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A few weeks ago, I’ve mentioned that I was debating on whether we should plan a trip to Europe or Japan for 2022. For most normal people, Europe would be a safer bet, at least where Coronavirus restrictions are concerned. In fact, some countries on the Old Continent have already opened up to vaccinated visitors.
But mine isn’t a normal situation, since I have to meet up with my family who currently resides in Belarus. Yes, that Belarus that was on the news recently due to state-sponsored plane hijacking They later blamed it on Hamas (LOL). While many in the West are shocked by hijacking, I’m actually shocked that the plane wasn’t shot down.
Needless to say, there are serious repercussions for all 10 million prisoners, err… residents of Belarus. With land borders closed and Belarus declared by EU a no-fly zone, there aren’t a lot of options for my family to leave the country. The situation is fluid, but I can only imagine it will deteriorate further as new EU sanctions are imposed (and they will be). There isn’t anything I can do other than watch it all unfold and hope for the best.
In the meantime, I’ve decided that I might as well reschedule my Japan trip yet again. Maybe third time will be the charm? Obviously, seeing my family is a priority, but it’s not something I can plan in the current situation.
Asia Miles refund complications
While most airlines allow free award cancellations or at least getting a credit for taxes paid, this unfortunately isn’t the case with Asia Miles program. I knew the risks when I booked the tickets, but was hoping for the best. Unfortunately, so far, JAL airline hasn’t cancelled our flight from Japan to Seattle that is due to depart in only two weeks. I got fee-free refunds on everything else.
That means that unless something changes, I will be faced with two options: 11k miles penalty per ticket or paying $110. Normally, I would say that paying cash penalty is the way to go. I’m not swimming in miles, and will have to use other currency like United, which is quite valuable to me.
On the other hand, Cathay Pacific isn’t in the best shape financially at the moment, and that is putting it mildly. It may be rescued by Hong Kong government, but who knows? Needless to say, the thought of paying $440 in order to gain 44k Asia Miles just doesn’t seem like a safe bet. I’ve reached out to customer service and asked them to wave the fees or perhaps reduce them, but no dice.
Filing a claim through my travel insurance
Fortunately, I bought a travel insurance back when I booked the tickets. It came with “cancel for any reason” option, so at least in theory I should get 75% of my award re-deposit penalties. However, before going that route, I’ve decided to reach out to Travel Safe company where I’ve purchased the policy. I asked them if I could simply transfer it to new travel dates. Amazingly, the answer was Yes!
I was told that the same policy terms would apply. More than that, since I haven’t booked my new trip yet, I could give them approximate dates and then adjust them later. It gets better. I was told that I could even switch to new destination if Japan still has Coronavirus restrictions next summer. That was unexpected and awesome. So, if I have to fly to Europe instead, that may be an option.
Of course, if I chose to transfer the policy to new dates, I would not be able to file a claim for $440 award re-deposit fees. Quite a dilemma.
What I ended up doing
After thinking about it, I’ve decided to transfer the insurance policy to new dates and here is why. In order to utilize “cancel for any reason” option, I would have to cancel my award tickets two days before the original departure date, as in now.
There is always a chance that JAL will cancel the flight right before departure or at least change the schedule, and then I can reach out to Asia Miles and ask for free re-deposit. I would be waving that option if I filed a claim now. Plus, Japan’s coronavirus situation has gotten worse recently, and it’s possible that the airline will issue waivers in the coming weeks.
I’m not counting on it, but anything is possible. Plus, it will give me time to think about whether I want to simply forego the miles rather than cough up cash. In general, I recommend you wait until last minute to cancel your flights. No sense in handing the airline cash unless there is no other choice.
Also, I really like having a separate travel insurance policy in place because anything can happen. Right now I would not even be able to buy a new “cancel for any reason” policy, so if I transfer the old one to a new date it would be ideal. I’m a big believer in buying a standalone travel insurance policy for complicated international trips. See my post on related topic
And even if I made a claim, I would not get the full $440 back, but $330 (75%) which is about what a new travel insurance policy runs at the moment. But mainly, I’m hoping the flight will get canceled and I will have the best of both worlds.
Readers, which option would you choose in my spot?
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.