Avianca Change Policy Says You Can Change Dates…But It’s A Headache.
On the surface, the customer-friendly Avianca change policy sounds nice. Book any flights you want, change dates without a fee, enjoy the trip! If only. It’s a good thing I can multi-task online while Avianca wasted time of my life that I can never get back. Here’s the horror story and what I learned from it, in case you need to change flights with Avianca.
Avianca’s Change Policy
As we covered here, Avianca has a change policy that sounds very customer friendly. No fee for changing flights is common for most airlines during the pandemic. Here are the specific terms with Avianca:
- The non-penalty fee applies for all fares and also for flights booked with miles. It applies only for (1) once, if the flight date is after October 31st, 2020 and before June 30th, 2021.
- For flights before October 31st, 2020, no fare difference or mileage charges will apply and multiple changes can be made if they are in the same cabin and to common points, (for tickets purchased at travel agencies only a maximum of 3 changes can be made), if your flight is after October 31st, 2020 you can only make 1 change. without paying a penalty.
Good Luck Reaching Avianca
The problem is that change policies only work if you can actually talk to the airline. Getting hold of Avianca was a disaster. If you paid cash, you can change dates and apply for refunds online. If you booked with LifeMiles, you can’t. Here is the timeline of actually making a change with Avianca:
- May 8: call the LifeMiles support center and get a message that they’re only working 7am-7pm. I called at 3pm, but the auto greeting told me this and then hung up on me.
- May 9: same thing again, so I sent an email.
- May 12: LifeMiles support emails back saying date changes can’t be done by email, so I have to call.
May 12, 2020 – Avianca Was a Circus
Knowing this was sure to be ridiculous, given the circle they were already running, I lined up several tasks I could complete online. It was time to call.
- 10:02am – I called Avianca support. The LifeMiles section again said they’re only working 7am-7pm and hung up on me.
- 10:03 – I called and pushed 1 to buy a ticket.
- 11:03 – I tweeted at Avianca (including their main, North America, and help center accounts) telling them I’d been on hold and just needed to change a flight date for a LifeMiles booking.
- 12:12 – A sales rep picks up. I used Shawn’s trick and asked her to write down my phone number / call me back if we get disconnected. She said they can’t do that. I told the rep I needed to change a flight date, nothing else. She verified that I was eligible for the change fee waiver and put me on hold.
- 12:23 – Avianca Twitter team replies by private message saying I could use their chat feature. I open a chat with the same question, in case chat goes faster than the phone call. I am #16 in line.
- 12:33 – She returns from hold saying she confirmed the date I want is available. She needs to refund the taxes / I pay the taxes again, because it’s a few cents different. She puts me on hold to prepare the payment system.
- 12:49 – She returns and asks if I got an email from her, including a payment link. I didn’t. We spend the next 15 minutes trying to send this email to me, my wife, or even my mom. Several times, I ask if we can use the old system where I key in my credit card number via phone. After 15 minutes, her supervisor tells her to use the old system.
- 1:05pm – I key in my credit card info in less than 30 seconds, get a confirmation, and finally hang up.
- 1:05 – I disconnect the chat, still #9 in line. Given that the online system for payments wasn’t working for the phone rep, the chat probably wouldn’t have been able to help me.
- 6:05pm – Confirmation emails for the new travel dates arrive via email.
The email with the payment link DID finally show up. It showed up a full 52 hours after the confirmation emails showed up.
Avianca Not Having a Good Week
Avianca isn’t having a good week. They declared bankruptcy, which wasn’t a surprise for most people. The silver lining is that they said LifeMiles will continue with business as usual. I know these recent pieces of news have people nervous about their upcoming bookings and their stashes of LifeMiles. The kicker on these is that Avianca has a repetition for lackluster customer service. Mark says he plans to let his LifeMiles expire, because he’s tired of dealing with Avianca. He finds them so frustrating that redeeming his LifeMiles isn’t worth it. I find a lot of value in LifeMiles and won’t go that far, but I understand his frustration.
When other airlines have the option for doing all of this online, Avianca needs to step up its game. The website says to call. The phone number says they’re not working at the time it says they’re working. They tell you to email, and the email team says you have to call. It’s circuitous at best. 4 days and multiple hours of run-around is stupid. I’m happy to wait for a reply to an email if it’s actually meaningful, but not when you told me to email and then reply to my email saying not to email.
I’ve lived in South America for 4 years now, and the inability to easily make changes or special requests with South American airlines continues to baffle me. Delta, for example, lets you easily change dates and rebook online, no matter how you paid for the ticket originally. I’m happy that the Avianca change policy meant I didn’t have to pay a change fee (which can be $100-150, not the friendliest). However, the fact they can’t get their act together on the phone — I understand long hold times, things are hectic — and the fact you have to call in the first place leaves a lot to be desired. Once you can finally get hold of Avianca, the change fee waiver is great. Just don’t plan on getting this done quickly.