I was one of the lucky people who booked a seat on the inaugural United Airlines flight from Denver to Narita (Tokyo) on March 31, 2013 on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
I booked the flight last May for $979, along with about 40 other aviation enthusiasts. I’ve never been on an inaugural flight but heard it was quite an event and decided to join in the fanfare and hoopla. The momentum grew. The excitement grew. (Frankly, I’m often conflicted by events such as this – do they excite me or not? – I waver in my answer).
In order to make this maiden journey, I also had to get from NYC to Denver and back (this is called a positioning flight, a term I only learned after I got involved in the frequent flyer world). I booked a round trip flight on Delta from NYC to Denver for $227, and a reservation at the Hyatt Place near the airport for the night before the inaugural DEN-NRT flight – at a non-refundable sale rate of only $55 (a price you never see in NYC!). I forgot to mention that the return flight from NRT to DEN was on April 3rd, which barely would have given me 2 days in Tokyo. Insane? Probably.
As I said, I was lucky to be booked on this momentous flight. That is anyway until problems with the 787 planes began to surface and the planes were grounded. Though there was some optimism for fixing the problems and actually getting this flight out, the climate changed and the inaugural UA 787 from DEN to NRT was
postponed canceled. A date in May has been assigned, but no one is optimistic that the 787 will actually fly on that day.
Yesterday, I received a voicemail and then an email from United saying the flight had been canceled but that they had covered me on a flight to NRT from DEN through San Francisco.
I mulled the issues over with my travel friends and concluded that a two day trip to Tokyo, at a substantial cost – on a non-inaugural flight and not on a 787 – was no longer worth it. I’ve never been to Tokyo and want to go when I have the time to enjoy it.
After mourning the trip that wouldn’t happen, the next task was cancellations and minimizing losses. I knew United would issue a full refund because of their cancellation of the flights. I predicted more trouble with Delta and Hyatt. In fact, I predicted that Delta would allow me to cancel the NYC-DEN trip, but with a change penalty of $150, and I would lose the money for the Hyatt hotel, since it was a non-refundable sale. So, according to my calculations, I would be out about $200. Not great, but not awful in the grand scheme of things.
I called Delta’s Gold Medallion phone line. I explained the situation honestly. They allowed me to cancel, and issued a credit for the entire amount. Change/cancellation fee waived!!
I called Hyatt’s Diamond phone line (yesterday was my last day as a Hyatt Diamond). I explained the situation honestly. They also allowed me to cancel. The night had not yet been charged to my account. I was assured that it would not be.
I can’t believe this! My only loss was the memory of a trip not taken and United Airline’s Farelock fee!
Once again friends – file this under the category – it never hurts to ask. Nicely.
P.S. Don’t feel terrible for me – I have already had the pleasure of flying on a 787!