About a week ago, Leana reported in the Weekly News Recap about new short-haul award zones in the U.S. with Avianca LifeMiles as mentioned in this post by LoyaltyLobby. This news really peaked my interest, and I decided to see if this new development is a reason for me to start collecting Avianca LifeMiles.
Why is this a big deal?
Avianca is a Colombian airline that is part of the Star Alliance. Therefore, you can use Avianca LifeMiles to book award flights on United since it is also part of the Star Alliance.
Recently, Avianca announced a change in its mileage requirements for Star Alliance partner awards. It split the U.S. (and Europe) into three zones, and travel within the same zone is only 7500 LifeMiles each way. You can see the zones here.
I live in Texas, which is in Zone 2. Other states in my zone include Minnesota, Tennessee, Florida and more. Wait, did somebody say FLORIDA? The wonderful state my family travels to at least once a year for the beach, Disney World or a Disney Cruise?!?!?!?! I’m in!
British Airways also has short-haul flights for 7500 Avios, but you have to fly direct to get that low-level mileage price. These short-haul flights on Avianca allow flights with layovers.
My husband and I are both over 5/24 and have no great options to stock up on Southwest points, other than ongoing spending on my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve and my Chase Ink. Using our AA miles is more expensive at 12,500 miles each way. So, another cheaper award route to Florida is very appealing!
Let’s do the math
The Avianca Vuela Visa card (direct link, not in our affiliate network) from Banco Popular de Puerto Rico offers 40,000 bonus LifeMiles after the first purchase. The card used to have a promo code you could enter for an additional 20,000 LifeMiles (so 60,000 total), but that code expired in the last few days. Bummer!
The card has an annual fee of $149 that is not waived the first year. While that is high, keep in mind that you don’t have to put a lot of spending on the card to get the bonus LifeMiles. You just need to make one purchase.
My family of five needs 75,000 Lifemiles for five round-trip tickets from Dallas to Orlando (7500 miles each way). So my husband and I would both need to apply for and be approved for the Avianca Vuela Visa card. The cost for two annual fees is $298.
Avianca charges a $25 booking fee per ticket, regardless of whether you book online or on the phone. So for my family that’s another $125 added to our cost, assuming we book round-trip tickets. We also have to add in the 9/11 fees of $5.60 per leg, so $56 round trip for my family.
So, the out-of-pocket cost of accumulating LifeMiles and using them for round-trip tickets to Florida is $298 + $125 + $56 = $479. Or, $95.80 per person. Not exactly free, but still a decent price.
What about the hassle?
First of all, using LifeMiles for tickets to Florida is not a guarantee. United has to have low-level award tickets available. In looking at next summer, it does appear that United has many days with low-level award availability:
However, United doesn’t have any direct flights between DFW and Orlando. We would have to connect, which increases the flight time from 2 ½ hours to at least 4 – 5 hours. That’s not a huge deal or a huge inconvenience.
However, Spirit, Southwest and American all fly direct from DFW to Orlando, And, in the past we have gotten round-trip tickets below $150. Of course, there is no guarantee that we can get that price again. But if we did, we’re not really saving that much by going through the process of getting those two cards and booking award seats with LifeMiles.
Lastly, I can’t forget about Leana’s woes about booking award tickets with LifeMIles (read her post here, it’s hilarious!)
I think I just talked myself out of getting this card. If the bonus was still 60,000 LifeMiles, I would be more easily swayed.
Perhaps my husband will apply for the Capital One Venture Rewards card instead. That would net us $500 to use towards tickets, not to mention it’s so much easier to deal with than Avianca LifeMIles.
Readers, do the new 7500 LifeMiles short-haul award tickets change your mind about getting the Avianca Vuela Visa card?
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.