AviancaTaca joined Star Alliance just joined Star Alliance this summer. Most folks have never even heard of the Columbian-Salvadoran airline, let alone realize its potential even if you never fly to Bogota, San Salvador, or Latin America more broadly.
Brand new accounts can’t usually participate in these bonus offers, so it makes sense to join their LifeMiles program to be prepared for when one of these offers comes back.
Here’s why the program is really valuable.
- The award chart is pretty reasonable
- One-way awards are available for half the cost of roundtrip
- They offer cash and points awards bookings. As long as you have at least 40% of the miles needed for an award in your account, you can buy the difference in miles for US$12.75 per 1000 miles. That’s less than 1.3 cents per mile.
- No fuel surcharges on awards
- Online booking of Star Alliance partners
They have a pretty generous elite program, but it’s not the best for folks who don’t actually fly the airline. The point of this post is to underscore just how valuable this program can be for people that don’t fly the airline. It’s like british midland in that regard — I spent quite awhile as a british midland Gold member even though I never sat foot on one of their planes — they were exceptionally lucrative for crediting premium cabin awards to (after re-qualifying for Gold, paid first class travel — even first class domestic US — would credit 625% flown miles, and though I never did this I understand that they would also credit award flights flown on several of their Star Alliance partners to).
But most importantly and for the purposes of this post their miles stretched farther than anyone’s because of their cash and points options. And coupled with one-way awards and generous routing rules you could get tickets for fewer miles and less cash than through anyone.
With british midland you could fly between two regions, and if the only way to get there was to connect in a third region, that was fine. Back when Scandinavian was offering Greenland service, what some folks did was book an award between he US and Greenland, connecting anywhere they wanted in Europe — and from there connect up to the SAS flight to Greenland. But never take the flights beyond their European destination. Since the US and Greenland were in the same zone, you could get a US-Europe one-way award for the price of a US domestic flight. AviancaTaca acts similarly on its website.
Another feature of the program is that their cash and points awards function just like Priority Club’s — when you cancel a cash and points award reservation, you get the miles purchased at 1.25 cents apiece back and not the cash. So once you have some miles in your account, you can buy more miles at 1.25 cents apiece (and a $50 cancellation fee) when you book and then cancel an award. Reports are that mileage redeposit takes a few days and must be done by phone.
If you don’t want to wait until there’s a mileage purchase bonus to get started, there’s an AviancaTaca LifeMiles credit card from US bank that comes with 20,000 miles after first use and no fee the first year.
After that I wouldn’t put spending on the card. Since you’d be better off getting a 2% cash back card like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express, and then buying points for less than 2 cents apiece. You can then get about a point and a half per dollar instead of just one point for your spend.
There’s a long and complex Flyertalk thread discussing the ins, outs, and tricks of the program but some of the folks there are doing their best to communicate ‘in code’ and keep folks who aren’t already ‘in the know’ out. There’s a similarly long but much more accessible discussion at Australian Frequent Flyer where things are much more open. (To folks who would prefer to keep this all secret, there are over 550 public internet posts between just those two threads, it already isn’t a secret, I’m simply directing folks to a public resource on the internet, just sayin’.)