Former Partner Airlines Not Honoring Existing Tickets Issued by Avianca Brasil or Programa Amigo

Jun 8, 2019

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Roughly two weeks after Avianca Brasil officially ceased operations, former codeshare partner TAP Air Portugal has stopped accepting tickets issued by the airline or its Amigo loyalty program. Some travelers have also reported the same issue happening on United on tickets that were initially issued by Avianca Brasil or Programa Amigo.

Despite being held by the same parent company, Avianca Brasil and Programa Amigo operated separately from the Colombia-based airline Avianca and its LifeMiles loyalty program. That means US-based travelers that transfer American Express Membership Rewards or Capital One Venture miles to Avianca to book cheap Star Alliance awards remain unaffected.

But it’s apparently a different story for both paid and award tickets issued by Avianca Brasil and Programa Amigo.

TAP Air Portugal has issued the following statement on its website:

“In virtue of the process of judicial reorganization of Avianca Brasil Airline and as a result of the suspension of the Multilateral Interline Traffic Agreement of this Airline by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), TAP informs that, starting on the 15th of June 2019, it will not accept tickets issued by Avianca Brasil and by Programa Amigo for travels on its flights.

TAP recommends that Clients with tickets for journeys after the mentioned date contact Avianca Brasil or Programa Amigo, the issuing carrier, for rerouting procedures or reimbursement of the ticket.”

Although no formal announcement has yet been made, Brazilian loyalty program news site Passageiro de Primeira shared with TPG that its readers also have reported being denied boarding on United Airlines flights for the same reason.

Passengers of canceled Avianca Brasil flights are entitled to certain rights issued by the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC). However, the situation for Avianca Brasil tickets issued on partners like TAP and United is a bit different since those partners continue to operate normally.

Milhas e Destinos suggests that partner airlines not honoring tickets issued by Avianca Brasil could be violating Brazil’s Consumer Defense Code, which states that all suppliers of products and services have joint responsibility to their customers. Aside from being Star Alliance partners, Avianca Brasil had codeshare agreements with TAP and United.

It makes sense that when an airline goes belly up, any tickets for flights operated by the airline effectively become worthless. Likewise, when no one steps up to take over the bankrupt airline, most of the time, the miles you’ve earned vanish — you can’t convert them to another airline and you can’t redeem them for anything. However, the issue of existing tickets on fully-operational partner airlines not being honored appears to be a new one.

Affected passengers are being advised to contact Avianca Brasil or Programa Amigo for rebookings or refunds, though neither are currently responding to customer inquiries. Depending on the credit card you used to purchase your flight, you might have trip cancellation/interruption coverage and be able to get your money back that way. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card reimburse card holders and their immediate family members up to $10,000 back per person for canceled flights.

TPG will continue to monitor whether other Star Alliance partners also stopped honoring tickets issued by Avianca Brasil or Programa Amigo and provide updates as they become available.

Featured image by Luiz Souza/NurPhoto/Getty Images.

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