If you’re thinking of using Avianca LifeMiles to book upcoming award travel, might want to get a move on it. Yesterday, LifeMiles announced a five day system outage in an e-mail to members. LifeMiles plans to use the outage, scheduled for February 1-5, to perform “system upgrades”. However, the exact scope of these updates remain unclear.
What The LifeMiles Outage Affects
Per the announcement, the outage affects members in the following ways:
- You will not be able to access or transact in LifeMiles.com or the LifeMiles Mobile App. Our Call Center and Service Centers will be open but will not be able to make transactions in our systems either during this period.
- You will not be able to redeem with LifeMiles or any of our partners.
The FAQs also address points transfers during this period. LifeMiles states that “some” banks can process transfers during the outage, but to check with your bank. Mileage earning and accrual to LifeMiles continue as usual during the outage. However, any miles earned won’t actually appear in your account until the system comes back online.
So, if you’ve got a LifeMiles redemption in the planning stages, it’s probably best to book it in the next two weeks. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until after February 5th, and hope those seats remain available. (Or use a different program like MileagePlus, Aeroplan, etc.) Given the challenges with major system upgrades, I’d also expect some glitches for some time thereafter. The same goes for points transfers; I’m not very comfortable trying to transfer points to a program during a system outage.
The other issue to consider are cancellations to existing reservations during the outage period. Especially if you have an award reserved during those five days. No cancellations can be processed during the outage. Thus, it goes without saying, double check your plans and call on the 31st if you need to cancel. According to the FAQ, you can make date changes as long as the same award type is available.
What I Hope To See from the System Upgrade
I find LifeMiles a moderately useful program. You can transfer points from Amex, Citi, and now Capital One. They offer a useful “LifeMiles + Money” option, which allows you to buy up 60% of the needed miles for 1.5 cents/mile. Even otherwise, LifeMiles frequently offers generous discount offers on purchased miles like this one. You can “mix and match” cabin classes to reduce the total number of miles required. And best of all, LifeMiles passes on no fuel surcharges on partner awards. That potentially provides better value than, say, Aeroplan, even if you need more miles for the award.
Nonetheless, LifeMiles isn’t without its warts. First, it suffers from a clunky search engine and buggy website. As I detailed last year, the site (seemingly randomly) fails to process transactions correctly. (At least the call center wasn’t the nightmare I expected.) And the site frequently displays phantom award availability. LifeMiles promises “an enhanced and more modern experience in LifeMiles.com and the LifeMiles mobile application” as part of the upgrade. Hopefully the “more modern experience” addresses the chronic bugs and phantom availability.
As mentioned, if you know you need to book or cancel/modify an award booking in the near future, it’s probably best to complete it before the end of the month. Otherwise, hopefully the upgrades really do improve the booking experience after February 5th.
Photo of Avianca Boeing 767: “Avianca Colombia B767” by Moto “Club4AG” Miwa, via Flickr Creative Commons, license Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).