Reminder: Never Cancel Your Award Flight When Your Plans Change. Wait!

There’s a rule when it comes to award flights – never cancel your award flights when your plans change – wait!

In the last few weeks this one rule has resulted in almost $500 worth of savings.

Last year my wife and I were able to snag two economy tickets from Denver to Rome on US Airways.  Since the flights were off-peak and we have a US Airways credit card we were going to be able to fly from Denver to Rome for a total combined mileage of 60,000 miles and $178.00 out of pocket.  That’s an amazing value for 60,000 points.

Alas, even our best laid plans of mice and men did not turn out as we wished.

First, we moved to Billings, Montana.  As such, our quick four night trip to Rome would actually require six days because we’d need a day to drive to Denver and a day to drive back to Billings.  

Second, I have too much travel planned for the first half of 2014 and I knew something would need to be cut from my schedule.

Back at the beginning of September we made the hard decision that we’d need to cancel our trip.  We simply couldn’t make it fit with my work schedule.  It was a sad day my wife because she’s always wanted to go to Rome and a sad day for me because it was an amazing use of points – 30,000 US Airways miles round trip to Rome.  

But, I didn’t call the airline that day and say we wanted to cancel the tickets.  

Why not?

I can give you 300 reasons.  The cost to cancel and reinstate your miles on a US Airways award flight is $150 per ticket for a total of $300.

That’s another reason why it was going to be sad to cancel out flights to Rome – we’d have to pay $300 to cancel.

However, about five weeks after we decided to go I received an email saying that our schedule for our trip to Rome had change.  Within an hour I was on the phone explaining that I didn’t want to fly into Denver an hour later than I booked.  Eventually, the phone agent said the melodious words – Mr. Ford, since we can’t find a satisfactory flight for you, I could cancel the flight for you.  Since the flight cancelation came as the result of a schedule change we were able to get all our points back without a fee.  We were not able to get our $25 per ticket award booking fee back (not that I asked).  I was happy to avoid the $300 fee.

Last year my parents and I planned to make a trip to Tokyo to visit some friends there.  

Once again plans changed.  When I was detained in PNG for an extra week I decided that I wasn’t interested in leaving the family again within a couple of months.

I didn’t cancel my flight right away, but eventually had a schedule change.

Note: in the case of American Airlines (which we’d used to book flights to Japan, changes are free) I changed the flights to a later date to give more time for American to make a schedule change.  In a few months there was a schedule change and I was able to cancel my flight without a fee.  But, mom and dad still had tickets.  

I had postponed their flights till November and recently when I was thinking we’d need to cancel the flights and pay the $150.  However, when I started looking into it the record report showed that the tickets were booked in March 2013.  I guess when I made the date change it somehow changed the booking date.  Typically, you have 12 months to use up your points.  However, since I was able to rebook flights for February 2014 we’ve now got another six months to schedule a trip for mom and dad or wait to see if there is a schedule change.  

The lesson learned in both these instances is don’t cancel your award flight when you plans change.  Wait out the airline to see if they make a schedule change.  If they do change the schedule they’ll offer you the chance to cancel your flights without a fee.

Anyone else had a similar experience?

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