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Cancel/Change Reward Travel – COVID-19
[B]I posted this as a comment to Lucky’s article yesterday, “9 Tips For Cancelling Flights During Coronavirus,” but wanted to appeal for advice to a broader audience. I hope that doesn’t violate any policy.
I had rolled my own RTW reward trip on two United itineraries. The first falls within current COVID-19 waivers, the second is just outside them. United’s fee for points restocking goes up tomorrow from $75 (per itinerary, I believe, rather than per ticket?) to $125.
Several COVID-19 events impact the travel – 1. US travelers can not enter Australia, 2. Air New Zealand has suspended my flight (SFO-AKL); 3. Singapore is not allowing transit; 4. Turkish Air (SIN-VCE) has suspended my flights; and 5. Venice is effectively shutdown.
I contacted United on Twitter and was told I could change the itinerary within the waiver (basically, US to Australia via NZ) without fee, but if I cancelled the restocking fee would apply. The second itinerary (Australia – Italy via Singapore and Istanbul) being outside the waiver period, there would be a fee to change or a fee to restock. In other words – pound sand.
Any advice on how to proceed at this point?
Thanks – and thanks for all the great info you all provide!
When is your travel? If it’s not coming up in the immediate future (like next 2 weeks), I’d just sit tight and wait. There is a very good chance that most waivers will be extended and expanded, so if you are able, just wait it out.
On the other hand, $75 seems pretty reasonable to pay to be able to walk away and get your miles back. I was in a similar situation with a trip to Europe, and was scheduled to leave the evening that President Trump announced the initial travel ban. We cancelled 2 hours before boarding, and were able to recoup everything except for 1 non-refundable hotel night and parking at my home airport that I had prepaid for. Could I argue my case to Marriott and the parking company and hope for all the charges to be wiped out? Sure. But, ultimately it cost me around $180 to be able to completely walk away from my vacation.
Everyone’s situation is different, but for me, it’s just not safe or responsible to travel right now, and $75 is a reasonable cost to be able to wipe my hands clean (pun intended? :cool:), get my miles back and move on.
Thanks for the reply!
The outbound leg is May 26, so I have a bit of time, if I want to wait to see if it cancels. I’m leaning toward the cancellation and paying the restocking on the miles, as you suggest, as I do think the waivers will be extended. I do have hopes of rescheduling, whenever travel opens up again.
It seems to me that the option a paid ticket would have, of cancel now and apply the cost to a future ticket, is not available for reward tickets.
If that’s correct, if I wait to cancel, banking on official flight cancellation (I have not been notified that flights are cancelled, even though two are “suspended” by partner airlines) to avoid fees, I may still have to pay the restocking fees, which will be a little higher at later dates. Based on that, I think that cancelling now, for a known $75 fee (each itinerary) may be the safer route to take. At least that way I have the miles back, so rescheduling becomes possible.
If I’m off base on this, please let me know!
Thanks again for your help!
Scott, definitely correct that award tickets tend to have different policies than cash tickets. Based on my understanding of everything, if the airline cancels then you wouldn’t need to pay any fees. The fees are because, at least as of now, you are voluntarily cancelling.
I didn’t realize United fees were going up (who is surprised by United policies anymore), but I agree that it may be worth just cancelling now to save some money. Another perk of doing it that way is then the miles are back in your account now, so you can start looking ahead to rebooking and not get stuck with not enough miles in your account, and award availability opens up.
Sorry to be confusing – United’s increase isn’t a policy change. It is $75 up to something like 60 days before travel, $125 inside of that, and I’m almost at the cutoff, which prompts at least part of the question.
Ah gotcha. Makes sense, thanks for clarifying.
So basically you have a chance to pay $75 and walk away now, or gamble that the waiver is expanded in the next 55ish days and pay nothing. Gamble doesn’t pay off, you pay $125.
I say cancel now for $75. It may even be worth calling in a couple times and asking customer service to waive the fee – you may get lucky with a sympathetic agent here or there.