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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.

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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.

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Let me know below in the comments, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

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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.

I got "in the game" in 2003 and since then I've collected literally millions and millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. I've flown around the world in first class seats that would cost $29,000 using frequent flyer miles and a few bucks in tax. And I've stayed in some of the finest hotels - all for free! A few years ago I realized many of my friends actually thought I was paying for these!! So I started sharing my tips. It's long been a passion, but when I hosted a session on Miles and Points at the South by Southwest festival, my love of the game intensified and this blog was born.


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