No one sells miles as aggressively these days as Avianca’s Lifemiles, a member of Star Alliance and a program that has been strategically very useful.
I’ve viewed the program as the most generous in the Star Alliance because:
- No fuel surcharges
- Reasonable award chart
- One-way awards at half the price of roundtrip
- Cash and points option
The biggest drawbacks have been dealing with telephone customer service (they’re better by email), restrictive routing rules (like no mixed cabin awards, all flights must be in the same booking class), and that they’ve made changes to their program without notice.
Let me say that again. They have a history of making changes without notice.
That, to me, is the worst thing a program can do. Members save up miles and have the rug pulled out from under them. Members buy miles based on the value proposition presented to them at time of purchase, and then find themselves with a currency worth far less (“Just kidding! We’ll keep your money. Thank you, drive through.”).
Avianca LifeMiles may have kind of sort of but not really learned a lesson from the criticism they’ve received over no-notice changes.
They have announced they will be making changes to their award chart effective October 15. That’s 3 months’ notice, right?
Except they’re only sort of telling us what to expect, and I anticipate it will be worse than the announcement implies.
Here’s the table of new rates they give us:
If the table actually showed the changes they were making that would be great — economy roundtrip between the US and Europe isn’t exactly generous, but it would be good to know the changes were this limited.
Only they aren’t.
Here’s what they say about Europe redemptions on Star Alliance partners.
As for changes in air ticket redemption with Star Alliance member airlines, these include reductions up to 15.000 miles and increases up to 11.000 miles in Economy Class; also reductions up to 25.000 miles and increases up to 50.000 miles in Business Class. Both cases apply for roundtrip flights from Europe.
Award price changes will range from -25,000 to +50,000 miles roundtrip. For what routes? They don’t say.
This concerns me even more — they’re suggesting the award chart pricing is just a starting point (which is always is in the case of programs that allow you to spend more points for their own flights and spend additional miles for better availability, but almost never is on partner airlines otherwise).
The amount of miles required for a ticket redemption is calculated based on a specific origin and destination and could not match with the amount of miles shown on the table above, it could be higher.
…The amount of miles required could vary depending on the date, route and redemption product.
To know the exact amount of required miles for each origin and destination, it will be necessary to consult the amount through the redemption system at https://www.lifemiles.com/eng/use/red/dynredpar.aspx after October 15th, 2014.
The amounts listed by the redemption system shall prevail over those shown on the table above.
What in the world does this mean?
- Will there be changes to awards in regions other than for flights originating/terminating in Europe?
- Will award prices other than those in the award chart whose specific changes haven’t been shared actually vary on partner flights or just on Avianca flights?
Giving advance notice of changes is good, and in some sense an improvement for this program. But giving this little detail just raises my anxiety level, and reduces my willingness to hold Lifemiles.
(HT: Loyalty Lobby)