As the year draws to a close, I’m trying to wind down for the next few days. But I am also taking this time to reflect on my travels this year and plan out travels for the coming year. And my advice is, if you do not have an account with Avianca’s LifeMiles program, you should get one now.
Avianca is a South American airlines recent entrant to the Star Alliance, namely in June 2012, and their award chart is a very reasonable one for those who would want to fly premium cabins. Star Alliance has multiple airlines flying out of India, namely Thai, Singapore Airlines, United, Swiss, Lufthansa, Austrian, South Africa Airways, amongst others. A lot of these airlines have good premium cabin products. And love it or hate it, our own Air India might just be in the alliance soon enough.
Now while Avianca does not fly into India, we can still signup for their loyalty program. Why would you want to do that?
- Have a look at the award chart. I find it very reasonable to be able to fly India to Europe in a Star Alliance carrier in First Class for 145,000 miles for a round trip ticket, or 115,000 for Business Class if that is good enough. And one way awards are available as well.
- This carrier ain’t in the Eastern Hemisphere, and they don’t charge a fuel surcharge on the flight bookings. So, I could easily save a few 100$ which is spent while booking on British Airways Avios, Jet Airways JP Miles, Singapore Airlines and others
- They seem to have access to inventory that other airlines don’t offer, such as LH F.
- Frequent sales for buying miles, when you can buy miles at 30$ per 2000 miles. With this, your cost per mile is real low (i.e., 1.5 Cents = 92 paise). And these qualify as airline purchases so on a certain credit card issued in India (my favourite one), you can actually earn 10 miles / Rs 100 spent as well. However, to participate in these sales, you need to be a member prior to the sale being announced.
- The awards they can book are all available online.
There are a few cons as well of dealing with them:
- The award booking engine is buggy, and also does not allow mixed cabin bookings. So you got to choose a single cabin (economy, business or first) all the way through to your destination.
- They might just wake up one day and decide to bump up the award chart like they did last year a couple of times.
- You don’t get a flight connection when the layover is more than 8 hours.
But to be able to buy miles at less than one Rupee and being able to spend them on award tickets that cost way more than that is to me worth the effort.