The Trick to Getting LifeMiles Refunded

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Last week I chronicled my efforts at trying to make a change to an existing LifeMiles award reservation both in this post and on Twitter.  If you aren’t familiar, LifeMiles is a Star Alliance partner that can be used to award book flights operated by United, Lufthansa, Singapore, and other Star Alliance partners.  The process to try to redeposit an award that my friends were no longer going to be able to use honestly took 4-6 hours of my time for a simple redeposit.  Two of those hours were spent on just one phone call.  It was insane and my own personal version of hell.

I had heard many warnings about dealing with LifeMiles if you need to make a change or cancel, but nothing could have prepared me for how badly I wanted to bash my head into the computer screen at times during the process.  Okay, maybe just say bad words at the computer screen. 

Part of the problem had to do with getting hung up on more times than I cared to count.  Sometimes by a person and sometimes before I ever got to a person.  I don’t know if these hang-ups were intentional, or just IT glitches, but the result was the same.  I far preferred the hang-ups that happened right off the bat than the ones that happened 15-20 minutes into the call.

The other side of the problem came from some system within LifeMiles that was not working.  I think the broken process was somehow related to processing credit card payments for the redeposit of the miles (a $50 fee per ticket) as that is where we would get hung up each time.  It’s not that the credit card wouldn’t go through, it’s that they couldn’t even get it to try to go through.

A secondary problem was that sometimes I would be routed to agents that did not speak English, despite only selecting the options that should have pointed me to English speakers.  Some of the recorded messages that prompted me to enter info were also in Spanish.  That made things a bit harder, but wouldn’t have been a big deal if the main two problems hadn’t existed.  I’m okay with some language slow downs since I am the one that really only speaks one language.  I will add that most of the agents I spoke to were really nice, they just weren’t able to fix my problem.

How I Finally Got My Miles Back:

So after hours of round and round on the LifeMiles Call Center Merry-Go-Round of “Fun”, I started begging.  When I got an agent on the phone I begged him to not hang up on me.  At every turn I was overly appreciative of anything he tried to do to help and overly cautious when I was told I would be put on hold.  The begging continued on my end throughout the two hour phone call.  It must have worked as I wasn’t hung up on for two hours, but in the end the systems weren’t working to allow the transaction to complete.  Of course I asked for the miles to be forced into my account regardless of the $50 fee, but that got nowhere.  Asking for supervisor to help also got nowhere.

When he could do no more, he said he would take my number and have someone call me later that day to process the $50 payment another way.  I was of course extremely skeptical this would happen, but had no real other option.  Of course, I continued my begging that someone please actually call me back as I could not keep investing this much time in a simple transaction.  It/I was pathetic.

Since I doubted my phone would ever ring with someone from LifeMiles on the other end, I emailed support at lifemiles.com with my problem and kinda begged them for help as well.  I did the same on Twitter.

To my complete shock, I got responses from all three communication methods.  Someone from LifeMiles called back the next day via a Florida phone number and was able to process the credit card transaction a different way.  The miles were back within an hour after that.  Shortly after I got a response from the support at lifemiles.com email address saying it looked like my problem had been resolved but to let them know if I needed further help.

I think a combination of explaining/begging all the hoops I had been through, getting an agent who wanted to make it work, and reaching out through multiple channels finally did the trick.  The support email address is actually monitored, and they are also the ones who said that the taxes I paid on the cancelled ticket will get refunded, so use them for those issues as well.

Now the only little tiny problem left is that the LifeMiles website won’t let me book the awards I now need and the call center is having “system issues”.  Yeah, really.  I got the miles back, but now can’t secure the alternate flights that we need as the “system is down”.  I think I’m having a deja vu moment….  I have learned from my own advice that hoping the call center can force something through will never happen so I won’t waste time going that route.

Seriously, don’t use LifeMiles unless you have the time and patience to deal with issues.  I didn’t expect to have issues with these flights, but sometimes life happens and you can’t predict when plans will have to change.  I really have neither time not excess patience for silly problems, so will think long and hard before going this route again in the future.

Comments

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing mommypoints! I was kinda hoping you would.
    I am curious about how long it took you to get your original award ticketed after you paid with miles or miles+cash. You see, I’ve been keeping tabs on an award space which curiously opens only 5-6 days out, but it appears punctually without fail. Made me anxious as to how long does it take to get your award ticketed, since time is at a premium here & many online resources state that they are equally lazy to ticket an award.

    • Deo, first award I booked was months ago and I remember it being pretty quick, but I don’t remember exactly. Of course, that is assuming the systems work…which apparently they aren’t right now.

  2. I am having my own Lifemiles Kafkaesque problem. I had an inactive Lifemiles account and recently started work in Colombia again. I went to the Lifemiles screen and put in forgot my password. After a verification process, it told me that it sent the password to an obsolete mail account I once had.

    So I wrote to support, told them what had happened and asked that they reset the email to my current. Support wrote back and said “Sure” and asked me again for my account number. I sent it (for the second time) and got a reply that I needed to send them a copy of my passport. I didn’t really want to do that and asked why. I got a third response saying that it was in their “Terms and Conditions”. I read the T&C and of course it’s not there but I decided to send them a copy of the passport anyway.

    Now they are telling me that I need to go to an Avianca office and do it in person.

    To add icing to the cake, I asked if they ever did “Status Match” as I am an AA Platinum. I was told to gather a great deal of information and go to a ticket office where I would be interviewed and the decision would be made.

    You know what’s easier? Flying Lan Colombia as a One World Emerald. I mean these people are bureaucrats par excellence. Oh, and I speak Spanish. It’s not a language thing.

  3. I had to change a Lifemiles award ticket last August. I had a similar experience. At first I thought it was my phone dropping the calls (google voice, as I was overseas). I couldn’t believe how complicated it was to change a simple routing. I’s very hesitant to buy Lifemiles again. But at the end of the day I got an amazing trip for next to nothing. So I’d say it is worth it, but very frustrating.

  4. Miami, eek. That sounds terrible!
    A, agree.
    Chris, I wish I lived in a world where I knew for sure if things would happen that would necessitate a change, but doesn’t seem to work that way. However, I agree you should do your best to only book things with them that you are pretty sure won’t change.

  5. @ Summer — Can you just email lifemiles with all your info and ask them to cancel and redeposit? It is obviously not ideal to email credit card info, but I’d rather do that than spend 6 hours slamming my head into the wall.

    • Gene, I did email them to help after banging my head for six hours. I’m not sure if the whole thing can be completed that way or not, but seems worth a shot at least to get the ball rolling.

  6. Life is WAY too short to wrestle with LifeMiles….kind of makes flying with Spirit or RyanAir almost sound like fun. 🙂

  7. What an ordeal! In special cases like yours, perhaps the agent(s) did not know what to do and perhaps speaking Spanish may have helped? I do not use LifeMiles but I heard you can also book tix online, no? Or is that only for certain star alliance partners?

  8. DO NOT trust Avianca unless you have time/money to spare. I booked a Guam R/T from SFO (a real Guam trip, not just a TYO), and of course they cancelled one leg of my trip after issuing the ticket. I spent about 10 hours over the course of a week trying to get my ticket made whole again, but instead all Avianca would/could do is refund my miles. And now of course the availability is gone. I currently have a dispute with my credit card company open since Lifemiles hasn’t made any refunds. Caveat emptor. If a price seems to good to be true, there is probably a much greater overall cost to you in the long run…

  9. Thanks for what I view as warnings. I am very much call-center-hassle averse in my dealings. Want my business? Develop a competent, efficient way to handle communications.

  10. Update to my post #3 above – I’m back in. I have been pursuing this via email, twitter, FB etc. and received an email that Avianca made an exception to their rule requiring a color image of my passport (a rule they had not told me of) and made the email change. I can now access the page. But they still require that I drop in on their sales office if I want to do a status challenge. I don’t think so.

  11. I cancelled two tickets back in October, received one refund six weeks later in December and I’m still waiting for the other. Lifemiles continue to tell me they were both paid at the same time but I’m still waiting. It has been escalated several times to different departments but still no joy – I have received an email this morning but it’s not in English so I don’t understand a word of it!!

  12. Ugh. I have trip booked next month with them and I’m still not sure if I’m going to be able to go. This is dreadful. I hate dealing with CS reps and fighting to get things back. There should be an easier way.

  13. If you live close to a Lifemiles ticketing office, might be worthwhile to stop by there to get it processed in person. I did that (after numerous attempts to get refund via phone to no avail), and got my miles refunded and cc fee processed within 30 minutes!

    The desk agents spoke English, and they were the ones on the phone getting the problem fixed for you.

  14. I had a very similar experience. I think total time for being on the phone with them is around the 5-6 hour mark over the course of two days. I gave up on the US phone number and called Canada. Go figure, they were friendlier and the language barrier wasn’t nearly as bad as the US number. The US number’s ‘system was down’ and wouldn’t except my transaction. I am so glad I switched to Canada or I would have pulled all of my hair out. I don’t understand why Avianca doesn’t have this service on their website. What a nightmare, I hope to never use Life-miles again.

  15. I have been trying to cancel a flight for 3 weeks now. Literally hours spent on the phone with promises of being called back to enact the refund and miles redemption. One person puts me over to another and on and on it goes. I checked by booking reservation number in the hope something may have happened meanwhile and have found that I am now booked on a totally random flight elsewhere. I will only book flights in future if I am sure I will not make changes to it. Fortunately, I will be travelling to Columbia before these flights are due and I will search out some help there.

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