Our Dream Vacation Canceled …. (For Now)

As I was on hold with Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel Center, to the tune of U2’s It’s a Beautiful Day, I just can’t help to think it was not a beautiful day, at all. Last Friday, we were forced to cancel our family trip to the Seychelles.  A dream trip I have planned for the past year.   My daughter woke up a day before our scheduled departure on American Airlines, with a fever, and of course alarm bells went off.  My wife was concerned, as we were transiting through Abu Dhabi, and if the body thermal scanners caught this, we would surely be pulled aside and given a free two week un-wanted lodging stay.  Either way, a serious trip interruption, that outweighed any benefits at the moment.

I didn’t purchase trip insurance for this trip, so I was banking on cancellations with full refunds.  The sucky part about this whole ordeal, like any award reservation trip, is it’s a puzzle made of different pieces. I had to work on each puzzle one by one…but, not impossible.

In my case, I had air, and hotels, but they were all from different programs.  Here’s the end results of my extensive long refund phone calls.

American Airlines AAdvantage:

We had booked 4 tickets using American Airlines AAdvantage miles to the tune of 75,000 miles per passenger in business class from Portland (PDX) to Mahe, Seychelles with a layover in Abu Dhabi (AUH).  Our routing was PDX-PHX-ORD-AUH-SEZ, and the return was a layover in Doha on Qatar Airways. That routing was SEZ-DOH-DFW-PDX, where we were destined to enjoy one of the best business class cabins out there right now – Q- Suites.  I guess that’s not going to happen.  We got lucky as the agent waived all the fees, and redeposited the miles back onto the account, without penalty.  That’s a savings of $150 per passenger for the redeposit fees. Total hold time for this call, 2.5 hrs.

Chase Ultimate Rewards:

For our long layover in Abu Dhabi, I had opted for a night stay at the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Airport Hotel.  I used Ultimate Rewards to stay here, and after calling the Travel Center help desk, and being on hold for roughly 1 hour while they conversed back and forth with the hotel in Abu Dhabi, only to tell me they put in a ticket for a refund.  Not sure what that means, but I am assuming I will have to call back just to follow-up.  Total phone time spent on this one : 55 min.

 

Hilton Honors:

We booked a 7 night stay using our Diamond benefits at the Hilton LaBriz Seychelles Resort and Spa.  Our cut-off date to refund/cancel was past, so I had to contact the hotel directly and talk to their manager.  Having done so, the only option given to me was to reschedule at a later date without penalty, but I am unable to do that right now.  I figured why not call them in early in the morning on my way to work. I decided to call the Diamond desk line, which showed up on my Hilton app, and the nice lady there was able to assist me in forcefully canceling the reservation and giving me back my points, with one caveat ; I may be charged for one nights stay.  She did however contest that. and wrote a ticket to their reservations team, to see if they can waive that.  She said the process can take up to 72 hrs for a response.  Total phone time spent 45 min.

UPDATE: did NOT get charged for the one nights stay.

Expedia.com:

I used a ton of points acquired from my Barclays Arrrivals+ World MasterCards, to offset a travel expense for Expedia, in which I used to book The CoCo de Mer Hotel and Suites on Praslin Island, Seychelles.  This was to be my second hop on Seychelles, and we were going to rent a car and visit the various beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Georgette.  Initially I was offered only 50% of my total expense for the reservation, and that was A LOT still.  My wife contacted Expedia directly, and they worked it out with the hotel and refunded ALL my money back to my Arrivals+ card.  Whew! This one was a big one, and I’m glad it was resolved.  Would’ve been a huge Debbie Downer, if I didn’t get all my money back from this.  Total time on the phone ..3.5 hrs.

US Bank Flexperks:

We used about 45,000 Flexperks to book 4 intra-island flights from Mahe, to Praslin in the Seychelles on Air Seychelles.   I booked it through their travel center, and these guys so far have been the hardest to get refunded, as they keep giving me the run around.  These flights aren’t until the 20th, so I will wait a few more days to attempt calling them.  We were on hold with them for over 4 hours, to talk to someone, only for them to tell us to call or contact Air Seychelles.  I emailed Air Seychelles under their guidance, and they replied back with instructing me to ‘contact the travel agent who did the booking’, as they couldn’t refund it. I will of course follow up with this one, as soon as the stampedes are over in the coming days.

At The End of the Day….

It’s been a mess all around for everyone and I’m glad we didn’t end up going because, honestly it would’ve been a headache worrying about everything that’s going on.  Half the fun of traveling on points is enjoying the journey to the destination, and that pretty much has fizzled out with this virus fiasco.  Im just very happy the programs all were flexible with refunds and coming through for their customers. I will wait until the smoke clears and reschedule our family trip for a later date. I’ve done all the research for the destination, so that will make things even easier when I do schedule it again.  Heck, my buddy Ivan Acosta, even hooked me up with some Seychellian Rupees to help me out upon arrival there. For now, the bag stays put, the passports back in the drawer, and the camera turns off….. Did any of you cancel your plans? What are your future travel plans now?

 

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60,000 American Airlines Offer Expiring Soon – ACT FAST!

One of the best American Airlines offer is soon to expire. The offer has been around for some time, but is due to expire on Halloween. This offer below however waives the annual fee the first year. It’s not the standard offer, they usually offer. I know, a scary notion no doubt.  However, if you are on the fence about getting this American Airlines 60,000 miles offer, I would jump off the fence and get it before its gone.  No telling when it will return.  The Barclays Aviator AAdvantage MasterCard is offering a whopping 60,000 miles after your 1st purchase. There is NO minimum spend requirement AND the annual fee is waived for the first year. That’s enough miles for a couple round trip coast to coast flights, or premium cabin redemptions, for domestic travel. I personally save these miles for premium cabin international travel, which can used on their partners, such as Qatar or  Etihad, or any OneWorld partners.

The card has some nice perks, which include priority boarding on American Airlines flights (not code-share partners). First bag free, for up to 4 people, and some new perks such as a $25 credit on inflight WiFi purchases, and an anniversary companion certificate for 1 guest at $99 + taxes. Its also a MasterCard, which gives you $10 monthy credit to use at Lyft.

Application Link Annual fee Waived First Year

Application Link – Standard Offer with $99 annual fee

I had this card last year, so I wont be reapplying for it this time around.  I will however, get this for my wife, who has not had this card. As a family of 4, we need 2-player mode to accrue lots of miles for premium cabins.  Are you going to get this card? If so, what are your travel goals for the miles?  Happy Travels!

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American Airlines Allowing for Premium Economy Using Miles

It looks like American Airlines is now allowing folks to redeem their miles for premium economy cabins. This is actually pretty nice, as availability sometimes is hard to get on on international partners, and using them on American Airlines flights, may be easier.  They have released the award chart for it, and the rates seem okay, I guess for flying in a better and more comfortable seat, than a regular coach seat.  Below, it appears if one was to fly from the U.S. to Europe, it would be 80,000 miles round-trip.  However, keep in mind that its only 57,500 for one way in business or first class on American Airlines to Europe.  This may work for some people, especially if availability is sparse in the desired cabins on certain flights.  I may take advantage of this to fly to Europe, as I want to keep my miles for long haul redemptions to Asia and beyond.  Also, it would be interested to know how many premium economy seats they will release for award redemptions, as it could be a great and less stressful way to fly for a family of 4, lets say. Anyhow, its still great to have this viable option for a more comfortable flying experience.  I just cant see myself flying like this even,  for 17 hours somewhere. Currently, there are a few ways to acquire AAdvantage miles, such as :

Happy Travels Everyone!

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How to Get a Free Passport

Qantas is running a promotion currently, which is discounting your tickets to Australia by $135 for each ticket.  Apparently, they took notice that not a lot of Americans have passports, and they want to help fix that.  Simply go to qantas.com/passportredeem and enter the promo code “PASSPORT”, and select your flights.  Depending on where you are flying from, the savings could be real, or they may be more expensive than competitor flights.  You will either way, save $135 for most flights selected.  If you happen to have a passport already, you still get the promotional savings.  Just make sure you enter the promo code when making the booking.  This is a great offer, if you were heading over to the land down under in the coming month or so. Getting a discount of $135 for each passenger is pretty good. You can also credit your miles to American Airlines, or Alaska Airlines if you like, since they are partners. Check your dates and make the booking, and let me know how much your flights came to. From Portland, Oregon, it was still too expensive for me to drop on a trip to Sydney. However, originating at a gateway city such as LAX, or SFO might yield lower prices.  Happy Travels!

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Two Credit Card Offers You Shouldn’t Ignore + Giveaway!

Last year was an amazing year for credit cards and so far, 2017 is starting out with a punch. Currently, there are two offers I would not ignore if you are looking to pick up a new credit card – or two.  The Chase United MileagePlus Explorer card is currently offering 50,000 miles, and is available to everyone.  After meeting the $3,000 spend, you get 50,000 miles which is enough for 2 round trip coach saver award tickets in the U.S. or Canada.  They can be redeemed for first class travel in the U.S. or Canada.  United has a handy chart here, to see what’s possible with your miles. Check it out.

The second card I wouldn’t ignore is the Citibank AAdvantage Mastercard, which also nets you 50,000 miles, to use on American Airlines, or its partners. Although American Airlines recently devalued its miles, I still think you can get some pretty good deals to Europe and even South America, on partners such as Air Berlin, and LAN.  They are also great to use with British Airways on short haul flights, or intra-Europe.  With stellar service on both carriers, you will have no problem traveling smoothly.  The other aspect of this offer, is Citibank cards are relatively easy to get, and you can receive the bonus more than once, so racking up tons of AAdvantage miles will be no problem.

Both cards come with a ton of perks, such as free baggage allowance, anniversary miles, priority boarding, and no annual fee the first year. Both offers wont last, and I suspect will go away soon, so I would get them now.  Of course, keep in mind with Chase, the infamous 5/24 rule applies, which means if you have applied for more than 5 credit cards, from any bank, within the past 24 months, the likelihood of approval is zero. If you haven’t, then you’ll be lucky enough to score this card. Just make sure you have a travel goal in mind, so you can use these miles, or you can just bank them for future travels on United and its partners.

I actually applied for both of these cards last year, and was approved. The Chase United MileagePlus card came with two United Club passes, which I won’t be using this year, so I’d like to give you a chance to take ’em off my hands! Please comment on how best you would use these miles, and I’ll pick someone randomly. I’ll announce a winner at the end of the week. The Hogan A319 model is not included, in case you were wondering. Happy Travels!

 

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Why British Airways Avios Miles Are Awesome!

One of the best uses of British Airways miles is to use them to fly Alaska Airlines to Southern California.  My brother had accumulated a boatload (or should I say a plane-load HAR HAR) of them during the Chase British Airways 100,000 miles promotion, as well as my sister in law. One of the beauties of the Avios program is the ability to ‘merge’ family accounts. Therefore, the family account was 200,000!! This is a lot of miles and if you know how to use them, they can be very lucrative.
I helped him find availability on Alaska using the American Airlines website, as British Airways does not show you Alaska flights (yet).  Plug in your dates and check Redeem Miles, and whatever it shows at the 12,500 mile saver award, should be available to you using your British Airways miles on Alaska, as well.  That will be your indicator flights are available on Alaska Airlines.

AA_loginAA_chart

 

After you find, the flights you want, you must call British Airways call centre in the U.K. at 1-800-247-9297 to book it.  There will be a $25.00 charge for EACH reservation made, so if 3 people are flying, you will be charged $75.  Once in awhile you will get a kind and gentle rep who will waive the fees, but don’t count on it. Their call center is full of obnoxious, and somewhat rude agents.  They will then book the tickets, and give you a British Airways confirmation code…..which can be useless since you are flying Alaska Airlines, so ask them for the Alaska Airlines confirmation code.  I was able to book 3 tickets PDX- BUR for 45,000 miles + $90 in taxes/fees. He charged the taxes/fees onto his Barclays Arrivals World Mastercard, so he could redeem his points to pay off the $90.00. Zero out of pocket! Not bad… If you think about it, this is actually a steal! Usually it costs 25,000 miles PER ticket.  You can also use the Avios points to book your hotel and car as well, though I got other plans for those.
I highly recommend anyone getting British Airways Avios points, because even with them devalued, they can still be awesome for domestic and short haul trips.  Also, there are so many ways to get them, that’s its almost impossible NOT to get any.

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AwardWallet Once Again Supports American Airlines AAdvantage

If you haven’t used AwardWallet, I suggest you should. It is a great handy tool that keeps track of all your frequent flier accounts, as well as other incentive programs, including hotels, and credit card programs, such as Membership Rewards. This way, you don’t have to keep logging in and checking to see when miles expire, how many miles you have, etc, etc.  Well, for the newbies, to sum it up, ..sometime ago, they stopped reporting your AAdvantage miles, because American Airlines was not a happy camper.  But now, the glory is back and they are able to support AAdvantage, and let you see how many miles you have banked on American Airlines.  This is a huge plus, because of the recent Citibank AAdvantage offers, and makes it easy to keep track of how many miles you have.  Sign up for a free account today, and take AAdvantage (get it?) …okay, I know, lame joke.  Enjoy!

 

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