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Well, the inevitable happened. I had to make a decision regarding our aspirational trip, our return trip to Japan. “Wait, Jason…you’ve been to Japan. So why was this aspirational?”
Our planned aspirational trip
Well, this was aspirational in quite a few ways. It was originally planned for us to travel April 2020 (right when the COVID-19 pandemic began reaching it heights):
- A double celebration
- our 20th wedding anniversary,
- Nancy’s 49th birthday (2020)
- Booked two first class tickets to Japan
- Cash value $17,500 per ticket (total $35,000)
- Booked with Virgin Atlantic, flying ANA, ranked #3 in the world’s best airlines
- Instead of paying $35,000
- Used American Express Membership Rewards
- Took advantage of the 30% bonus transfer from Amex to Virgin Atlantic
- Needed 220,000 Virgin miles (or 220,000 American Express Membership Rewards
- only used 180,000 Amex rewards (due to the 30% transfer bonus
- Fees out of pocket = $116
We had to move our 2020 trip to April/May 2021 – another double celebration. Nancy is turning 50 in 2021, and our 21st wedding anniversary. So we were hoping that Japan would reopen to tourists a year after the pandemic, but the odds weren’t in our favor.
ANA did not cancel our April 2021 flight
That’s right, although, we couldn’t fly to Japan due to the tourist restrictions, our flight with ANA at the end of April was still scheduled to fly. So what does that mean? Since the flight was NOT cancelled, these were our choices in order to make sure we don’t miss out on using our points
- Go and fly to Japan – which is not an option for us (scratch this one)
- Voluntarily cancel our trip – since we are the ones choosing to cancel, we would have to pay $50 cancellation fee per ticket ($100 total)
- Wait for ANA to cancel our trip – if ANA were to cancel the trip, we will not have to pay the cancellation fee. We are a few days away from our trip, and ANA hasn’t cancelled
- Rebook a future flight – this was the most viable of all options. I needed to find a future flight for me to rebook. But my travel calendar is somewhat virtually packed. I didn’t want to just rebook for the summer months. Japan made it clear that no tourists allowed during the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. The earliest I’d probably consider is November/December – but was afraid what if Japan still remained close around that time? So many unknowns. Plus, we have plans to travel to the Philippines in December/January. Also in March 2022, we are already booked on a trip to the Maldives. So my plan was to find something in late April/May 2022 timeframe. However, at the time when I wanted to rebook this, the April/May 2022 flights weren’t available yet for me to choose. The struggle is real.
Not a fan of paying the $50 cancellation fee ($100 total for 2)
Not gonna lie. Since I had no choice but to postpone our trip, the thought of cancelling and paying the $100 fee for both of us just did not sit well with me. I called Virgin Atlantic (not ANA) since I booked my trip via Virgin. I politely argued the fact that why should I pay the $50 fee when I, as a traveler, have no choice but to cancel? I informed the agent that I was hoping to find availability in April/May 2022 – but I couldn’t rebook those tickets yet at the time of my call.
Change it to an Open Ticket and avoid the cancellation fees
The Virgin Atlantic agent put me on hold. When she returned, her suggestion to avoid the cancellation fee:
- Change my booking to an Open Ticket
- I can rebook as long as I complete my trip by end of April 2023 (two years from the time of the call)
- No fees will be charged for going with an Open Ticket
- The 220,000 miles value is held until I’m ready to rebook
- I will only be responsible for any difference in taxes and fees
- If I end up using less miles, I will receive refund for the difference
- Or, if I need more miles, I will need to transfer points to cover the difference
The takeaway? Flexibility
That’s it. That’s what I ended up doing. We now have an open ticket that gives us two years to use our points. To be perfectly honest, are we still considering Japan? I’m not going to rule out Japan. But with our plans to travel to the Philippines and the Maldives, I might entertain using my miles for those trips that I know are set in my travel books. So for now, we have to say sayonara to Japan. I believe in fate, and that this trip will happen when we least expect it.