Avianca Changes Redemption Model, Making It More Expensive To Earn LifeMiles & Difficult To Attain Elite Status
While currently going through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, Avianca has just reworked the way that it awards its LifeMiles loyalty points. Previously, travelers earned Lifemiles points based on distance traveled, with a minimum of 500 miles for short haul segments such as domestic travel within Colombia. The airline also had special low price fares that did not earn as many miles as standard fares.
Now, travelers will earn miles based on the fare cost, similar to what Star Alliance partner United Airlines does, as well as American Airlines and Delta. Previously, a fare between Medellín and Bogotá might be less than $100 USD roundtrip but provide 500 loyalty miles each way. Now the miles awarded will be based on dollars spent, not miles flown, so essentially by paying a higher fare, the traveler is purchasing points. Avianca has been battered by competition in its dominant markets from low-cost carriers in addition to its own management and operational woes. These factors have led to management shake-ups and the airline has been making cost cutting moves such as closing VIP lounges, reducing amenities, and adopting some aspects of the low-cost carriers’ a-la-carte pricing model.
Previously, frequent flyers could qualify for elite status based on segments flown. This is important for Avianca travelers because many routes the carrier flies are short distance segments. No flights in continental Colombia reach 600 miles in length. After January, 2020, the qualifying by segments option disappears and only dollars spent counts.
In summary, it now becomes much more difficult for frequent Avianca domestic flyers to qualify for elite status. Star Alliance passengers who credited miles to Lifemiles in the past also will find it nearly impossible to qualify for elite status while primarily flying Star Alliance partner airlines, as another new requirement is that to qualify for Lifemiles elite status, 80% of the qualifying miles must now be flown on Avianca.
Last year, Avianca shut out Lifemiles Silver elite status holders from the VIP lounge in its domestic hub of Bogotá, which stung travelers especially badly since the airline also canceled or delayed so many flights. With the lounges now closed completely due to either the COVID Pandemic or the airline’s bankruptcy, will Avianca flyers still find the Lifemiles elite program worth the effort and expense? Please feel free to comment below.