We were recently planning to visit Hong Kong for a couple nights on our way to Phuket, Thailand. I initially hoped the political protests in Hong Kong would be unlikely to disrupt our short visit. But as our trip drew closer I could compare scheduled protests with our plans, and it become clear we’d be better off avoiding Hong Kong.
We were scheduled to arrive into HKG on a Saturday and depart on a Monday. This was bad timing with the protests as they’ve been occurring most prominently on weekends. A protest was scheduled for Saturday in the neighborhood where we’d reserved a hotel. And a city-wide strike was planned for the day we were flying out of HKG.
Others may be similarly on the fence about whether to visit Hong Kong so I thought I’d share my experience cancelling award travel through Hong Kong.
Cordis Hotel Ultimate Rewards Booking
I booked the Cordis Hong Kong hotel as a non-refundable stay through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and was looking forward to staying there. I thought this would be a tough one to cancel because of the rate I booked, and the fact that I’d have to deal with the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel desk in order to have any chance at a refund.
Before cancelling, I was in communication with the hotel about the likelihood of the protests affecting our stay there. They were very helpful in providing information to enable me to make a decision about whether to cancel our time in Hong Kong. They said that protests occurred mostly on weekends so they advised changing out dates. That would be difficult with all the associated contingencies so I was just looking to get out of the booking and get a refund.
To pursue the refund I called the Chase Ultimate Rewards help desk. They called the hotel seeking a cancellation of the non-refundable stay. With time-zone differences I had to call Chase a few times until I caught them at a time when a person at the hotel with the authority to approve the cancellation was available.
But once I did that the hotel approved a refund, and the Ultimate Rewards I used for the booking were placed back into my account.
The Cordis was terrific in dealing with this. I called them “the best hotel I’ve never stayed at” on the most recent edition of our podcast. It was really nice of them to let me out of a non-refundable rate given the circumstances. I’d definitely stay here if we make it to Hong Kong in the future.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Award
In a recent blog post I was describing how Asia Miles is a program that releases more award space when using their own miles than they do to partners. I used this characteristic to book seats from Boston-Hong Kong-Phuket on a combination of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon.
In order to cancel that award ticket and have the miles redeposited into my Asia Miles account I had to call them at the number listed on their contact page for the US: 1-866-892-2598
There was a little bit of a language barrier, but I was able to cancel the award ticket and the rep submitted a request for a waiver of the $120/pp USD cancellation fee. They called me back the next day to inform me my requested was approved. The miles were back in my account later that day.
The only bad thing about this is that I now have 170,000 miles stranded with Asia Miles, and they expire in 3 years even with account activity. I think I’ll be able to use them though. They can be good for award travel to Europe on British Airways with lower overall cost than Avios.
American Airlines Award
AA charges $150 to cancel an award and reinstate miles for those without Executive Platinum status. Even with Platinum status with AA, they were the toughest of the bunch to get an award cancellation fee waiver from.
I submitted a request online that wasn’t responded to for a couple weeks. Then I pinged them on Twitter. That didn’t help, but customer service eventually responded to my online inquiry. They denied my request for a waiver since they didn’t have a travel advisory in place for Hong Kong.
I responded with a link to a news piece showing that the airport was impacted by the protests on the day our travel was to occur. AA responded with a compromise: They’d give me a $150 AA travel voucher that expires in 1 year. “As a one-time courtesy.”
This was our first trip to Asia and it was a relief to be able to cancel parts of our trip that touched Hong Kong. If you’re heading to Hong Kong and award cancellation fees are what’s stopping you from changing plans, I’d check for airline waivers and encourage you to see whether there’s more flexibility to make changes than there otherwise would be.
We were discussing self-insurance a while back, and I think it somewhat an example of that. If things outside your control compromise the ability to visit that destination, travel providers are often reasonable in granting change waivers.
I’m glad I didn’t have to pursue a travel insurance claim, but that too could have potentially been an avenue to explore.
I hope to visit Hong Kong some day, and I hope for a peaceful resolution to the current situation there.