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.
See: Unlocking Award Availability With Bank Point Transfers To International Frequent Flyer Programs
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.
See: Shop Talk With Matt From Saverocity: Self-Insuring Your Travels And More
I’m glad I didn’t have to pursue a travel insurance claim, but that too could have potentially been an avenue to explore.
See: Using Chase Sapphire Reserve Travel Insurance Benefits In Real Life
I hope to visit Hong Kong some day, and I hope for a peaceful resolution to the current situation there.
It doesn’t at all surprise me that AA gave you trouble — I’ve been wondering about a situation like this (i.e. something like CX issuing a generous waiver that doesn’t apply to partner-issued awards, and AA only briefly having a waiver that only applied to its own LAX/DFW-HKG flights — so you’re stuck in a grey zone). I suspect you might have had more luck on the phone getting the fee waived — with AA via email, I imagine courtesy compensation was the only likely outcome.
Travel insurance is also an interesting issue — for one thing, short of cancellations or a serious travel warning I’m not sure if anything would apply, but beyond that, I wonder to what extent you’d have to worry about exclusions for civil unrest / rioting. I don’t see anything in the Chase benefits at quick glance, other than for war, but I’d be curious how they view it.
I also have the clock ticking on some Asia miles. Is BA a good deal? I assumed that would have rough surcharges. I was hoping to get value out of South America since there typically aren’t fuel surcharges down that way, but I haven’t pieced it together yet.
Yes, miles required and taxes + fees can be lower on BA metal using Asia Miles than Avios which is kind of surprising.
You should be able to get a quote on the taxes + fees doing a trial booking on Asia Miles site *if* you have enough miles in your account for the award. Let me know if you don’t quite have enough and I can try pricing out an award.
I’ve not booked one yet personally (so I’m not 100% sure that what the Asia Miles site is quoting me tickets out as quoted) but here are some random examples of what I’m seeing…
BOS-LHR in First, one-way pp:
British Airways Avios (off-peak date): 68,000 + $828 USD
Asia Miles: 75,000 + $267 USD <- big savings on taxes + fees LHR-BOS in First, one-way pp: British Airways Avios (peak date): 80,000 + $562 USD Asia Miles: 75,000 + $489 USD <- not as dramatic a savings departing LHR BOS-LHR-LIS in First/Business one-way pp: British Airways Avios (peak date): 95,000 + $841 USD Asia Miles: 69,200 + $321 USD <- strangely, they're quoting this as fewer miles than just BOS-LHR, and taxes + fee savings are large LIS-LHR-BOS in Business/First one-way pp: British Airways Avios (peak date): $95,000 + $323 USD <- notice how this is lower taxes + fees than departing LHR Asia Miles: 69,200 + $267 USD <- Good win for Asia Miles here So I'd say it's worth taking a look at Asia Miles for sure, and always look to depart Europe anywhere else besides LHR even if you're routing through LHR. Qantas miles can have similar characteristics as well. I'll do some more research and do a follow-on post summarizing this, as I think it's a pretty good angle. Hope this helps...
Confusing but intriguing. My only prior attempt was looking at LAX to Fiji. The price listed as one value but when I went through to book it jumped in price. I learned this is due to the initial estimate is based on the direct flight to the destination, regardless of whether that even exists. But I think it still is about distance flown, meaning they won’t necessarily charge more for more connections, right? My most likely route would be something like PIT > northeast hub on AA, BA to LHR, then LHR to somewhere else in Europe. I usually prefer more Eastern Europe, so perhaps that increases the miles a bit. Does Boston tend to have some of the better premium award availability or was that just random?
That’s right: Asia Miles and Qantas don’t increase miles required based on segments whereas BA Avios does price it that way.
I chose Boston examples because that’s my home airport.