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On top of rebooking our award tickets to Japan, my family was also hoping to visit South America in 2021. Neither trip materialized in the end. The latter was tied to my sister-in-law’s cruise around Cape Horn, which ended up getting cancelled.
I had previously booked our award tickets via British Airways Avios program, flying into Argentina and out of Brazil. Unfortunately, Avios program doesn’t currently offer free cancellation. Instead, you can basically “freeze” your reservation, and get a voucher code on the value of taxes paid, good for flights through September 30th of 2023. It’s not ideal, but still fairly flexible.
The taxes on our award flight from Miami to Argentina were only $5 per person, not a big loss. However, the flight from Rio to Miami incurred $160 in taxes for four of us, not something I wanted to lose.
In addition, I used Money+Avios booking option, with the cash portion being around $600. I utilized my points from US Bank Altitude Reserve bonus to cover it, since I could burn them at 1.5 cents per point. You have to sign up for this option on US Bank website and redeem points by replying to a text message.
I was hoping that American Airlines would change the flight schedule, so I could simply get a refund, rather than freeze the reservation. There was, however, another wrinkle: the credit card was coming up for renewal, and I didn’t like the idea of paying $400 to hang onto to it, all because of that one booking. I was actually able to use up the $325 dining credit before the fee hit.
I knew that if the card used to book the original flight is cancelled, the company will usually send you a check. But I’ve never actually been in this situation before, so wasn’t sure of all the logistics. In the end I’ve decided to roll the dice and cancel my US Bank Altitude Reserve. I figured I could always freeze the booking if the schedule doesn’t change.
Waiting pays off
Just a few weeks ago I got an email that the flight from Rio to Miami was cancelled. Yes! There was also a change on the flight from Miami to Buenos Aires, but it was minor.
I called British Airways, thinking it would be a serious rigamarole to request a refund (based on my previous experience with them). To my complete shock, I got a knowledgeable agent fairly quickly, and he said he would process the refund request for Rio to Miami flight. I figured it would take months to sort it all out, but only ten days later I got the check for $760 ( cash portion of the reservation+taxes). I was honestly surprised how smoothly everything went.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a free cancellation on our Miami to Buenos Aires award flight, booked solely with Avios. But I still have a few months to see if there is a major schedule change. I did set a reminder to cancel the reservation five days before the flight and apply for a voucher if all else fails.
I will likely rebook that portion of the trip when the schedule loads, since my sister moved her cruise reservation to next fall. We are hoping that things will finally come together and we can see South America at last. But if not, at least I won’t incur huge financial losses.
Taking advantage of Membership Rewards transfer bonus to Avios
While Avios program has many quirks, over the years it has proven to be quite useful for my family. That’s why I’m seriously thinking about transferring most of my meager MR stash to Avios in order to take advantage of current 40% bonus.
For one, I can utilize it for a flight from Rio to Miami in order to make an Avios-only booking. The cash portion of the reservation was the equivalent of paying 1.12 cents per mile. So, when you factor in MR transfer bonus, the math weighs heavily in favor of dumping my points.
Sure, there is a decent chance that our South America plans will fall through….again. In that case, I could utilize Avios towards Orlando-Dublin flight during off-peak dates. This is a bargain at only 16,250 miles one-way, with minimal fuel surcharges.
I’ve recently talked about possibly meeting my family in Montenegro next summer, and it so happens that you can fly for peanuts from Dublin to Dubrovnik via Ryanair. From Dubrovnik it’s only an 1.5 hour drive to Kotor, Montenegro.
This is just one possibility, of course, as you can still utilize Avios for flights within US. However, it’s important to note that that option has gotten harder since AA program has moved to variable pricing. Still, I do feel that Avios program is worth investing in for now. Time will tell.
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.