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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.