LifeMiles Can Be Great Until….

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Avianca LifeMiles are a solid way to get some good Star Alliance awards for many people.  They have promos to buy miles very cheaply several times a year, have a co-branded credit card, have access to some Star Alliance awards that other partners like United don’t (or choose not to), and they have some pretty nice award chart sweet spots.

However, if you need to do anything that requires a call into their call center, be ready for a fun ride.  I’d always heard that anything you can’t accomplish with LifeMiles online might as well not even be attempted, but when a change of plans popped up for an award ticket I had booked with LifeMiles, I had no choice but to call as awards cannot be changed or cancelled online.  Here is a link to the different call center numbers.

I wanted a shot of tequila before calling in, but given the hour of the day went with a cup of coffee.  Here was how it went, and what can be expected in case you have to do the same in the future.

  • I was told that changes to awards are $150 each and that only the date or routing can be changed, not the origin or destination.  Redeposits are cheaper anyway at $50, but it was interesting to hear their limited scope of permitted changes.
  • To redeposit, they process each award ticket individually and charge $50 for each redeposit.  Though keep in mind there is a $25 fee per person to book, so if you are using redeposit as a way to make a change you are really look at a charge of at least $75 each (which of course is less than $150)
  • The miles should be redeposited immediately.
  • The taxes paid may or may not all come back.  I was told on the phone some of my $173 in taxes would come back, some wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t know the amount for a couple of weeks.  That sounded like crazy talk, and I have read on Flyertalk that emailing can be helpful with refunding taxes.
  • You need to enter your LifeMiles pin number on the phone to process the refund.
  • The quality of English spoken by the various agents ranges, but it was totally understandable in all of the cases today, and I spoke to lots of folks.  My Spanish, on the other hand, wouldn’t get us very far.
  • Be ready to get hung up on several times.  Or maybe that was my bad luck.
  • Be ready for the system to not process the transaction at all.  Or maybe that was my bad luck.
  • Be ready to invest a significant amount of time into getting the change completed, only to have it not work.  Or maybe that was my bad luck.

All in all, the transaction went about as well as I expected in that a decent chunk of time was invested, I had to start over more than once, and ultimately I was told to try again tomorrow as the systems aren’t working.  Sure hope the award I now need is still there tomorrow when I hopefully get the miles back and get to try again. 

A $50 redeposit fee is pretty fair in the grand scheme of award programs, and the agents I spoke with all seemed like they wanted to be helpful, though the mystery surrounding refunded taxes, the non-working systems, etc. make for a less than fun award change/redeposit experience.

Hopefully most of you won’t have to ever make a change to a LifeMiles award, but just in case you do.  Hope for the best, but be ready for a less than smooth process.

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  1. Quick question: Once you cancel your reservation the miles go back into the account instantaneity or takes time to be posted? Also if you paid the ticket with the option 40% miles + cash is it true you won’t be refunded the cash portion, instead the whole 100% in miles? Thanks

  2. I speak spanish native and I’ve spent at least one hour in the phone. Miles are not refunded instantly. They refund in two or three days. Taxes are refunded between two and three months in us cards… And cash plus miles they will refund all the miles purchased

  3. Given where Avianca is headquartered, I’d suggest aguardiente (Colombian anise-flavored liquor) rather than tequila :). Of course, Juan Valdez coffee works, too!

  4. I cancelled two tickets with them earlier this week and it took over a hour between 3 different people as their system would lock them out and I’d have to be transferred to another agent.

    Here is a tip:

    You might want to call your credit card company BEFORE you call Lifemiles and inform them that you plan on using your card for a transaction originating in Columbia. That way you reduce the chance that your card will be declined for fraud.

  5. Came back here after reading Drew’s post on using ANA miles. I wanted to see if your troubles had been with ANA. So I was reminded your saga was with Lifemiles. Still, it makes me wary of bookings with non-US based carriers where language, time change and tech issues may be an issue, should changes need to be made.

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