Avianca LifeMiles has re-classified Guam as part of the Philippines. This ends the ability to book an award from the continental United States to Japan, Hawaii, or Guam for 12,500 LifeMiles in economy or 25,000 miles in business class that lasted as long as Guam was mis-classified as part of the continental United States.

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Now an award from the United States to Guam costs 32,500 miles each way in economy and 65,000 miles in business. (Hilariously Guam is still mis-categorized; this time as part of the Philippines.)

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.18.31 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.18.37 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.19.02 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.19.56 PM Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.21.14 PM I am partially responsible for this deal ending because I wrote about the deal openly in “$200 Flight to Japan with Hidden City Ticketing on LifeMiles Awards.” That post caused a backlash from the “hoard secrets” camp who predicted the award’s immediate demise after my post.

I countered that I doubted Avianca noticed or cared enough to swiftly fix a mistake that had persisted for months. I bet another blogger dinner that Guam would still be mis-categorized as part of the continental United States for at least a month after I wrote the post in December 2013. The mistake lasted another seven months.

Avianca has several mistakes in its categorization of airports and allowed routings. It’s a big deal because you can often buy Avianca LifeMiles for 1.5 cents each or for zero cash by redeeming Arrival miles for LifeMiles.

  • What does the end of this deal mean for sharing LifeMiles mistakes?
  • What other mistakes on the Avianca chart were not corrected?

What I Learned

The end of the Guam-in-United States mistake on the LifeMiles chart is sad, but also interesting.

I think it shows that while the airlines do pay attention to blogs and forums, they are very slow to react unless a deal is costing them a lot of money. I’m sure in total the Guam-in-United States mistake was costing Avianca peanuts if anything at all since selling miles that are redeemed for United economy is probably profitable and Avianca LifeMiles got a lot of free press.

Certain airlines and hotels also seem to be more on the ball when it comes to paying attention to chatter or running their programs well. American Airlines comes to mind as a program that would probably make a change quickly if we were exploiting a big loophole in its program. Avianca never seemed so on the ball.

That’s why I thought that even openly sharing the mistake would allow it to persist–with many more people now able to take advantage–for months afterwards. In this case, I was proven right, but in advance there was no way to know if I was right or the hoard-secrets commentors were right that the deal would disappear immediately after my post.

Going forward, though, it looks like Avianca is paying more attention. There are more mistakes in Avianca’s award computer programming. I believe openly sharing them will quickly end them now that Avianca has shown it is paying attention and can make simple fixes to its computer programming.

For the time being, I’ll just hint at LifeMiles mistakes that haven’t already been openly shared.

Hints: one that I saw is still working, you can still fly to Eastern Europe for the price of a trip to Northern Wisconsin because of a mis-categorization. You can still route west and east between North and South Asia if you want to enjoy a non-Asian airline.

One that I already openly shared: you can still fly from Europe to Seoul to Khabarovsk, Russia for the price of an intra-Europe award as detailed at length in my original post on LifeMiles mistakes.

Did you ever book the Guam-in-United-States mistake? What are the lessons from this episode for sharing secrets?

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