Colombia-based airline Avianca has been in some financial trouble lately. Avianca Holdings, the company which owns the various airlines all flying under the Avianca brand, posted a loss of $68 million. Avianca Brasil completely folded, with Avianca Argentina following shortly thereafter.
With this in mind, it should not be surprising that frequent flyers of questioning the continued use of Avianca’s LifeMiles loyalty program. I did myself (SEE: Are the days numbered for LifeMiles and Avianca?).
What Will Happen to LifeMiles?
LifeMiles is seeking to reassure program members that their situation is fine and that they will be “better than ever”. They sent out an email distancing themselves from Avianca Brasil and Avianca Argentina and reiterating the strength of the program and airline. Avianca is in the middle of a board shakeup. Colombia’s Avianca Airlines is currently doing better than its counterparts, but not amazingly so.
One thing I didn’t previously realize is that United is heavily invested in Avianca Airlines. The U.S. Star Alliance member has launched a joint venture with both them and Panama-based Copa. United is also prepared to inject cash into Avianca as well to help their struggling situation. With such a dependence on the Latin American carrier for traffic to South America, I cannot see Avianca or LifeMiles quickly going bust.
Will LifeMiles Actually Improve?
There is no program with which I have a stronger love/hate relationship than LifeMiles. Avianca LifeMiles have some downright amazing uses. Between their miles sales that let you score cheap premium cabin awards and their attractive short-haul continental U.S. award chart, you can get a lot of mileage out of your LifeMiles. I’ve booked a decent number of short-haul awards out of our tiny regional airport, often getting over 3 cents per mile in value for economy tickets.
But they can also be the ultimate pain in the tuchus. Several months ago I had an awful experience with LifeMiles when I requested a refund for a canceled flight. They gave me the runaround and would not budge from their position that my ticket was “flown”, simply because their system said so. It didn’t matter how much evidence I provided (SEE: My epic battle with Lifemiles and how I was finally (sort of) victorious)
Using their website can also be a major source of frustration. Sometimes you’ll error out when trying to book a ticket. Or a routing you can find with another carrier doesn’t show up. Or the search won’t piece together itineraries with certain pairs of carriers or between certain cities. I’ve been frustrated more often than not with LifeMiles.
Unless Avianca and LifeMiles have some big improvements up their sleeves, I doubt they will be “better than ever”.
I don’t expect the idiosyncrasies and frustrations of the LifeMiles program to go anywhere. The program will likely be fine. But I also don’t expect that they’ll be “better than ever”.