I’m Not Going to Brazil After All: Here Is My Cancellation Story

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AA has canceled the miles redeposit fee

Here is my previous post on the topic: I’m Fully Vaccinated With Moderna. Should I Go to Brazil This Summer As Planned?

Against my best judgment I almost went to Brazil yesterday. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be, due to a family emergency that had absolutely nothing to do with Covid. Oh well.

That brought up an issue of airline, hotel and travel insurance cancellations. All my flights (except for a very cheap one) were on miles and a hotel reservation — on points. This is a brief report about how I fared.

Airlines cancellations

American Airlines

New York (JFK) to Rio (GIG) via Miami (MIA).

I paid 55,000 AA miles and ~$5 for a lie-flat Business Class seat on a 777-200 on both legs.

The cancellation took less than a minute and just a few clicks. Per new AA rules there is no miles redeposit fee anymore. My miles were redeposited within a few hours, and the $5 tax was refunded within the same
timeframe.

United Airlines

Sao Paulo (GRU) to Newark (EWR).

I paid 50,000 Avianca LifeMiles and ~$81 in taxes for Polaris Business Class. You can’t cancel online, but the phone call went surprisingly smoothly. The agent proactively told me the miles redeposit fee ($100 in my case) was waived until Sep 30. That was a relief, since the LifeMiles website was a little vague on it. I was told my miles would be redeposited within 72 hours and the taxes refunded within 7 days. When I checked yesterday, the miles were back in my account.

Kudos, Avianca!

LATAM

Rio (SDU) to São Paulo (GRU): found on Google Flight for $21 and booked via eDreams, which I don’t believe I’ll be getting back, LOL.

Hotel

I only booked one hotel for my last four days in Rio and only because I was pressed by the upcoming Expedia VIP devaluation. I was about to book an apartment for my first three days and then play it by ear, since I wasn’t going to stay in Rio for all 10 days. And because I wanted to spend all my Expedia points anyway, I booked the second most expensive ocean-view suite in the house and topped it up with breakfast, too.

Expedia is the only travel provider with which I did lose money (or rather points). At first, the Expedia cancelation screen showed me the $823 return as if the double VIP rate was still valid (that includes the taxes paid separately).

Unfortunately, the Expedia website calculated everything right, so I got $0.71 per point back rather than the pre-devaluation double points at $1.42 for VIP members.

As you can see Expedia hasn’t taken away my Gold status yet even though I canceled the credit card months ago. And the discrepancy you’re seeing is due to the $116 in taxes that have been refunded separately.

Travel Insurance

There was no way that I would’ve gone to Brazil nowadays without the best insurance money can buy. So I bought one plan from Allianz that covered a lot of ground for $51. It had very low cancellation limits, but since my whole trip had been booked for miles and points I was fine with it. Here is what my policy covered.

I purchased my travel insurance from Allianz because of its generally good reputation and low cost. And it took me less than a minute to cancel my policy online when I realize I wouldn’t be able to go.

While you might take issue with my “best insurance money can buy,” shtick, I also was about to buy a secret weapon. MedJet offers a medical transportation program that includes repatriation. That program would jet me home if something went terribly wrong. It would cost me $145 for a 15-day trip or $295 for an annual plan (and AARP members can get up to 20% discount). MedJet has a terrific reputation and it offers a straightforward medical repatriation to a hospital of your choice rather than an evacuation benefit that may or may not get you home eventually.

Let’s recap

While cancelling your travel is always painful in terms of your emotional wellbeing, the current Covid cancellation policies adopted by many airlines make it easier to book an award flight even speculatively. In my case, both American Airlines and Avianca readily and willingly redeposited my miles without penalties.

I would strongly recommend buying a top travel insurance policy now more than ever, because Covid makes everything worse. You probably want to be able to go to the best local hospital, no matter how pricey it is, and, in case of a life-threatening situation, to be able to be flown home and not be put on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Both, the travel insurance and medical transportation plan may be purchased days before your travel, and my insurance premiums have been refunded when my plans unraveled, no questions asked .

 

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HoKo

How were the hold times with the various companies you had to deal with?

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