8.5 Hour Hold Time With Avianca LifeMiles Just To Redeposit Miles

One of the more frustrating programs to deal with by phone is Avianca LifeMiles. Fortunately I rarely have to speak to them. However David writes about his experience. He spent seven and a half hours on hold trying to cancel and redeposit an award ticket before giving up.

In general there are several ways to deal with long airline hold times,

  • Email In this case support@lifemiles.com with your request. I’ve always gotten better service from LifeMiles by email than over the phone. If you can wait a day (now a few days) things can get taken care of in writing.

  • Callback service Try an app that waits on hold for you and calls you when a live person connects. GetHuman is often useful for this but they aren’t set up with LifeMiles.

  • Foreign call center With most airlines I prefer ringing an international call center when phone lines back up. Whatever is causing the backup (like flight cancellations due to storms) don’t usually cause lots of calls to foreign call centers. So I’ll try a call center designated for a country where English is spoken (e.g. Delta’s Singapore call center, American’s Australia or UK numbers).

  • Twitter customer service (or Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, etc) Some companies are great on Twitter, I’ve gotten help from many airlines via direct message although response times and competence varies. American’s twitter team has helped me quite a lot.

Here David tried email and got a generic response telling him to call. It turned out that wasn’t necessary as his request was being worked on, the response just wasn’t useful, and he probably could have waited.

But out of morbid curiosity he decided to find out if a 7.5 hour hold time wasn’t long enough to reach a LifeMiles agent, how long would it take?

In his case it took 8.5 hours. He explains,

[A]fter about hour 4 it just became my own morbid curiosity as to whether they would answer or it would just disconnect. Truly I’m shocked I finally got someone. I almost missed when they answered since I was watching tv at the time and could barely hear them.

The miles are back in his account.

LifeMiles is a very useful program because they regularly sell miles cheap, because you can redeem those miles for travel on Star Alliance airlines without fuel surcharges, and because there are all sorts of tricks to get outsized value from the program. But there are… downsides as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. With LifemIles, use email and be nice and patient with the agents. It is not their fault.

  2. This is a real problem with this program and it’s good to make people aware of it.

    One solution I employed when I desperately needed to cancel a reservation before the flight and for days I couldn’t get an agent with hours of waiting:

    Pick Spanish as your language option.

    I think the real issue is that they have very few English speaking agents (in addition to an archaic IT platform that makes everything totally manual and slow).

    By choosing Spanish I got an agent immediately. I then fumbled through the call in high school Spanish but I got it done.

    Another idea would be to ask a Spanish-speaking friend to call for you.

  3. They are almost as frustrating as dealing with BA Avios. Hold times are brutal and once you get a live agent it still takes far too long. I would rather use another program if it’s a speculative booking, even at the expense of more miles.

  4. To give a different perspective to David’s experience. Two weeks ago I cancelled my flight to South Africa for May booked through Lifemiles. There was no wait time; someone picked up immediately. The whole process took less than 15mins. This call took place in the middle of the day on a weekday. Due to the Pandemic, this is the second time I’ve had to call and cancel a flight and I’ve never waited more than 5 mins to talk to an agent. Is it my good luck? Maybe. Btw, I don’t speak Spanish so only spoke to an English speaking agent.

  5. That’s nothing, I spent 24 hours waiting for a Spirit Air rep to modify an itinerary that I couldn’t do online.

  6. Do you know if there is a cancellation/redeposit fee waiver due to COVID for Lifemiles bookings?

  7. I don’t think calling one of the foreign call centers would work if it is one outside the Colombian/Central America time zone. LifeMiles keeps pretty much ‘business hours’, unlike Avianca itself. No matter where you ring, you’ll probably be automatically be diverted to El Salvador or Bogota.
    I find most of the English-speaking agents reasonably fluent, but their English spoken at the same speed as conversational Spanish can be a challenge to process.

  8. Claims that changes can be made online are untrue for Star Alliance Partner award tickets.
    Forget trying to make any changes online once you have booked. Expect many hours on hold to reach an agent and there will be frequently dropped calls when transferring from one department to another so you have have to go to back of phone cue.

    I booked a itinerary through Avianca on Swiss and there was a minor schedule change so Swiss canceled itinerary and sent it back to Avianca to rebook. More than a week later they contacted me by which point all business seats were gone.

    Avianca claims 3 – 5 months for refund of fees is “industry practice”

    Even when an itinerary is canceled due to their incompetence Avianca will charge a fee to redeposit points and deduct from refund

    The 3rd party payment system for any fees being charged during a change made on phone rarely works. Involves sending your an email after the call .

    The redemption rates are great but customer service is PATHETIC and when you finally reach an agent they will be tell you they have accomplished your objective and then it does not happen.

    Only use Avianca for last minute booking done entirely online where changes are unlikely and you need not deal with a human being .

    Based on my own experience Avianca is best described the airline where the inept report to the unethical.

  9. I cancelled a flight over chat last week. Took 5 minutes. Miles were redeposited in 3 days. Taxes – should take 2-4 months (but that’s fine for Lifemiles where I don’t expect much to begin with).

  10. @ Sam. The agent said they were waiving the cancellation fee until the end of May so I didn’t have to pay a cancellation fee or redeposit when cancelling my flight.

  11. @Capri
    Sorry to burst your happy bubble, but you won’t be getting back the $25 partner award booking fee if you have booked a *A award. It’s non-waivable. Why you ask? They make the rules; logic has never been their strong suite.

  12. The LifeMiles website has never been easy to use but until recently I was able to pay for the taxes etc. for redemption with no problem with U.S. credit card as late as March of 2020 booking a flight Washington-Bogota. Last month I tried to book a simple Cartagena-Bogota flight with miles and paying taxes of $31 with Amex, BOA and various other cards but no luck. Customer service was also unuseful as eventually after jumping through many hoops (enter your pin number) 3 or 4 credit cards were declined as well as my sister-in-law’s Colombian credit card. A call to AMEX revealed what I had suspected,. AMEX never declined any transaction with LifeMiles. Finally, they said to call Avianca to finalize the payment but after a 3.5 hours hold I gave up. (the flight only is about 45 minutes). So for now, the Lifemiles are unusable. Anyone have a similar experience or tips?

  13. For those leaving abroad it’s a nightmare been back to back all day with callers screaming, yelling and cursing over a “non agent” problem such as refunds denials, cancel flights, schedule changes, penalties and more… Be responsible when calling any airline/hotel, etc. We got a job because of the calls… Thanks?

    Will be nice to have customers from time to time that uses all resources before calling an agent. Sometimes is an easy fix that needs a click to be resolved 🙂

    Thank you travelers and do not forget, be nice, be courteous, be a human

    Bye from El Salvador (homeland of call centers)

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