Back at the beginning of the year I booked a very good Aeromexico business class deal to São Paulo, Brazil. The route was selling for just $800 or so round-trip, which is absolutely incredible for the business cabin. Economy tickets often aren’t much cheaper than that. I used Chase Ultimate Rewards to buy the ticket, bringing the out of pocket cost to $0.
Then 2020 happened. And I held out hope that the trip wouldn’t be affected. But as travel recovery stalls, airlines have been adjusting the schedules. And this trip has been severely effected.
From Tight Connections to…Garbage
When flying on short solo trips, I really have to take the connections and potential overnight layovers into consideration. My recent trip to Istanbul included one on the return, which ate into the total trip time. My original itinerary was great. I’d depart just before midnight, land in Mexico City, have a 4-hour layover, and arrive in São Paulo around 10:00 PM. I’d start the trek back home in the late evening three days later, arriving by the following afternoon. The connection on the return was only 2 hours.
The first flight change resulted in an overnight connection in Mexico City. No big deal…I’ll just have to leave a bit earlier on Saturday and spend the night. Upside is that I’ll rest, rather than trying to sleep in a 737 recliner seat.
But the next round of changes completely blew the itinerary apart. The schedule for the MEX-GRU segments was completely altered. Now they are departing Mexico City in the evening and returning during the morning. Two overnight layovers in Mexico City? Now that’s just wrong. It’s also now a full day in the Mexican capital as well, which isn’t what I wanted. I’ll now only have two days in São Paulo rather than a full three.
Calling Up Chase For Options
I had an immediate idea: scrap the trip for October, and move it to January. I’ll replace a different trip with this one. The other trip also has a schedule change, and it is on two awards that can be canceled and refunded easily.
I quickly found dates with much better timing. Calling up Chase Travel (really Expedia), I asked about moving the flight. The agent was amenable to the idea, and she soon found the flights I wanted on my preferred dates. So far, so good.
But then she stated that according to Aeromexico’s policy, a difference in fare would apply. This was going to be over $900, which isn’t bad, considering how good of a deal this flight was and that the publicly available fare is $2,600. But I don’t want to fork over another $900. Not worth it at all. A completely free change is only offered in a window of +/- 14 days.
So I asked to cancel. Refunding my points to Ultimate Rewards would restock my balance, and there would be no harm.
Imagine my surprise when this wasn’t an option.
Choosing Between a Voucher and…a Voucher
After placing me on hold, the agent proceeded to call Aeromexico and ask about canceling the flight. Given the massive schedule changes, I figured this wouldn’t be an issue. But Aeromexico wouldn’t budge on their answer: you can take a voucher.
I don’t want a voucher. No thank you. Can you please just refund me? The Chase Travel agent told me that they couldn’t. They abide by the carrier policy. Since my business class ticket was non-refundable, I could take a voucher for future travel or…not cancel. Those are the options.
She did offer to email Aeromexico requesting an exception to the cancellation policy, given the situation. The response came in less than a day later: no can do. Of course not. You want the money, but you don’t want to provide the service. Thanks.
Do I Just Take the Trip?
I really don’t care to go at this point. The schedule is less than ideal. Yes, I’d get to explore Mexico City for most of a day and São Paulo for two, which would be cool. I am into taking a few quick solo trips per year beyond trips with the kids. But this is not what I envisioned or planned. Part of the goal was to use this to hit Delta Platinum status this year, but that plan is now shot. I will earn like 34,000 Delta miles and will be sitting pretty for Platinum next year, though.
Yet, I don’t really want to be stuck with an $800 Aeromexico voucher. That just sounds like pain. Who knows where the airline will be in a year. Aeromexico has secured a bailout, rare among airlines in the Americas outside the U.S. and Canada. But it will likely have a rough go of it. I can’t imagine the airline will fail entirely, due to nearly half of it being owned by Delta Air Lines.
If I’d actually paid cash for the trip, I would try the charge-back method on my Chase Ink Preferred card. But since I bought it with points, I’m stuck in this funny middle ground. There is no charge to charge back.
I was naive to think my pain of COVID-19 flight cancellations was over. This is frustrating, to say the least. My last-ditch effort is waiting for the flight to be canceled. But since the Aeromexico 14/15 flights seem to be operating on time, the odds of this seem slim. Given that the schedule has been adjusted to one daily flight to SFO and one daily flight to GRU, I bet the current option holds firm.
There is also the potential for calling up Aeromexico and arguing my case directly. Chase controls the ticket, though. They shot Chase down pretty quickly, after they placed a required for a refund. My hope would be to schedule change to the January dates.
What would you do in this situation? Take the voucher? Take the trip? Keep trying to change the flights?