Dynamically Priced United Awards on Avianca LifeMiles

This is…. interesting.

Facebook group member Julian B. called my attention to what looked at first glance to be worrying – but maybe is just a poor additional redemption option.

When he first wrote in, I immediately checked some partner award space. Lufthansa to Europe in Business was still an even 63,000 miles, so I calmed down a bit.

He mentioned he was seeing a new style of booking engine and random prices on United, so I dug in to that, settling on a route of IAH-EWR on Dec 25th (figuring there would be more award space on Christmas Day).

What appears to be happening is that if there is United Saver / Partner award space, it will sell you that as usual – 12,500 miles in coach, plus their booking fees.

But you’ll also see all United flights serving the route listed with a button that says “More Fare Options.”

lifemiles united dynamic pricing

This takes you to an entirely new search interface which will show only United flights for that say. The pricing is all over the map, but it appears to be selling you a cash fare using a mix of Lifemiles and cash.

I wanted to find which flights had confirmed saver space and which didn’t to compare, and so I used Expert Flyer. I used flight UA 557 which showed 0 saver seats.

Note how the fare rules on this Lifemiles Cash + Miles fare is a revenue fare.

The cash + miles fares do not at all seem to be worth considering.

See this comparison of UA Cash, UA Miles and Lifemiles:

lifemiles avianca dynamic awards

You would do much better simply buying the cash fare or paying United’s dynamic mileage rates (which do not come with co-pays).

For a cash fare on United (non-basic) it’s $194. With United miles it’s 18,900 miles. For Lifemiles, it’s $163 + 13,243 Lifemiles. Lousy deal for sure!

I thought this could be interesting for United’s Business class fares. Could it perhaps be a sweet spot?

Well, it doesn’t appear that Avianca has finished building that into the booking mechanism as I couldn’t find a First/Business Class fare that didn’t product this:

Bottom Line

For now this just seems to be a new option to safely ignore.

But, could this be a harbinger of new partner dynamic pricing later? Even for saver awards? We have no idea – but it’s another great reminder to never buy miles or, generally, to speculatively transfer during a transfer bonus unless you are spending them the same day.

Miles generally do not get more valuable in time, only less.

American Express Rose Gold Card
Get 60,000 Bonus Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 6 months on an American Express® Gold Card or Rose Gold Card. Earn 4X points on dining and U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 annually, then 1X) plus get $10 monthly dining statement credits and $10 in monthly Uber Cash. Terms apply. Get This Offer


Let me know below in the comments, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram for all sorts of tips on miles, points, credit cards, and travel.

If this post helped you, please consider sharing it!

You can find credit cards that best match your spending habits and bonus categories at Your Best Credit Cards

New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available on Amazon and at major booksellers.


  1. Follow-up to this older piece. Been trying to book international and domestic flights on LifeMiles and coming up with zero options. None. Not one available flight anywhere. Only things I can find are flights to South America on Avianca itself. And the points required are now 113,000+ for business class mco to eze, for example. Hope this is just a glitch. Any insights? … And thanks for your work on this site, Dave. Appreciated.

    • Lifemiles searches are EXTREMELY frustrating. This happens. I would start by searching United to see if you see a particular Star Alliance flight that *should* be available. Then when you search at Lifemiles, select that exact airline only from the Smart Search drop down. If still nothing, you’re SOL.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here