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After Coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020, it meant that my long-awaited trip to Japan went down the toilet as a result. I took a chance and rebooked the whole thing for 2021, which ended up going up in flames as well.
I was hoping not to incur any losses, but that unfortunately didn’t pan out. I was able to cancel all but one flight without penalty, an award ticket issued by Asia Miles program. I did reach out via email and chat, asking them to waive the mileage re-deposit penalty due to the fact that there is no possible way for us to enter Japan at the moment. All to no avail. I don’t really blame Asia Miles because when I booked last year, I knew there was a possibility that I could incur a loss. Still, I would be lying if I said that the whole thing didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth.
Anyway, if I wanted to cancel, I had two options: pay $120 fee per person or lose 12,000 miles. I almost chose the first one, but changed my mind in the end. Of course, I did wait till the last minute hoping that JAL would cancel the flight from Tokyo to Seattle. No dice. The flight was on the schedule, and I needed to quickly decide what to do.
So, I chose to forego the miles. I’ve reached out via Chat option on Cathay Pacific website, and everything was taken care of. In the end I lost 48,000 Asia Miles, which is almost enough for two one-way tickets from Tokyo to Seattle. In theory, those are worth far more than $480, right? But I have no regrets, and here is why:
1) JAL is currently imposing substantial fuel surcharges on most tickets, and Asia Miles passes them on
So, my one-way ticket from Japan would currently cost 27,000 Asia Miles+$142. It’s still not a bad deal, but not quite free, isn’t it? In addition, if I wanted to fly to Continental US, Seattle would be my only option for the cost of 27,000 miles. And of course, I would still have to purchase tickets to Florida, where we live.
2) My Asia Miles currency is still subject to “hard” expiration policy
While the program did change it a few years ago, all of my miles are set to expire in March of 2023 since they were earned prior to the change. There is no way for me to extend the expiration, so it’s the case of “use it or lose it”.
While on surface it seems like I have a lot of time to put them to good use, I’m not really banking on it. It’s one thing if I paid $120 to save 12,000 United miles ( I would), but I’m far less enthusiastic to drop our cash to gain this very iffy currency. Cathay Pacific airline is bleeding cash like crazy, and while I do think they will be rescued, I’m not 100% sure the mileage program will be a priority for the Chinese government.
3) I have other miles I can use instead (with no fuel surcharges)
This is probably the biggest reason I chose to let a substantial chunk of my Asia Miles go. I have other currency that needs to be used up, and while none is subject to “hard” expiration, it appears we are earning miles/points faster than we are spending them. So, why would I pay $480 to gain yet more miles, and ones that expire?
Of course, at some point I’m hoping that my family will go back to our pattern of at least one international trip per year. And that will require a lot of miles. Still, I have what I need for the next couple of years, and that’s good enough. I’m probably going to speculatively rebook my trip to Japan for 2022. Yes, I’m one of those people who doesn’t learn from past mistakes!
If like me, you had an international trip this year that also fell through, you were probably able to get your miles back at no cost. But if not, I hope that my reasoning will help you make a decision on whether you should drop the cash to re-deposit your award tickets.
Not all miles in this hobby are created equal. To me, Cathay Pacific program is very much a third-tier program, similar to Avianca. Once again, for my personal situation. Yes, I was obviously sad to lose the miles, but I got over it rather quickly. It certainly helped that I’ve earned them via credit card sign-up bonuses.
Let’s hope all of our travel plans for 2022 will go on as scheduled. Miles are there to be used, and I’m hoping to have close to zero left by the end of next year. That would be a real win in my book.
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.