The day was supposed to be May 12, 2020
That would’ve been our next travel day, our long awaited return trip to Japan. It was the culmination of seven different trips we booked in 2019 and 2020.
- Japan – April 2019
- Kauai – July 2019
- Bali – November 2019
- Taiwan and the Philippines – Dec 2019/January 2020
- Costa Rica – February 2020
- Las Vegas – March 2020
- Japan – May 2020
I wrote a couple of entries when I booked our return trip to Japan that was planned for May 2020. My wife and I were celebrating our 20th year wedding anniversary, and we decided to treat ourselves by booking two first class roundtrip tickets flying ANA and booked with Virgin Atlantic.
However, life had other plans for us, for all of us. As of this writing, we’re in the middle of a pandemic known as COVID-19 aka coronavirus. This pandemic affected many of us with travel plans, and all of a sudden, things had to be cancelled, postponed, or placed on hold. Many of us have been advised to stay-at-home, or work-from-home. I just knew by the end of March that our May trip to Japan was not going to happen, so I made initial inquiries when I called Virgin Atlantic to inquire about my options. Here’s what I wrote.
1. Cancel – now or later
As of March 24, 2020 – I only learned of two options
a. Cancel our trip NOW (during the phone call with Virgin Atlantic) – I would get all of my points back (220,000 Virgin + my $535 fees. This cancellation would cost us $100 total (or $50 per ticket)
b. Cancel later (closer to the day of our trip) – why cancel later? Should ANA cancel our flight, this would avoid us paying any cancellation fees (a $100 savings for 2 tickets).
At the time of my call, I decided to go with the second option as advised by the Virgin Atlantic agent. No matter what, we planned on cancelling our trip anyway so why waste $100 if there was a chance that the airline itself might cancel our trip for us. Our trip was scheduled on May 12, and the advise was for us to call 24-48 hours before the day of the trip, and maybe by then we’d hear of an official cancellation from ANA.
A few weeks had passed, and by May 10, 2020 (two days before our scheduled trip to Japan), there was no word from ANA. The airline didn’t cancel our flight. So I called Virgin Atlantic late Sunday night (11am PT). These were the other options given to me.
2. Reschedule now and no fees will be assessed
Basically, find a trip that would work for us, any timeframe over the next 11 months. I didn’t go with this option because we personally did not want to book any travels for the rest of 2020. For some reason, I had this big idea in my mind that anytime after Spring Break of 2021 would be our starting point to entertain any kind of travel.
3. Hold the tickets
This gives us the choice to keep our options open. It gives us an opportunity to book through May 31, 2022. The caveat, we can continue to look for future trips, and on or before Dec 31, 2020, we would need to let Virgin Atlantic know if there was a travel itinerary that we’d like to take. If by Dec 31, 2020 there isn’t a trip that would work for us, Virgin Atlantic will continue to extend the ticket hold.
By holding the ticket, that means that my 220,000 miles that are used are not refunded to me. They are held. The $535 in fees we paid were also held (not refunded). It’s a gamble that I was willing to take.
ANA removed carrier surcharges
Things happened since May 2020. As I mentioned, the fees that we had to pay for these two roundtrip first class tickets were $535 (or $267 per person). However, things have changed since. ANA had eliminated their surcharges. The fees have dropped to roughly $60 per person, meaning, I’d be charged less when I am ready to book.
We rebooked to 2021 and saved $418 in fees
That’s right. A month after I placed our tickets on hold, I checked for flight availability in the months of April/May 2021, and found the combination of first class flights from Los Angeles to Japan. How did I do it? Click here for the steps I took to search for availability.
Once I’ve jotted down the possible flights that could work for me, all it took was a phone call to Virgin Atlantic. The ANA flights that I booked were available by booking with Virgin Atlantic. Due to the pandemic, the hold time was long, it took over an hour for a Virgin Atlantic rep to get on the phone.
It pays to be ready. I provided him the travel dates, the flight numbers, the cabin preference, and that was it. I provided our traveler information, and as expected, Virgin Atlantic was able to book our flights. Within 15 minutes, Virgin Atlantic provided with my booking information. If I booked these first class flights out of pocket, it would’ve cost us nearly $35,000.
But thanks to miles and points earned with credit cards like American Express, the fees out of pocket was just $58.05 per person. And since Virgin Atlantic held $535 in fees for me from my previous booking, I did not have to pay a single dime at all when I rebooked. In fact, I should expect a refund of over $400 within the next 120 days.
If you want to learn all the other ways I saved using miles and points, make sure to check out this entry. It will show you how I stretched my points to book this aspirational trip
A break from travel
To be perfectly honest, we’ve been on a whirlwind of trips these past 5 years, and we haven’t really had much time to prepare in between. During our last two trips before COVID-19 (Costa Rica and Las Vegas), part of us was feeling overwhelmed with the thought of planning another big trip to Japan. So in many ways, I’m looking at this predicament as a blessing in disguise. I’m not looking at coronavirus as a blessing, but what it did to us during this time, it’s allowed us to channel our efforts and spend time with the kids at home.
We’ve been taking care of many chores, projects, lots of cooking and baking, walks around our neighborhood – it feels like a second chance. So while I wait for the next travel opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of this time, this borrowed time with our family. This is not to say that I will stop looking for travel deals, but I’d like for these issues to settle before I pull the next travel trigger.
So for now, we wait. We wait for this next travel opportunity to Japan in 2021. We don’t have any summer travel plans, nothing for the fall or winter either. Nothing…yet. We’ll have to wait and see where the tide takes us over the next few months.