Upcoming San Juan Puerto Rico Trip Cancelled
I had booked a girls trip for my wife and her friend to go to San Juan, Puerto Rico in January. It is a payback trip for all of the times I have left my wife with the kids while I traveled for the weekend with friends. I really wanted this trip to be special as a thank you to her.
We have never been to San Juan so it sounded like a great idea for a location. Then Hurricane Maria came through and wreaked havoc on the island, leaving most without power for days/weeks. I held out hope that Puerto Rico would get back on their feet in time for the trip. I received a cancellation email from the hotel last week saying they wouldn’t be ready in time.
As I said above I wanted this to be a special trip and I did a lot of research and found what I thought would be a great hotel for the trip, El San Juan Hotel. The price was 70,000 Hilton points per night. The place was newly remodeled and looked amazing. As soon as I got the email that they would not be open in time I started looking at other options.
I went back to awardmapper to see if anything else would work. The only options left were not very enticing. I was stuck using Hilton or Hyatt points since that is all I had available on short notice. The other Hilton options weren’t great and Hyatt didn’t have anything on the beach. Then pretty much every hotel I checked on the beach was unavailable for the dates I selected. I am not sure if they had damages as well, most likely, or if they were just sold out.
It was becoming clear that we needed to move on to a new destination, unfortunately. I had booked the flights with American Airlines. I somehow found two saver seats at 30,000 miles each – a mini miracle. Their second choice was Nassau so I checked the dates on American Airlines and there were two saver seats available – an actual miracle! All that was left was contacting American Airlines to make the cancellation…should be easy enough…I thought.
Changing the American Airlines Flights
Since I detest calling American Airlines I reached out via twitter explaining the situation and asking if they could cancel the flights and refund the points. I figured with the well known situation in Puerto Rico it shouldn’t be much of an issue. That assumption was wrong and I was met with some resistance. This is their original response:
“We’re not refunding those tickets at the moment, however, we do have a travel alert in place. We can cancel their itinerary and you can book to the same destination up to 09May2018 free of charge. Travel would need to be completed by then. If you don’t think the hotel will be reopened by then, we can put in a one time reinstatement charge waiver, so they can travel to any other destination before the date the tickets expire.”
I was a little surprised by this response. And I definitely was not going to accept it. It is not easy to just reschedule a trip for a few months later, especially with the unknown timeline of hotel openings in the area.
I sent them another message, with a picture of the email from the hotel, and they sent this response back a few minutes later:
“We’ll go ahead and cancel the itinerary and put in the waiver for them, so they can rebook for a different destination.”
This was an acceptable response to me. I had hoped to simply get the miles back since there was a better flight on Delta for the return from Nassau. But, I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. It did mean I would need to call into American’s reservations department….ugggh.
Making the Changes
I waited until the evening hoping to get less of a hold time. Surprisingly, I got through right away. After explaining my situation and alerting the agent to the waiver I gave her the new flight information and destination and she made the changes. I had to pay the higher taxes and fees for the international destination over the phone. They will be refunding me the taxes for the original flights on my credit card. For some reason they could not just bill me the difference between the two.
I still need to book the hotel for Nassau, most likely the Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, but that is another internal dilemma I am having. Another article for another day!
All in all, making the flight changes was not as painful as I had anticipated. I guess if you set expectations low you are bound to be impressed. American’s original response was a little surprising with the Puerto Rico situation widely known, but they did right by me in the end.
I still would have preferred being refunded the miles so I could make other arrangements if needed. I was lucky that there were 2 more saver award flights for the new destination. Although the return flight, and it’s two stops, is less than ideal. Hopefully something opens up with better routing that I can change them too. One of the few perks American Airlines has with award travel is being able to change flights. That is as long as the departure and the destination remain the same.
Hopefully this helps you if you are in a similar situation in the future. If you have upcoming travel booked to an area affected by this years devastating hurricane season I would suggest being proactive. Give your hotel a call to see if they will be open for your travel dates. The more time you have to make changes the better chance you have of it working out.
Let us know in the comments if you have ever had a similar situation and how it worked out.