What a time we live in. 3 months ago, I had just returned from a long and fantastic Asia trip and was busy planning what was supposed to be another exciting year of travel. Covid-19 has completely altered not only the travel landscape, but all aspects of life everywhere in the world. I hope everyone is staying safe during this unprecedented time.
Like most travel addicts, I had trips booked before Covid-19 hit hard. Initially I was hopeful that summer and fall travel could resume. As things progressed, they looked less and less likely – especially international travel. Luckily, I didn’t have too many trips booked. I was considering a few more trips but my busy schedule precluded me from making them actionable (thankfully).
Here are the trips I have/had on the books
- A long weekend in the Big Island of Hawaii in late Feb. Since I live on the west coast, I booked round trip Avios award ticket for 26k. For hotel, I booked a condo through Wyndham for 15k per night.
- The week of July 4 in Europe. I had an economy AA award ticket for going there and a business class Delta award ticket coming back. For hotel, I booked one of the many IHG properties in Paris where I could use 2 of my 40k-capped free night certs; I also booked the luxurious Parisi Udvar in Budapest when it was a category 2 Hyatt.
- in late July I have an award ticket to Vancouver that was booked with then-expiring Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. I booked a refundable hotel in Uclulet with hotels.com gift card.
- I booked Sedona Rouge hotel for 15k Wyndham per night for October, before redemption rate doubled.
- I have Christmas booked for Hawaii, using 2 Hilton free night certs at Grand Wailea and a week in Kauai. The flights were booked with CNB Crystal points.
Here’s where things stand
- The Feb Hawaii trip was cancelled at my mom’s insistence, just as Covid-19 was starting to brew in the Western hemisphere (by official counts anyway). Being an Avios award ticket, I only lost the tax (<$12 USD) as the cancellation fee. The Wyndham stay was cancelled before deadline.
- The Sedona trip is a driving trip and the hotel is refundable on points.
- I’m still hopeful about the Christmas Hawaii trip.
- I don’t expect the July Vancouver Island trip to materialize. Singapore Airlines is currently allowing free changes/cancellation for flights up to June 30. Let’s see if they extend it to July.
That brings me to the July Europe trip.
AA refund for economy award ticket
A few weeks ago I noticed my AA: DFW-CDG flight completely disappeared from my online itin. I received no communication from AA. I checked schedule and it was not operational that week. Additional research revealed the flight had been cancelled until the following month. I wasn’t sure if AA would offer free cancellation and redeposit the miles, and at the time I still had some hope the trip was possible, so I found an alternative flight just in case. I never had an easier time finding saver award in my life.
I called the regular AAdvantage line, where the standard greeting affirmed my account was still alive. I reached an agent within minutes. I stated the problem and asked her for the options. She immediately offered to cancel and redeposit miles for free. I took it. The miles went back to the account the next day, and the taxes were refunded a few days later to the credit card.
Delta refund for business class ticket
A few days ago I saw that Delta was now offering free award ticket cancellation for domestic and international bookings thru Sep 30. Since I already gave up the outbound flight, had no confidence in the trip materializing, this flight had poor schedule anyway and Delta is now offering free cancellation, I decided to take advantage of it. I can always rebook the flights if some miracle renders the trip possible with minimal risk (in terms of outbreak likelihood, border closures and mandatory quarantine).
I took screenshots of my booking before cancelling the ticket online. The miles immediately went back to my account, and the taxes of ~$200 has been refunded to my credit card as of today. I lost some money in the currency exchange – I guess the dollar is very strong right now, but no biggie, happy to have the vast majority of it recouped.
I will wait until close to the trip to cancel my hotels. IHG is extending my free night cert to Dec 2020; even with that I’m not confident I can find a good use of it. But such is the state of the miles and points currency right now.
Should I cancel my hotels.com stay for July Vancouver Island now? I wasn’t too excited about the trip anyway – it was the best option at the time of my SQ miles expiring. I was going to spend the time on the west coast of the island, but it looks similar to Carmel and Big Sur, just with Pacific NW trees (which I like! But not sure it’s worth the trip in this global crisis). I am not sure how hotels.com is doing in terms of refunds.
In a Nutshell
Luckily, I had a hassle-free experience with both AA and DL for award ticket refund. By far the most time-consuming part was the research – understanding the policies and searching for data points. I understand paid tickets may be harder to get refund for. I’ll be keeping an eye on my remaining trips, and I pray that world order as we knew it will slowly return – with changes of course – including travel. At this point, my other main concern for our hobby is the value of our currencies. Will foreign currencies like Lifemiles be wiped out by bankruptcy? Will prices be so low that it’s not worth using airline/hotel currencies? That’s a topic I will explore in a different post. Meanwhile, keep yourself and your loved ones safe.