My Great Experience Canceling Non-refundable Reservations
So, I had an awesome Memorial Day weekend trip planned to surprise McCown to St. Kitts & Nevis:
But, I learned that I had to cancel very last minute due to a family emergency. In the days of cheap flights, hotels and cheap awards, cancellation and change policies have been getting stricter and stricter. When I learned that I wouldn’t be able to go, I just knew that there was no hope of getting any of the reservations refunded because it was so close to the date of departure (as in 12 hours before we were set to depart). Despite my pessimism, I started making the calls to see if a phone rep might have a little mercy and help me out. All told, I expected to be out around $750 + 40,000 in Avios (valued between $600 – $1,238 depending on how you calculate) = appx between $1,350 – $1,950 total on a trip I wouldn’t be able to take. Here’s what I had booked and how I fared:
British Airways Award Reservation
Flight: This was for our flights from Miami-MIA to St. Kitts-SKB.
Total cost: 40,000 Avios (value around $619 x 2 = $1,238) + $134.00 in taxes/fees
**Calculated by checking fares for paid tickets on similar dates at the time of booking. If using the method of valuing a BA Avios point, I would have come to an estimate of around $600 to $800 (40,000 miles x 1.5 or 2 cents/miles)
British Airways Executive Club policy on changes/cancellations (link to full policy here):
So, being less than 24 hours from departure, it sounded as if I was out of luck. To top it off, I used BA Avios to book the award on their partner American Airlines…it’s getting worse. In a normal scenario, I should expect 0% refund. But, I decided to bite the bullet and try and call anyway. All BA Avios redemptions are handled through the Executive Club call center– their US line can be reached by calling 1-800-452-1201. They apparently don’t have call waiting on this line, so I had to call 11+ times to get through. Once I had the rep on the line, she agreed that I was way past the normal cancellation period. I explained that, ideally, I would love to get the Avios back, but if that wasn’t possible I would want to explore my options to change the flights to a later date. Since it was so close to departure, she had to ring a manager, but, after a few minutes on hold, she reported that, because of the situation, the Avios would be redeposited to my account! The taxes and fees, however, were already paid over to American Airlines so that likely wouldn’t be possible to refund–fine with me!
My result: 100% of Avios refunded, taxes and fees ($134) forfeited but wasn’t charged the $40 “Cancellation/Avios Redeposit” fee
Hotel: Night 2 in St. Kitts
Total cost: $196.71
I was just a day past the cancellation period, but it’s still very clear that I would be charged the equivalent of a 1 night stay if I had to cancel after:
I simply called up Marriott, gave them the booking info and explained the situation. The phone rep was very polite and said she’d make the cancellation for me and that I wouldn’t have to worry about being charged for the stay. She said that if I had been calling on the date of checkin, I would have been required to fax documentation proving the emergency to be refunded the money.
My result: 100% refunded
Hotel: Night 1 in St. Kitts
Total cost: $120.78
Hotels.com in general has a great cancellation policy as they never charge fees to change or cancel. If you change your dates, you’ll be charged any difference in rate, which could be significant if you originally booked far out in advance but are changing close to the date of your stay. But, Hotels.com doesn’t assess any fee on their part. The same is true with cancellations: no fee is assessed by Hotels.com, but you’ll have to comply with the cancellation policy of the individual property. Any properties have pretty generous cancellations of 6pm the date of checkin, but in the case of my reservation, I had until 3 days before checkin to cancel or I’d be hit with a 1-night penalty.
I called Hotels.com Welcome Rewards at (877) 903-0071, entered my account number and explained the situation to the representative. No questions asked, she said she would refund the full amount of the stay despite being past the cancellation deadline. Great customer service!
My result: 100% refunded
American Airlines Reservation
Flight: One-way from Charleston-CHS to Miami-MIA
Total cost: $285.80
Like all the other items on the list, this one was the most/second-to-most improbable, so I decided to make this call last. In an effort to earn extra Chase Ultimate Rewards points, I had booked the AA flights through Travelocity, making it that much less likely a refund would be possible as the Travelocity policy clearly states:
So, I didn’t even bother with Travelocity when it came time to reach out to American Airlines and check my options. I called AA’s main customer support line at 800-433-7300 and made my case to the phone agent. I said the best case would be to get a full refund and, if not, I’d like to explore options to change the flight. She called in a manager and came back on the line within a few minutes saying that they “could offer a one time exception” and give me a full refund on the flights! They asked for the name and address of the mortuary, the name of deceased and my relationship to them and said the refund would post within 7-14 days! Way to come through, American!
My result: 100% refunded
BOTTOM LINE: If something comes up and you simply can’t go anymore, try to call customer service and explain the situation: they just might be willing to work with you.