AviancaTaca devalues their Lifemiles program for the second time in a week…. with no advance notice!

It’s rare that I get really, truly f*&^@$% angry at a loyalty program. Hilton had a more or less unprecedented devaluation of their HHonors program earlier in the year, though I still couldn’t really be mad at them. They made an extreme business decision, but at least they provided a bit of advance notice, and time will tell whether it was in their best interest or not.

But for the first time in a while I’m angry. Really, really angry. And the target of my anger is the Lifemiles program. AviancaTaca is a newcomer to Star Alliance, and their award program has looked promising, for reasons I outlined in this post.

However, last week they raised award prices in many markets without any advance notice. Not only did they not provide any advance notice, but they didn’t make any sort of an announcement either. And that wasn’t even the first time. Back in December of last year they devalued their award chart as well with no advance notice or announcement of any sort.

And now for a third time they’ve devalued their program with no advance notice or announcement whatsoever. Up until now you’ve only needed 40% of the miles for a redemption, while the remaining 60% of miles could be purchased for 1.275 cents each. Based on doing award searches on lifemiles.com, they’ve raised the cost of that.

For example, below is a business class award between Detroit and Frankfurt, which ordinarily costs 52,500 miles. Using the “flexible payment” option, previously you could have knocked off 31,000 miles for $395.25. However, now they’re charging $483.79 for the 31,000 miles, which is 1.56 cents per mile. So they’ve basically raised the cost from 1.275 cents to 1.56 cents per mile, which is a ~22% increase.

Look Lifemiles, I understand you’re new to Star Alliance and it’s natural for you to want to tweak the numbers so they work in your favor. I think we can all understand that. But you can’t — CAN’T — make devaluations without some advance notice, or at the very least without an announcement.

Sadly they don’t seem to have a Twitter account, but I’d highly recommend we all write on Lifemiles’ Facebook page to let them know this isn’t okay. I’d really appreciate if you guys could join me, regardless of whether you have Lifemiles or not. We’re all in this together in the miles and points game, and I think it’s important to let them know what they’re doing isn’t okay, if for no other reason than to prevent similar actions from other loyalty programs in the future.

(Tip of the hat to Canadian Kilometers)

Comments

  1. Ben,

    Just wanted to say buying 1,000 miles were always 3.0 cpm. It just buying 50%+ of the miles which they’ve raised the price on, from 1.275 cents to around 1.55 cents.

  2. @ Jeff — Whoops, thanks, you’re absolutely right. Just updated the post to reflect that.

  3. Yawn.

    There was somewhat of a risk speculatively buying miles from a smallish airline in a not so first world country.

    While it’s certainly a good idea to publicly protest this, I don’t think this sets any sort of precedent for the big boys to follow.

  4. what about the award chart, does it stay the same or devalued again for the third time ?

  5. I am left to wonder whether they were planning this whilst selling hundreds of thousands of miles. It truly has some elements of fraud.

  6. @ work2fly — I agree we shouldn’t be surprised by a devaluation given we’re talking about a fairly small airline not in the first world, but I don’t think that justifies what they’re doing. They’re selling miles at a huge discount for the month of April, and within a few weeks make two devaluations to their program without an announcement.

    Yes, perhaps we shouldn’t be worried about them setting a precedent for “the big guys,” but this is still one of the most unethical things I’ve seen coming from the industry in a long time.

  7. What else can I say other than…

    “Welcome to FF programs based in South America” – an area where customer service has not even start to tether, but customer are considered a compulsory issue every company has to deal with.

  8. I agree lucky. And this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. You have often warned to have a trip planned before buying miles for this very reason

  9. It’s completely expected that they would milk it when it’s voted best redemption at the Freddies…

    Same old phenomenon that kills most deals, people can’t contain their excitement and brag about it.

  10. Ok this isn’t a devaluation, the miles you purchased Monday are still worth the same today; they’re just raising the price of new miles and good for them, as obviously people are taking advantage of it.

    That’s the problem with customer friendly iniatives, people will abuse them.

    I hope they come back and allow their elites the ability to buy discounted 1.275 miles while charging people gaming their system an even higher rate.

    Seriously, don’t use your blog to whine about stuff you’re taking advantage of.

    If you want to write an article that says unfortunately they have raised the price of “additional mileage purchases” fine, but don’t use it as a soap box to whine about how you can’t game their system as well anymore while customers that ACTUALLY fly them are being effected b/c people are taking advantage.

  11. @andre : sorry, next time i want any information i will do it on the downlow and ask you for details,oh great and mighty, merciful & judgemental kingmaker of travel deals

  12. Hey guys Lifemiles sux over here in SAmerica too… For flights departing Brazillian destinations to wherever in the world with Star Alliance and also to North and Central America got a bit more expensive….

  13. Devaluations with no announcement isn’t unheard of with the big boys either – I’m looking at you Delta, especially. I’m not surprised a 3rd world South American program has done similarly, there is no such thing as customer service there.

    I don’t understand why this upsets you and the HHonors doesn’t though, aside from the lack of advance notice.

  14. Lucky, the problem here is that you should get angry more often, you have a voice in this community, spread the “Anger” word more often…then the likes of Taca, Hilton and Delta would see their abuses more and more in social media

  15. It would be great if everyone stayed away from this program…that way the flyers who are taking advantage of the REAL benefits of this program are able to keep doing so. They can keep raising prices and mileage requirements a few more times before the routings I use them for are no longer an amazing deal.

  16. Lucky, I realized you don’t usually answer to my posts or questions but two things are wondering me quite a bit:

    1.) Don’t these types of incidents make you wonder whether the whole mileage business will one crash or turn into a not so lucrative business anymore (at least where it’s not possible to make decent money for a living)?

    2.) Did you end up stacking up hundred of thousands LM miles even though you repeatedly warned your blog readers that you don’t trust this program very much? Then I’d also go crazy if my mileage stack is suddenly worth 20% less overnight.

  17. I’m with Steve here and really don’t understand the anger. From my reading of the post, they didn’t devalue the miles, the merely raised the cost of buying additional miles. As Steve referred to, you can still fly from Detroit to Frankfurt for 52,500 miles. If they had raised that to 60,000, that would be a devaluation (like they did previously). But simply raising the cost of buying additional miles is quite different. Additional, it is still ridiculously cheap to buy miles with them. Who else lets you buy miles at 1.56 cents?

    Lucky, I love the blog and generally agree with you, but I think this is sounding a bit entitled here.

  18. @ Erik B — Sure, you can argue that about this change, though in December and last week they raised award prices without any advance notice. Don’t you think that’s wrong to do without advance notice?

  19. @ Jake — Sorry, I try to respond to all questions, so if I haven’t in the past, my apologies!

    As far as my situation goes, I did purchase 150,000 miles in the last promotion, though fortunately have been able to burn many of them.

    Your other question is great as well, and I intend to address it in a post tomorrow.

  20. @lucky — Yes, I think it is questionable at best to raise award prices without notice. You’ll get no argument from in regards to the December move. But if BA started charging, say, 3.25 per Avios instead of 3 cents, I would see that as a reasonable change.

    I guess in this case, I think it’s pretty awesome that they are willing to do cash + points at even the higher rate so it’s hard for me to get upset that they might raise the rates and I wouldn’t consider it a devaluation.

  21. Blogger talked and talked about how to take advantage of this program, how great it was to use Singapore flights yada yada and now they come back and adjust the flaws you all bragged about, and you get all girl pissy? Tough byatch, somebody beat you at your own game!

  22. @ jason — Not sure why you don’t get this. The issue isn’t that they devalued their chart — that’s natural. The issue is that they didn’t even announce the change and pretended nothing happened.

  23. Lucky, Jason has got a good point, which you have nicely sidestepped. It is bloggers like you and the Canadian kid (by blasting the great redemption rates available on LifeMiles on your blogs) alerted the LifeMiles management to realize that may be they were too lenient with their redemptions to start with. I agree that to change the redemption rates or increase the cash component without any advance notice and so soon after a 1:1 bonus promotion is read bad form, but do you not think you guys have a part to play in this sad saga?

  24. @ DON — I don’t think I’m side stepping anything here. A devaluation was inevitable and I’ve said from the beginning this isn’t a program I’d speculatively bank miles with. But my only issue here is their lack of any sort of advance notice or even an announcement. That’s the thing that’s borderline criminal, in my opinion.

  25. lucky, you are clearly wrong to state that the devaluation was inevitable. It became so ONLY after bloggers like you and the Canadian kid put it on the front page of your blogs. That got people who had never even heard of Lifemiles, Taca or Avianca, to pile in to take advantage of the super deals on SQ and LH that you spoon fed to them.

  26. @Don, are you nuts?? Just because some bloggers blogged about it gives them the right to change their prior with no prior announcement??

    Do you by any chance work for them??

    Glad to see them getting hammered on their FB page.

  27. @don – I had never heard of lifemiles before lucky posted it on his blog. Yes, I took advantage of the promo, probably took too much advantage than what I should have. Shame on me, but I wasn’t surprised of the inevitable change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *