​I Had to Cancel Yet Another Trip: A Cautionary Tale Plus Why You Should NEVER Presume You’re SOL Until You Try to Fix It

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Chiado Square Apartments: the view

This is the third long-haul trip I’ve had to cancel since the pandemic began.

Back in October 2020 I canceled a trip to Israel that I’d booked in the pre-pandemic time.

Back in June I had to cancel a trip to Brazil due to a family medical emergency. Unfortunately, the problem persisted so I had to cancel another one last month – this time to Portugal.

Back in December 2020 when the news about the two miracle vaccines hit the press and defeating Covid was just about the corner (LOL), I booked a trip to Portugal. October 2021 seemed to be so far away at that point that I felt it was reasonably safe to do so. Besides, the new airline Covid policies would get my miles reinstated without a fee. There was no risk, whatsoever, at that point.

Just to be clear, I wasn’t sure I’d have to cancel until the day before I was about to travel. My mom underwent a medical procedure back in July, but there was still a lot of time until my trip. The whole backstory is a bit complicated, so I’ll leave it out at this point. Suffice it to say it had nothing to do with Covid.

I got my miles back for the flight to Lisbon

This post contains all the gory details of booking my LifeMiles award to Portugal on TAP for 35,000 miles.

Canceling the flight – after I got a hold of a LifeMiles agent – was easy. Getting a live person on the line, however, had taken me about 25 minutes. My miles were redeposited within minutes and the redepositing fee was waived. I believe the LifeMiles fee waiver is valid for bookings until 10/31, but I’m not 100% sure. 

But then, there was a matter of ~$35 in taxes.

And that was a problem, because sometime after booking the flight I canceled the credit card I used for the booking. That fact sent me into an endless circle of Avianca phone commercials interrupted by brief conversations with clueless agents who had no idea how to refund my taxes to a different credit card.

After wasting at least 1.5 hours online I realized I wanted too much. I hung up and shot them a single email explaining that I had canceled my credit card and they’d need to find a different way to refund the taxes.

Here is their response (after I told them the credit card in question was no more!).

Dear customer:

Your refund request for the ticket XXX has been created in our system with the number XXX. Our reimbursement team will analyze your request and, if we need additional information, we will send you a new email to request it.

We remind you that the payment method of the authorized reimbursements is the same that you used in the purchase of your ticket.

This email is informative, we thank you for not answering.

Um, OK. I received that response three weeks ago and that was it. I might try shooting them another email, but there is only so much pain I’m willing to endure for $35.

​My lodging cancellation

This is where it gets interesting.

I booked my Lisbon stay with Expedia points I’d earned with its credit card’s welcome bonuses in the spartner mode. And I booked it right before Expedia devalued the VIP benefits, so with 1.4 cents per point it was an excellent value.

The problem was, my aparthotel had a one-month-prior cancellation policy. Normally, I would avoid booking a hotel with such unfavorable cancellation terms. But the place seemed perfect for me. I did the research and loved the price, pictures, location, reviews, everything.

When the cancellation deadline approached, I let it pass because I was still hoping to make the trip, although, come to think of it, the writing was on the wall. My mom wasn’t healing as fast as we hoped.

And before you ask, no, I didn’t buy travel insurance. In other words, I screwed up.

When it became abundantly clear that my trip wasn’t happening (the day before my check-in), I decided to talk to the hotel and ask for some credit or … anything.

​That never happened, however, because the management contacted me first

Amazingly, someone messaged me on WhatsApp and asked about my arrival time. So I told him what happened and asked if there was anything that could be done at that point.

He said yes, I’ll talk to the management and ask them to send you a voucher to use on a later date.

And the voucher they did send. For the whole amount of my stay! It took a few reminders, but I got it in my email within two weeks. It was unbelievable!

​To recap

While it’s always frustrating to cancel trips, it’s easier to get over with when you get reimbursed by travel providers. In my case, I got my Avianca miles back and a full voucher for my hotel stay in Lisbon that I can use until the end of 2022. I haven’t recovered about $35 I paid for my award ticket, but oh well, I’ll live. 🙂

I guess the takeaway is simple.

  • Try to avoid booking a stay with long-term cancellation policies.
  • If you can’t, buy travel insurance that would cover cancellation – preferably for any reason. 
  • If you don’t have insurance, call you hotel and ask them for credit – or if there is anything they can do for you. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. The worst that can happen is a “no.”

UPDATE: for those who live in New York State, reader John was kind enough to post this to better understand CFAR policies. Thanks John!

Hey Andy, I did a little research and apparently due to the pandemic NY state as per the governor (see attached link) are offering CFAR policies. However, 3 things to keep in mind, they might be an additional policy rider and cost, they cost more than regular trip insurance and finally they might only reimbursed a policy holder for 50-75 percent of the cost of the trip. Anyone who read this YMMV.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/irenelevine/2020/03/08/governor-announces-change-in-new-york-state-travel-insurance-policy/?sh=74f596771281

I must say, though, that in this case the hotel contacted me first and almost proactively offered the remedy, so I can’t credit my own acumen this time. 🙂

Well, sometimes, the kindness of people will amaze the most jaded of us. It has surely amazed me more than once in my travels.

What I’m trying to say is this: don’t be afraid to ask for a favor even if the terms of your booking are not in your favor (sorry for the silly pun).

Here is the link to the apartments again. At no point did I tell them I was a travel blogger or writer. They’ve never asked me to post it, and I don’t have any incentives to, but it seems to me like a great place to stay in Lisbon, anyway. Well, that and they’re good people, so there.

Chiado Square Apartments

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John

Hey Andy,
I am sorry for your disappointment. Excellent post as I felt your pain. I too canceled 3 trips in 2021, Trans-Siberian RR, Easter Island and a Middle East/North Africa trip. However, I could be mistaken post pandemic, but in NY State you cannot get “cancel for any reason insurance”. If that has change, please let me know which company.

John

Hey Andy, I did a little research and apparently due to the pandemic NY state as per the governor (see attached link) are offering CFAR policies. However, 3 things to keep in mind, they might be an additional policy rider and cost, they cost more than regular trip insurance and finally they might only reimbursed a policy holder for 50-75 percent of the cost of the trip. Anyone who read this YMMV.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/irenelevine/2020/03/08/governor-announces-change-in-new-york-state-travel-insurance-policy/?sh=74f596771281

Jane

Hi Andy, thank you for the information. Great post as always. How did you contact Avianca? I had some pretty bad experiences with Avianca (do not want to ramble on and on here). They have this website and form to submit for travelers to report problems. I got the following. Anyone with similar experiences? Almost a joke.
Delivery has failed to these recipients or groups:
servicioavianca@avianca.com (servicioavianca@avianca.com)
The recipient’s mailbox is full and can’t accept messages now. Please try resending your message later, or contact the recipient directly.

Jane

Thank you for your response. Issues: I redeemed LifeMiles to book Air Canada flight from LAS to ICN. The first lag of the flight was LAS (7am) to YVR, and then YVR to ICN. The first lag canceled and we were not notified. We found this out at the airport on the day of departure. Avianca support could not do anything and asked me to call Air Canada. Air Canada agent told me that the ticket belongs to Avianca, and they notified of the cancelation several months ago. This is the beginning. Problem continued. Upon checking my return flight, samething.… Read more »

Ryan del Mundo

Sorry you had to cancel yet another trip. Hope you can get back out there soon. Cheers

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