-time offer either, as I'm seeing them throughout the rest of 2019 and into 2020. In fact, you could take a family of four on a week-long ski trip to Colorado in February for a total of 32,000 LifeMiles plus $44.80 in taxes and fees (note that the $11.20 below is per passenger).

This sample itinerary is as follows:

  • Saturday February 8: United Flight 825 from IAH-DEN (departs 4:33pm, arrives 6:10pm)
  • Saturday February 15: United Flight 1184 from DEN-IAH (departs 5:30pm, arrives 8:50pm)

I've verified that this isn't phantom award space, as United.com is showing the same flights available at the saver level (but for 12,500 miles each way). And if you wanted to purchase this four-person itinerary outright with cash? That would set you back over $1,400.

In this example, redeeming 32,000 LifeMiles gives you a stunning redemption value of 4.38 cents per point, over two and a half times TPG's most recent valuation of LifeMiles.

This isn't the only route that's pricing lower than what you'd expect from Avianca's Star Alliance award chart. We've run dozens of searches from various United hubs and found the following one-way award rates through LifeMiles:

  • San Francisco (SFO) to Portland (PDX): 6,000 miles (normally 7,500 miles)
  • Houston (IAH) to New Orleans (MSY): 6,000 miles (normally 7,500 miles)
  • Houston (IAH) to Los Angeles (LAX): 6,000 miles (normally 12,500 miles)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Salt Lake City (SLC): 7,000 miles (normally 7,500 miles)
  • Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Boston (BOS): 7,000 miles (normally 7,500 miles)
  • Denver (DEN) to Des Moines (DSM): 8,000 miles (normally 10,000 miles)
  • Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Philadelphia (PHL): 8,000 miles normally 10,000 miles)
  • Houston (IAH) to Seattle (SEA): 8,000 miles (normally 12,500 miles)
  • Houston (IAH) to San Francisco (SFO): 11,000 miles (normally 12,500 miles)

Most of these flights are not only pricing lower than they should with LifeMiles; they're also well below what United would charge through its MileagePlus program for the same award flights. For example, SFO-PDX is displaying as 10,000 United miles each way for most of the summer, as is ORD-PHL. Nonstop flights from IAH-SEA, meanwhile, are typically 12,500 United miles, so using 8,000 LifeMiles can be a terrific discount, especially when multiplied out over multiple travelers.

That being said, there are many routes that are still pricing at the expected award rates, and I haven't been able to uncover a pattern to these prices. You are also relying on saver award availability from United, which is far from consistent on some routes. It appears that certain shorter flights within a single US region (as defined by the LifeMiles award chart) are dropping by either 500 or 1,500 miles, while ones that cross a region are dropping by 1,500 miles to 6,500 miles.

And I simply have no explanation for the IAH-DEN pricing, a route that should cost 12,500 LifeMiles each way.

Since the pricing appears to be all over the place, you'll definitely want to check your desired route(s), and be sure to compare the rates you see through LifeMiles with those offered by United. United's dynamic award pricing can be devastating to those looking to travel internationally in premium cabins, but it can offer some low mileage rates for those booking within the US.

Earning Avianca Miles

Even if you don't have any LifeMiles in your account right now, you may have access to lots of them, as the currency is among the easiest to earn. You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou Rewards to LifeMiles. This means that those with cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, the American Express® Gold Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Citi Premier® Card (among others) can transfer points to LifeMiles.

In addition, the LifeMiles program frequently offers sales or bonuses on purchased miles, like the current offer of up to a 125% bonus. This can be a great way to quickly pick up a large number of LifeMiles at relatively affordable rates, and while those can be most valuable for awards like Lufthansa first class, booking these lower rates on United-operated flights could be a great option, too. Just keep in mind that since we don't know why these awards are pricing at a lower than normal rate, we also don't know when this "sale" will end.

We'd also love to hear additional data points, so feel free to share your findings below.

Featured image by (Photo by Jason Leung via Unsplash)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases