Saturday, April 27, 2013

Maximing intra-Asia travel by purchasing Avianca award miles

Intra-Asia travel is notoriously expensive, especially when you're looking into non-hub destinations like Sapporo and Hangzhou.  For example, fares between Sapporo and Hong Kong, a 5-hour segment, regularly run in excess of $800 USD roundtrip.  Even major routes like Tokyo to Beijing, a 3 1/2 hour segment, rarely fall below $500.  Due to outrageous pricing within these markets, award miles come in very handy for intra-Asia travel.

Avianca, the flag carrier of Colombia, joined Star Alliance last year and has a lucrative award redemption chart.  For example, flights between North and South Asia, which encompass all of East Asia, are only 30k award miles roundtrip. One-way awards can be purchased for half price at 15k miles, and there are no fuel surcharges.

Avianca's loyalty program, LifeMiles, is known for occasionally offering 100% bonus miles for purchasing award miles.  Their current 100% bonus miles campaign runs through April 30th, and $30 will get you 2k miles instead of the normal 1k miles, thus pricing miles at 1.5 cents per piece.  30k x 1.5 cents = $450, so from that angle alone, many intra-Asia destinations become reasonably priced.  Better yet, Avianca allows you to purchase 60% of the miles required for a redemption at the time of booking (in the case of a 30k intra-Asia trip: 18k miles) for 1.275 cents each, so you'll only need to buy 12k miles initially for $180.  When you're ready to book your award flight, simply purchase the 18k miles for an additional $229.68.  So in total, you're looking at $409.68 for all award travel within East Asia, which is an absolute bargain considering that you can fly with a combination of elite flag carriers like Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, ANA, Asiana, etc.

A real steal deal: roundtrip Sapporo to Hong Kong for $229.68 + 12k miles = $410

LifeMiles is a relatively new program, so changes, including award miles devaluation, can happen at any time.  But for now, this is the cheapest way to get around East Asia when they offer their 100% bonus miles campaigns.  Always check for award availability on their website before purchasing miles as availability may be sparse at best during the peak seasons.  Also, you need to have already been a LifeMiles member in order to take advantage of purchasing miles promotions, so be sure to sign-up for an account in order to be eligible for future 100% bonus miles campaigns.

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