So here’s a little map I made of all the flights I’ve cancelled (or will almost certainly cancel) in 2020, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s 29 flights and just under 85,000 miles of flying, across 12 separate tickets. It’s far from ideal, of course, but in a time when people are falling sick, losing their jobs or getting pay cuts, you won’t hear a word of complaint from me.
In any case, since I’ve accumulated so many data points on cancellation experiences across airlines, frequent flyer programs and ticket types, I thought it might be helpful to compile them here for those of you who have yet to cancel.
Cancelled: Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Frankfurt
|Type||Award (Spontaneous Escapes)|
|Travel Date||February 2020|
|Operated By||Singapore Airlines|
|Ease of Cancellation||Moderate (had to visit ION Orchard)|
This award was for a positioning flight to Frankfurt so I could review EVA Air’s new Business Class (see below). What’s different is that it was booked under Spontaneous Escapes, and if you remember the rules, these awards are strictly non-changeable and non-refundable.
Back in early February I tried cancelling the award over the phone, without success. But I headed down to ION Orchard, where the CSOs were willing to bend those rules. In the end, they treated it like a regular Saver award, and levied a US$75 refund fee.
Taxes were refunded the same day as the cancellation.
Cancelled: EVA Air from Vienna to Taipei
|Travel Dates||February 2020|
|Operated By||EVA Air|
|Ease of Cancellation||Simple (filled out online form, waited ~1 month)|
One of my resolutions for 2020 was to review a wider range of cabin products, and EVA Air’s B787 Business Class was on that list.
The plan was to book a Spontaneous Escapes award to Frankfurt (see above), then fly FRA-VIE-TPE on a mixture of Lufthansa and EVA Air, which would let me review the B787 on the VIE-TPE leg (technically VIE-BKK-TPE; there’s a stop in Bangkok).
But as COVID-19 got worse towards the second half of February, I didn’t feel like venturing too far from home. I managed to open date the ticket at first, then when Singapore Airlines announced its waiver policy, I cancelled for a full refund (no cancellation charge).
The cancellation request was sent via Singapore Airlines’ online assistance form on 11 April, and the refund was received on 19 May.
Cancelled: Vueling from Barcelona to Catania
|Travel Date||March 2020|
|Ease of Cancellation||Simple (refund issued on same day)|
In March this year, I was supposed to visit Sicily with my parents. My plan was to first fly to Barcelona with The Milelioness and spend a couple days there, before joining up with them in Catania.
To get from BCN-CTA, I’d bought two cheap Vueling tickets (hey, travel isn’t all First Class and champagne) for ~€140. As the COVID-19 situation deteriorated in Italy, I contacted Vueling to request a refund. They outright refused:
But two weeks later, the flight was cancelled, and I got a refund anyway. The cancellation date was 13 March, and the refund was credited to my card on the same day. That’s remarkable efficiency for a low cost carrier, given how they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory when it comes to COVID-19 refunds.
Cancelled: Cathay Pacific from Singapore to Bangkok
|Travel Date||April 2020|
|Booked Through||British Airways Executive Club|
|Operated By||Cathay Pacific|
|Ease of Cancellation||Simple (although refund took 50+ days)|
Earlier this year, I had a fun idea for a trip report: review every oneworld lounge in Changi, all in one trip.
Oh, it was a grand plan. Arrive at Changi a day early, check-in at Jewel, do the Qantas lounge for lunch, the British Airways lounge for tea (on account that their F&B selection is dire), then cocktails and an excellent made-to-order dinner at the Qatar Premium lounge. Spend the night at the Aerotel Transit Hotel, then head to Terminal 4 in the morning for dim sum and champagne at the Cathay Pacific lounge before jetting off to Bangkok.
Cathay Pacific operates a fifth freedom flight between Singapore and Bangkok, and a one-way redemption cost just 16,000 Avios + S$77.10. By the time I was due to fly, however, the MOH travel advisory had gone out, and Cathay Pacific was cancelling flights left right centre.
It wasn’t difficult applying for a refund on the British Airways website (at least not back then; now you apparently need to call in), but they took their sweet time processing it. I applied on 13 March, and only got the refund on 6 May.
Cancelled: Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Bangkok
|Type||Revenue (with AMEX Platinum Charge flight credits)|
|Travel Date||July 2020|
|Booked Through||AMEX Platinum Travel Services|
|Operated By||Singapore Airlines|
|Ease of Cancellation||Simple (refund hasn’t appeared yet)|
After all, S$400 isn’t going to put a dent in any premium cabin fare, and since I prefer to redeem miles for medium/long haul travel, short haul Economy is pretty much the only option left. So in September 2019, I booked a getaway to Bangkok in July 2020 for the Milelioness and I, which cost S$517 in total (I probably overpaid), or S$117 nett of the travel credit.
Even after the circuit breaker and what not, I was keeping my fingers crossed that travel to Bangkok would be possible by July (hah), but when it became clear that wasn’t happening, I called up AMEX to cancel the booking.
Since I booked before 16 March 2020, I was entitled to a 100% refund under Singapore Airlines’ COVID-19 waiver policy. The AMEX Platinum Concierge was already aware of this, and proceeded to issue the refund (which I still haven’t received).
Now, my air travel credit technically expired in September 2019, but with the ongoing situation, AMEX offered an extension till September 2020. Initially, customer service told me that only the current year’s travel credits could be used online, and I’d need to call in to use the extended travel credits.
But about a week ago, I noticed that the extended travel credits were now reflecting online. In the screenshot below, you can see both my 2019 and 2020 air travel credit entitlement.
You cannot combine two travel credits in a single booking, but a workaround for those flying with a partner is to make two separate bookings, one for each party.
Cancelled: Singapore Airlines from Shanghai to London
|Cabin||First & Business|
|Travel Date||September 2020|
|Booked Through||Alaska Mileage Plan|
|Operated By||Singapore Airlines|
|Ease of Cancellation||Simple (online chat, less than 5 minutes)|
When Singapore Airlines awards first became available through Alaska Mileage Plan last year, the quirks of the award engine and some misclassified cities combined to create some fantastic award opportunities.
tl;dr: Shanghai and Beijing were classified in the same zone as Singapore, which meant you could book the following PVG-SIN-LHR-SIN itinerary for just 35,000 miles + US$60 in fees.
18.5 hours in First Class plus 13.5 hours in Business Class for just 35,000 miles was insane value. Unfortunately, Alaska quickly caught on to this and plugged the loophole (killing the JAL trick in the process– what a day!), but existing awards were honored as ticketed.
When I booked this in September 2019, I was hoping my particular flights would be upgraded or upgauged to the new A380 cabin products, and hence set my dates as far out as possible. “The world will be a better place 12 months from now,” I told myself.
Anyway….cancelling this booking was extremely straightforward. You can’t do it via the Manage My Booking option on the site, because the system will automatically attempt to charge you a US$125 cancellation fee, current waiver policy notwithstanding.
However, there’s a live chat feature in the Help Centre (scroll to the bottom under Contact us, select “Start reservations chat”).
I was connected within seconds, and after a little back and forth, got my miles and taxes refunded. The date of request was 10 August, and the refund showed up on 11 August.
Do note that the partner booking fee of US$12.50 is non-refundable.
Pending Cancellation: Emirates from Singapore to Dubai
|Travel Date||November 2020|
|Booked Through||Emirates Skywards|
November 2020 was supposed to be when I finally checked “shower on a plane” off my bucket list, but it looks like getting naked at 30,000 feet will have to wait.
I suppose it’s a mixed blessing, then, that I booked a one-way First Class FlexPlus award (98,750 miles) instead of a round-trip First Class Flex award (157,500 miles). The former costs more (because Emirates prices one-way awards at more than 50% of a round-trip), but also comes with free cancellation. Had I booked the latter, I’d have to pay US$50 per person.
I haven’t cancelled this yet, but barring some kind of miraculous development, it’s as good as dead.
Pending Cancellation: Qatar Airways from Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney
|Travel Date||December 2020|
|Booked Through||Qatar Airways|
|Operated By||Qatar Airways|
Back in May, Qatar Airways unveiled a too-good-to-be-true “Travel with Confidence” policy. If you booked a ticket by 30 September 2020 with travel till 31 December 2020, you could:
- Hold on to your ticket for up to two years from the date of issuance (versus the usual one year)
- Make unlimited changes to your travel dates, free of charge, or change your origin to another city within the same country, or another destination within a 5,000 mile radius of the original destination
- Swap your ticket value for Qmiles at a rate of 100 Qmiles= US$1
- Exchange your ticket for a travel voucher with 10% additional value. Voucher is valid for two years
- Get a full refund to your original mode of payment if your flight is cancelled
These were all good options, but (2) was incredible. Qatar Airways indeed allowed you to switch your destination to anywhere within 5,000 miles for free. You didn’t even need to top up the airport taxes or fuel surcharges.
You can read the full story here, but I basically booked Qatar’s fifth freedom flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, then swapped Phnom Penh to Sydney, via Doha. This gave me a SGN-DOH-SYD-DOH-SGN ticket, in Business Class, for just US$655.
Even though I scheduled this trip for later in the year (December) than the Emirates one above, the sheer complexity of the routing probably rules it out. Think about it- I’d need Vietnam to accept me as a transit passenger (Qatar isn’t a problem), and for Australia to open its borders, and for Singapore to lift its travel advisory. Given the current state of affairs, that’s highly unlikely.
However, if Australia does keep its borders closed, then the DOH-SYD leg will be cancelled by Qatar Airways, and I’ll be able to get a 100% cash refund. If Australia somehow opens its borders but the Singapore government keeps the moratorium on travel, I’ll exchange the ticket for 110% in Qatar flight credits.
Looks like my Qsuites wait will have to continue…
In addition to the flights above, I’ve also cancelled the following tickets. The cancellation experiences are largely similar, however, so I won’t go over them again.
|Route||Operating Airline||Booked Through||Remarks|
6 Mar refund
12 Mar refund
|SIN-USM-SIN||MI||KrisFlyer||15 Mar cancel|
22 May refund
|SIN-KUL-SIN||MH||British Airways||No refund (this was date night at the airport)|
At this point, I’m not expecting any leisure travel to happen in 2020, although I’m cautiously optimistic about regional leisure travel bubbles materializing by mid-2021. The good news is that most major frequent flyer programs (including KrisFlyer) have extended or paused the expiry on miles, so there’s no particular rush to spend them.
I’ve read horror stories about airlines steadfastly refusing to offer cash refunds (even when required by law), but fortunately I’ve not encountered this so far.
What have your cancellation experiences been like?