How To Find One-Way NYC – Tokyo Award Flights Using Avianca LifeMiles (12.5k Coach / 25k Business)

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HAVING TROUBLE FINDING ONE-WAY AWARD TO TOKYO USING AVIANCA LIFEMILES?

THIS DEAD – See the update here

Many people signed up for the 40k Avianca signup bonus from US Bank a few months back (deal no longer live) probably did it for the lucrative one-way award redemption from US to Tokyo for merely 12.5k coach or 25k business class.

You may have wanted to book the award and have had trouble finding availability.  The information below is what you need to know.

BACKGROUND

To be clear, the award that needs to be booked is technically US to Guam with a connection in Tokyo, with the idea that you intentionally miss the Tokyo to Guam flight.  Even thought Guam is technically a US territory, almost all airline award programs consider Guam part of the Asia Pacific based on its geographic location.  Avianca, however, considers Guam as part of the USA – just lovely!  This means one-one NYC-NRT-GUM is considered a domestic flight, even though it connects internationally in Tokyo.

AVIANCA LIFEMILES AWARD RULES

Before we take a deep dive into the NYC-NRT-GUM booking, here are the general award rules for Avianca, credit to Lucky:

  • No stopovers allowed
  • No more than 8 hour connection
  • Can’t book mixed cabins (for example, business and coach flights
  • Checked luggage end up in your final destination

 

United’s website offers a user friendly month by month award availability:

 

GUAM saver award availability 1

 

However, since United allows mixed cabin award bookings, see screen print below, United’s website doesn’t end up being helpful at all.  (Remember Lifemiles does not allow mixed cabin award bookings.)

 

GUAM saver award availability 2

 

So your best bet is using the award search engine at LifeMiles.com.  It will search for award availability one week at a time and shows whether there are any seats in all 3 cabin classes:

 

GUAM saver award availability 3

One of the flaws of the LifeMiles search engine is that you have to specify the airport name/code.  In NYC, for example, I cannot enter NYC.  I have to specify whether I want LGA, JFK, or EWR.  Coach availability seems to be plentiful, ultimately costing only 12.5k per person.  First class is nonexistent, and business class is extremely difficult to come by, primarily because of the mixed-cabin restriction and the sub-8hour connection rule.  Searching for business class for all of 2015 (Jan 1, 2015 – June 1, 2015) EWR-GUM yields only 1 date that has availability for 2 people (Feb 24 – not the date in the red box):

GUAM saver award availability 4

I have also found inconsistencies between United’s award availability and LifeMiles award availability.  For example, United shows business class availability for Feb 26, 2015 EWR-NRT-GUM, with both legs in business class and connection time 6hrs 35minutes (within 8 hours).

 

GUAM saver award availability 5

 

Searching on LifeMiles.com for the same date (Feb 26) yields no availability:

GUAM saver award availability 4

DONT CALL LIFEMILES

Thinking about calling the LifeMiles call center instead?  Don’t bother!  You’ll be wasting your time.

  • I have been put on hold many times only to get disconnected before reaching a rep
  • The rep’s English is poor at best
  • Reps can only book what the website shows (unlike US Airways awards which are booked manually by agents)
SUMMARY

There you have it folks.  To sum it up:

  • use the award search engine at LifeMiles.com to book your award flight to Guam (duh!).
  • Search 9 – 11 months and you will find plenty of coach availability.
  • Forget about first class and best of luck with searching business class!
  • I have been searching LifeMiles.com and United.com for the past 3 months before I was able to successfully book two (2) one-way business class seats as shown below. At the time of this writing, I can confidently state that I took the last 2 business class seats EWR-NRT-GUM for all of 2015. United has been known to release (and also remove) award space on a daily basis, which may or may not be in line with the LifeMiles.com search engine. Long one short, keep checking if you are adamant about business class.

Picture 6 - GUAM saver award availability

Please let me know if you are able to book your flights and write some comments when you return.

 

ARE YOU MISSING 10K BONUS LIFE MILES? 

On a side note, some readers have noticed that 10k was missing from the 40k Avianca signup bonus from US Bank.

  • The first 20k should be credited after the first purchase is made – I received those without any problem
  • The second set of 20k bonus miles should be credited after $3,000 spend within 120 days…BUT people  have noticed that only 10k was credited on the statement where the $3,000 spend was met (instead of 20k), for a total of 30k bonus miles (of course we were expecting 40k not 30k!)

Since I had also signed up for the 40k Avianca signup bonus from US Bank, I wanted to share my experience through a timeline of events:

  • 5/17/14 – Email sent to Avianca LifeMiles through this link
  • 5/19/14 – Initial response:
    • “Good morning and thank you for contacting U.S. Bancorp Service Center, Inc. via our Website. We understand you are inquiring about your rewards and we are certainly happy to review this further. Our records indicate 10,000 bonus rewards were added on your May statement. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause; however, the remaining 10,000 bonus rewards will be awarded by LifeMiles directly in six to eight weeks. For further information regarding this matter, we continue to recommend contacting LifeMiles directly at 800-400-8222.”  I was hoping they wouldn’t make me work for these last 10k miles.
  • 6/18/14 – Second response after my follow-up:
    • We understand that you are inquiring about the status of additional 10,000 LifeMiles being awarded to your account. To better assist you we will need to research your inquiry further and will contact you as soon as more information is available. We are making every effort to resolve this matter quickly. Please contact us if you have any further questions.
  • 6/19/14 – Third response after 2nd follow-up:
    • After further researching this matter with our Rewards Department, they have advised that the additional 10,000 LifeMiles will be awarded to your account with LifeMiles within the next ten business days.
  • 6/27/14 – The missing 10k miles finally credited to my Avianca LifeMiles account.

 

If you are missing 10k bonus miles, you can sit tight and wait the 6-8 weeks. I recommend sending an email through this link to confirm that you will be receiving the missing 10k bonus miles. It appears that the US Bank / Avianca LifeMiles agreement was set where 30k would be credited by US Bank and 10k would be credited by Avianca LifeMiles directly.  As a general rule, I want my miles ASAP, especially since LifeMiles is notorious for award chart devaluations without advance notice. In my particular case, I solely went for the 40k Avianca signup bonus because I wanted to redeem two (2) one-way business class seats to Tokyo (err I mean Guam!). If you are in the same boat, I would book ASAP before LifeMiles reclassifies Guam from the USA region (domestic) to Asia Pacific (in line with all other programs).

I hope this post was helpful – good luck!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Excellent post. I was going nuts trying to figure out why united showed available for biz but avianca site showed nothing available.

    • probably because Jon feels there is some remote chance the Avianca social media guys (yea right!) read this post and reclass Guam. For reference, this has been covered previously http://milevalue.com/hidden-city-ticketing-lifemiles-awards/ as well and 7 months later, waddayaknow, it still works!

      it’s just utterly selfish for anyone to ask that this post be taken down so he/she can continue with similar bookings many times over.

  2. I heard Aviance just reclassified Guam to the Phillipines region ending this award pricing. Can you confirm whether this is true? Thanks.

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