Ready to Book: International First Class Trips from $2,283 (Normally $21,144+) through December Ninth, Business Class Even Less

Ready to Book: International First Class Trips from $2,283 (Normally $21,144+) through December Ninth, Business Class Even Less


A new buy-miles discount, plus an award discount. When stacked up it’s an approach worth a fresh look—but ends Dec 9.

LifeMiles is the loyalty program of Colombia-based Avianca, a Star Alliance member. It is also a new Amex Rewards member.

This relatively unique and obscure loyalty program can get you amazing access to its 29 partners, including All Nippon, Lufthansa, Singapore, and United.

You DO NOT have to fly frequently with Avianca to enjoy the many LifeMiles booking opportunities. As with many FCF strategies, the value lies in the partner opportunities, and buying your way into airline mileage award redemptions.


The key to using the program lies in understanding that LifeMiles is a miles seller and does it in more than one way. While the retail price per mile is 3.3¢, the LifeMiles program regularly offers a 100% to 140% bonus on purchases. The current deal has them at a price of 1.46¢, and you can buy 200,000 yearly. (For more on How to Get Around Buying Miles Maximum Limits, go here.)

Note that the buying bonus deal only applies to current LifeMiles members. Become a member now and be ready for the next sale because they come up every couple months more or less.


  1. LifeMiles offers one-way awards at 50% of the round-trip cost. Getting the outbound and return with the dates and departure times that you can live with and with the degree of comfort you’re after is not always easy. In fact, a mathematician would tell you that the odds of getting two ideal flights are exponentially more difficult than getting just one, through just one program, as opposed to have multiple options.

That’s why we at FCF frequently turn to one-way awards. Simply put, they increase the chances of getting a First or Business Class seat at a lower award-cost level. In other words, you might just book a one-way with LifeMiles and use its partner airlines, and another one-way through American, British Airways, or any other program offering one-way awards. For more on why you should consider booking two one-way flights versus a round-trip, go here.

  1. Searching for availability using LifeMiles can be done online: Getting an account takes just a few minutes.

Then under “Use,” click on “Airlines” and search by all Star Alliance airlines or one particular airline, like United or All Nippon, just by clicking on the drop-down menu. The search can be done round-trip or one-way.

Two drawbacks to the LifeMiles search tool for award space, when compared to some other airline websites, are that you cannot filter by class of service or nonstop flights. So, you need to click on any dates that come up with an award amount in the calendar to see what class of service is offered and the routing.

On the positive side, LifeMiles will show how many seats are available in the calendar view. The example screenshot below shows flights with All Nippon as having two seats available in First Class.

If you want to search by a certain airline and route, say United for example, you might start your search on the operating airline’s own mileage program. Let’s say you want to fly Houston-Frankfurt in February 2019. Check United’s availability at to get an idea of dates that could be booked with LifeMiles, as they are sometimes similar. After you find something that works for you, go to to get an idea of the cost in miles and availability.

  1. Often no fuel taxes, meaning lower taxes/cash paid: In general, our research found that LifeMiles award tickets also have little or no fuel surcharges, which can often run $1,000+ with other carriers. The screenshot below is on the New York-Munich route flying Lufthansa. The LifeMiles mileage award cost for one-way is 63,000 miles and only $30 in taxes. That same ticket booked with Lufthansa would cost 52,000 miles and $577 in award taxes. LifeMiles charges $547 (95%) less in taxes.


Because airlines would rather have your cash than your miles—even on a mileage award ticket—some are making the cash/miles mix a much better deal than paying all in miles.

LifeMiles is similar to BA’s Avios & Money program. In effect, the airline wants more cash, and will reduce the number of miles required to get into your wallet.

Good deal gets better: LifeMiles’ “Miles + Money” option allows you to bring down the price for an award ticket—in miles—by paying more in cash. But you need to have 40% of the miles required for a mileage award ticket in order to use this option.

In effect, it’s adjusting the gears to give you optimum “torque” for more comfortable travel at a huge discount.


Miles + Money benefit #1: This program nuance can often cut down the cost per mile, as you can “buy down” the number of miles required, at close to the cost of when miles are on sale.

Miles + Money benefit #2: By being able to buy up to 60% of the miles needed—at time of booking—it significantly reduces the number of miles you need to stockpile in advance through direct purchases. No U.S. airline offers this feature.

Think of this as a new way to purchase an airline ticket: not only with miles (you do not need to have any to start out in this case), but also by paying-down the number of miles required by paying more in cash.

We simply haven’t been trained to think this way.

Example of how Miles + Money works: Staying with the New York-Munich route flying Lufthansa, United currently charges 140,000 miles plus $105 round-trip. A straight mileage redemption on LifeMiles costs 126,000 miles plus $85 in taxes. Not much of an advantage there.

But push the “More Money” button when you are searching for flights on (or ask a reservations agent) and the miles required decreases. Increase the cash cost to $1,200 and the mileage cost goes down to 51,000—that’s 1.6¢ per mile. (The total cost including taxes and all fees is $1,285.) So, you are buying 75,000, at time of booking the award, for $1,200, or 1.6¢ per mile.

Example of how Miles + Money works in First Class: On the Houston-Tokyo route flying All Nippon, a straight mileage redemption on LifeMiles costs 180,000 miles plus $70 in taxes.

Push the “More Money” button and the cash cost increases to $1,821 (the total cost including taxes and all fees) and the mileage cost decreases to 72,000—that’s 1.6¢ per mile. A ticket with All Nippon will cost you $21,000 if paid by cash.

Other Star Alliance airlines that offer First Class from the U.S. are: Air China, Asiana, Lufthansa (booked within two weeks of departure when space opens), and sometimes Singapore.

To keep it simple, the best buy is to use the minimum 40% miles required in most cases, so you don’t have to whip out your calculator to save every last penny.

Even with the initial buy-in at 3¢ per mile, which you can cut in half by signing up for the program now, and pouncing on the next LifeMiles bonus promotion, this approach can be better than going through United when you don’t have miles required for an award.


This LifeMiles booking strategy represents a different way of thinking. Instead of comparing mileage award charts you’re comparing the price per mile of your ticket.


Cheap miles mean nothing if there’s no award space. Our research shows that LifeMiles has good award availability on many airlines, including even last-minute Business Class space on Singapore on the A380 LAX-Tokyo—inventory that is not even available through United for some reason.

Keep an eye on FCF’s newsroom for special Sweet Redeems alerts to use over the next week, before Dec. 9.

dynamic double-pairing nets 80% off First Class and 61% off Business Class Fares

Not only does LifeMiles currently have a great buy miles deal, but on top of that LifeMiles also added an award discount on certain routes from the U.S. to Asia for booking made now through Dec. 12 for Star Alliance partner airlines.

How good is the deal combo?

$2,283 for First Class travel: New York-Seoul flying Asiana costs 144,000 miles round-trip during the promotion period. The published First Class fare on Asiana starts as low as $11,506 round-trip; through the LifeMiles purchase and transfer strategies, you can pay $2,283 round-trip (includes $72 in award taxes; and in order to get 144,000 miles you would need to buy only 67,000 for $2,211), a savings of $9,223 (80%). (See chart below for award availability.)

$1,911 for Business Class travel: San Francisco-Taipei flying United costs 120,000 miles round-trip during the promotion period. The published Business Class fare on United starts as low as $4,916 round-trip; through the LifeMiles purchase and transfer strategies, you can pay $1,911 round-trip (includes $63 in award taxes; and in order to get 120,000 miles you would need to buy only 56,000 for $1,848), a savings of $3,005 (61%). (See chart below for award availability.)

Sweet Redeem Survey: Using LifeMiles and Flying Star Alliance Partners

AirlineClass of ServiceRoutesDiscounted LifeMiles Award Cost Round-tripLifeMiles You Need to BuyCost to Buy Miles During DealDepartReturn
4 to 8 Days Per Month9 to 12 Days Per Month13+ Days Per Month4 to 8 Days Per Month9 to 12 Days Per Month13+ Days Per Month
AsianaFirst ClassNew York - South Korea144,00067,000$2,211April, July, Aug., Oct.Aug., Sept.April, July through Oct.Aug., Sept.May, Oct.May, June, Sept., Oct.
UnitedBusiness ClassLos Angeles - Shanghai120,00056,000$1,848Dec., Jan., April, July, Sept.April, July, Sept.Dec., June, Aug., Sept.March through May, Sept.Oct.
UnitedBusiness ClassSan Francisco - Taipei120,00056,000$1,848JulyDec., March, Oct.Dec.
Eva AirBusiness ClassNew York - Taipei128,00060,000$1,980Oct.Aug., Sept., Nov.Nov.Sept. through Nov.
Eva AirBusiness ClassLos Angeles - Taipei120,00056,000$1,848Feb., April, June, Sept.March through MayOct., Nov.Feb. through April, MayMay, June through Nov.
Eva AirBusiness ClassSeattle - Taipei120,00056,000$1,848March, April, June through Sept.May, July, Sept.May, Aug., Oct., Nov.Dec., April, MayJuly, Aug.June,
Eva AirBusiness ClassSan Francisco - Taipei120,00056,000$1,848May, July, Aug.July, Nov.May, Aug., Sept., Oct. Nov.March, June., July, Aug.June, Aug.May, Sept. through Nov.
Months in black at least one seat available; in blue at least two seats; in green at least four seats.