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Back in March when the global situation with Covid-19 started to quickly deteriorate, I had the unfortunate privilege of hosting my parents here in the US. Things were changing so quickly, my head was literally spinning from information overload.
It was decided that we would cut their visit short so they don’t get stuck in America and drive me crazy in the process. I ended up redeeming United miles on a short notice, and it’s a good thing I did. It was the last operated Frankfurt-Minsk flight for many months to come. You can read my post for more details if curious
There was a small matter of trying to get a refund from Terps-affilated travel agency, and that’s where I hit a snag.
Calls, calls and a DOT complaint
In my life I’ve had lots of frustrating experiences with trying to get a refund, and this one ranks in top three, easy. I’ve called Terps agency maybe five times total, only to be put on hold for hours and be disconnected in the end.
Eventually, I gave up on this foolishness and called Lufthansa instead. They in turn referred me back to Terps agency and said there was nothing they can do to help. I knew that was not true, as they could most certainly initiate a refund process. I had a similar situation with cancelling Alaska Air flight, booked via points from BoA Merrill+ program. I’ve simply reached out to Alaska via chat and the agent said he would take care of it.
When I called Merrill+ program, the rep thanked me for making his job easier and said the points were reinstated. But I clearly hit a dead end with this Lufthansa situation, so I have decided to try something new. I went ahead and filed a DOT complaint. Two, to be exact, since my parents’ tickets were booked from separate Terps accounts.
The whole process took only a few minutes, and about a week later I got an email that my complaints qualified to be reviewed. They would be forwarded to Lufthansa, and I would hear from them within a few months. At least, in theory.
Well, I never heard from Lufthansa, but about a month and a half later I got a $335 check in the mail from something called CXLoyalty. Some sleuthing around the internet has shown that this company services Terps travel rewards program. Also, on the check there was a number that matched my mom’s Lufthansa reservation. Incidentally, $335 equaled to half of the original ticket price.
I was naturally thrilled, but it did make me wonder what happened to my dad’s refund. Calling Lufthansa once again accomplished nothing, so I’ve reluctantly decided to reach out to Terps program…again. Amazingly, I actually got through to someone this time. The agent seemed very nice and willing to help.
She said she would make sure I get a refund and even gave me an email address where I could reach out if needed. I also forwarded her the screenshot showing that my parents’ flight from Frankfurt to Minsk was canceled by Lufthansa. That turned out to be a good thing because Lufthansa rep apparently said it never happened.
I’m still waiting for this second refund, but the last piece of communication with CXLoyalty rep indicated that Lufthansa has authorized it, it will just take a few weeks to get everything processed. Boy, that was some undertaking, but $670 is certainly worth the effort unless you are filthy rich.
Few final thoughts
1) Always save the screenshots of everything related to your cancelled flights or hotels. The more documentation you’ve got, the better chance you will have at getting a refund in the end.
2) Pursue different avenues when it comes to refund, and don’t give up. It’s like throwing multiple darts instead of one, you are more likely to hit your target. I still don’t know if my DOT complaint has kickstarted the whole process, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
3) Know when to let go and call it a day. As I’ve said earlier, I felt like $670 is worth the effort and multiple frustrating phone calls. On the other hand, when I didn’t get a promised $15 refund from Avianca, I moved on and didn’t look back. Incidentally, the refund just showed up, though it took seven months. Either way, I wasn’t going to lose sleep over it.
4) Miles are valuable in more ways than one. I know a lot of people in the hobby are not crazy about having boatloads of miles right now, and that’s totally understandable. I guess I’m a contrarian because this year has taught me just how indispensable (some) miles can be during an emergency. No, I’m not talking about hoarding Lifemiles, or some other obscure/unstable foreign currency. But American-based mileage programs like AAdvantage, MileagePlus and Delta are worth investing in, IMO.
A few months ago, I converted my husband’s CSR to Freedom Unlimited. I had about 25k UR points left and could redeem them for groceries at 1.5 cents apiece. Instead, I’ve decided to leave them in the account in case an emergency arises. Then I could quickly convert the card back to CSP or CSR and transfer points to United or some other mileage program. So, by that logic, you can say that I do value United miles at close to 1.5 cents each.
I don’t think I will be flying to Belarus anytime soon on account of political unrest and anti-American sentiment on the part of the current ruling government. I don’t feel like taking a chance and ending up being tortured in Belarus prison. Hyatt it is not.
But you never know when a situation may present itself where miles can come in extremely handy. Plus, the fact that many airlines now let you cancel award reservation without penalty at any time makes them even more valuable for planning trips during crazy Covid-19 era. If I used miles, it would take me a minute to cancel or change my parents’ tickets, and I would not have to spend hours on the phone.
So to me, miles, or flexible points to be exact, have just gained more value in 2020. How about you?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.