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Avianca’s frequent flyer program, LifeMiles, is a program many people love to hate. Yes, there is a somewhat quirky web interface, hard to reach customer service and often the program doesn’t show the same award space as other Star Alliance partners. But, and this is a huge “but”, the program has some huge advantages and if you are willing to put up with some inconveniences, you can often get great value redemptions.  

Let’s look at how you can get to Europe on a nonstop flight for just 35,00 miles one-way in business class. 

No Airline Surcharges

LifeMiles doesn’t pass on carrier imposed surcharges that could often be many hundreds of dollars. If you book awards on some Star Alliance partners, like Austrian and Lufthansa, through other frequent flyer programs (ANA, Miles&Smiles) you’ll have to pay huge surcharges. We are talking about $200-$300 for economy tickets and $500 and more for business class. 

I’ve heard an argument of, oh but you are getting to fly for free, so what’s a couple hundred dollars, but I disagree with this way of thinking for a couple of reasons. One, nothing is free. Earning points has its opportunity costs and points have monetary value, so they aren’t exactly “free”. Secondly, you can often find great deals on tickets to Europe that are barely more expensive than the surcharges.

Keep in mind that there’s a $25 non-refundable Star Alliance booking fee, even if you book your ticket online. 

LifeMiles Are Easy to Earn

LifeMiles is a transfer partner of four major transferable currencies: American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles and Marriott Bonvoy. Membership Rewards, ThankYou points and Capital One miles transfer 1:1 and Marriott points transfer 3:1. 

Moreover, there are often frequent transfer bonuses offered either by LifeMiles itself or by the credit cards so you can get even more value out of your credit card points. For example, right now LifeMiles has a 25% bonus promotion for Capital One cardholders. A few days ago I transferred some Amex Membership Rewards points with a 15% bonus (this promotion has expired). 

Transfer from Capital One miles to LifeMiles

LifeMiles also often sells miles with huge bonuses. You can purchase enough miles to fly to Europe one-way in business class for about $900. And because LifeMiles is the seller, the points purchase will code as an airline transaction. If you use a card that earns 3X or 5X on airline purchases, you’ll also earn a good chunk of points. 

It’s usually not a good practice to buy or transfer points speculatively, but if you have a redemption in mind, this is a great way to stretch your points. 

One-way to Europe in Business Class for 35,000 Miles

At this point you might be thinking, way to bury the lead, Anna, but I wanted to show you first why LifeMiles deserves more attention. But yes, it’s possible to book one-way business class to Europe, namely Lisbon, Portugal, for just 35,000 miles. You’ll pay that much for an economy award with other programs, such as United or Aeroplan. 

This rate is only available for New York, JFK to Lisbon, Portugal nonstop flights on TAP Air Portugal. 

Flight details
Book one-way in business class from New York (JFK) to Lisbon (LIS) for just 35,000 LifeMiles.

Booking out of neighboring Newark (EWR)? That’ll run you 63,000 miles one-way.

While pricing from JFK is 35,000 miles, pricing from nearby Newark (EWR) clocks in at 63,000 LifeMiles.

This is one of those niche redemptions that might or might not be useful to you, depending on where you are located in the U.S. and how much money or how many points you’ll need to spend to get to JFK. If you add a domestic connection, or want to travel beyond Lisbon, the price will jump to what LifeMiles usually charges for the U.S. to Europe flights.  

My home airport doesn’t have a lot of flights to JFK, so the flights could get quite expensive and it’s hard for me to get to JFK with points and miles because of very limited available award space. Add to this the hustle of going through security twice, rechecking a bag and all the uncertainty involved with making my connection, and this option starts to look far less attractive. 

Also, if you’ve already been to Portugal, or aren’t interested in going to Lisbon, you’ll have to add a cost of intra Europe travel into the equation. 

However, Portugal is such a beautiful country and is well worth a visit (or two), and if you can get to JFK inexpensively, that’s a great way to cross the Atlantic in comfort. And if you took advantage of a transfer bonus, then this deal is even more enticing! 

Other Ways to Fly to Europe Cheaply with LifeMiles 

LifeMiles is a program full of quirks. My favorite trick to saving miles is to book a combination of short economy segments and long haul business class segments. The standard award price of a one-way business class ticket to Europe is 63,000 miles, but if you, like me, live near a secondary airport, you can knock off a few thousand miles because the short flights will be in economy.  

Flight details

56,030 miles isn’t as good as 35,000 miles, but if I wanted to fly from my home airport and Lisbon wasn’t where I wanted to go, this would be a great deal. 

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t been paying much attention to LifeMiles, definitely give it another look. It certainly has its flaws but it also offers a lot of value for savvy travelers. 35,000 miles for a one-way business class to Europe is more than reasonable, especially if you consider all the frequent transfer bonuses and points sales.