I usually write about Avianca LifeMiles a few times a year, whenever their sale on purchasing points returns. For travel hackers, it can be quite appealing to buy miles at 1.4 – 1.5 U.S. cents each (1.1 – 1.2p), then use them on a reward in First Class or Business Class on a quality Star Alliance airline such as Lufthansa.
LifeMiles has a few odd rules however. One of those oddities was that you needed to pay $50 to cancel a reward booking, but $150 to change one. So, obviously you would try not to change any rewards, but instead book a new one and cancel the old one.
You also must pay $25 as a partner reward booking fee. So ultimately you are looking at losing $75 (£55-60) if you book a reward but then subsequently change your mind and decide to cancel.
Unfortunately, LifeMiles has decided to increase their cancellation fees substantially. I have not yet been able to figure out exactly what the new policy is, although it appears that itineraries to/from the United States will suffer a $200 cancellation fee, whilst other itineraries will have a $100 cancellation fee. It doesn’t appear to be higher for Business Class, nor does it appear to be an issue with Star Alliance rewards, since the same $100 amount is charged for an Avianca reward cancellation. A few examples…
What does this mean going forward? Well, losing $75 for reserving, then cancelling, a reward wasn’t great, but it was probably within the realms of reasonableness. (British Airways charges £35 for example, Iberia Plus charges £25 / 25 euros) But, $225 for cancelling a reward?!?! Yikes! You could buy 15,000 Lifemiles for $225.
As far as I’m concerned, this limits the usefulness of LifeMiles to booking last-minute rewards that you are guaranteed to use. Curiously, this matches what many members already do, since Lufthansa rewards are often the most desirable, yet LH does not release reward availability to many partners until a week or two before departure.
If you’ve found other examples of cancellation fees besides the $100 / $200 level I mention above, please leave a comment below…