So file this one under “why we can’t have nice things”. Everyone’s favourite South American airline, Avianca, has quadrupled the cancellation fees for Lifemiles award tickets.
As per OMAAT, Lifemiles now charges up to US$200 to cancel an award ticket, versus US$50 before. You can read more posts about this on the FT thread and this Aussie FF thread.
Ben at OMAAT suggests that there are 2 scenarios
- If your award ticket is within 1 region (eg start in North America, end in North America), your cancellation fee is US$50
- If your award ticket goes from 1 region to another (eg start in North America, end in Singapore), your cancellation fee is US$200
That said, other people are reporting different- user Tokyoite on FT reports that this varies by cabin class as well.
The logic I see so far is that,
– cancel fee varies between F , J and Y redemptions.
– intra-region is USD 100/ticket/person to refund. as per the site (F & J award)
– inter-region is USD 200/ticket/person to refund. as per the site (F award. J is USD 100)
– Existing tickets are not affected (tickets still show USD 50/ticket).
– Call-center is still clueless and they still say USD 50/ticket
Here’s my experience with some dummy bookings-
- SIN-SFO in Business Class, US$200 refund fee
- SIN-JFK in First Class, US$200 refund fee
- SIN-BKK in Business Class, US$100 refund fee
- SIN-PER in Business Class, US$200 refund fee
- SIN-NRT in Business Class, US$100 refund fee
It appears I’m getting something closer to Ben’s experience. However, it’s not strictly the case that inter zone awards always get a US$200 refund fee- Singapore and Japan are in different zones (South and North Asia) as per the LM award chart, yet my cancellation fee is still US$100.
The best advice I can give you is to be aware of these changes and always check what the cancellation fee is before you book (if you hover your mouse over your itinerary the fees for changing/cancelling will appear.
The important thing is that it appears tickets issued before this change will have the original US$50 refund fee honored, at least based on anecdotal reports I’m reading on the forums.
The funny thing about Lifemiles awards is that traditionally they’ve been cheaper to refund (US$50) rather than change (US$150). With this new development it would be cheaper to change rather than refund. I’ve never actually tried changing a date with the call centre before but I can imagine that will be all sorts of fun, given their reputation for competence.
Suffice to say, this doesn’t make Lifemiles a terrible program overnight, but it does mean you’ll want to think carefully about booking “just in case” awards. When the cancellation fee was US$50, it was still justifiable to snap up an award you saw, with cancellation being a (potentially long) phone call and US$50 away. Now that the fee is US$200 the dynamic changes a bit.
By the way, if you want to buy Lifemiles, you can follow this link and get a 140% bonus (buying at 1.375 US cents per mile) when buying miles. You need to register by 27th Feb and buy by 28th Feb.