Tuesday, September 3, 2013

All for Nothing? - Update

After a lot of thought and discussion, my father just made the decision to cancel our trip. The worst part is that the only scenario where his decision will be vindicated is if war breaks out in Israel where my grandparents live.

This decision didn't come lightly at all. In fact, my parents looked at several option to preserve or salvage as much of the trip as possible, including:

(A) Keeping the Front Half.  Flying out tonight as scheduled and booking an award flight (refundable for United Platinums) back to New York next week. Given the likely sequence of events, nothing should happen between now and next week when the U.S. Congress meets to vote on Syria. So having a standing exit flight for September 10 would have given my parents a way to fly out if a military conflict became inevitable. He even went as far as to identify the award flights to take.

  • Sept 10 - Tel Aviv to Zurich on Swiss International Airlines
  • Overnight at the Park Hyatt Zurich hotel (on Hyatt points)
  • Sept 11 - Zurich to New York (via Munich) on Lufthansa
Then in the scenario where Congress voted not to intervene in Syria, then my parents and I could continue our trip as planned through September 21, and the award flight would be cancelled for 100% refund of my miles and taxes. Ah, the beauty of award bookings.

However, this option was predicated that we'd all be able to actually enjoy our time there during what will likely be a tense and stressful week.

Cost:  60,000 United miles x 2 people; plus $550 in taxes and lap infant fees.

(B) Keeping the Back Half. Cancelling our flight and hoping to depart after next week if Congress voted to not intervene. We'd spend the week in New York, following the news about the pulse of Congress which also has a lot of other important issues on the agenda, including voting on the Debt Ceiling, the Sequester, and a potential Government Shutdown on October 1.

If they did reach a decision to stay out of the Syrian conflict, then we'd use the $2,300 United credit to book last minute flights. However, prices may be significantly higher for last minute tickets. Plus, I suspect that we may not be alone in postponing our trip until after a decision is reached, so demand may even be higher than usual, also inflating the airfare costs.

If they do vote to intervene, then we'd just keep our $2,300 United credit and find a use for it before August 2, 2014.

Cost: $300 Change Fee x 2; plus any difference in fares.

(C) Changing the Destination.  Instead of flying to Israel, we could fly to somewhere in Europe and then use miles/cash to fly my grandparents from Tel Aviv to the same European destination. Then we'd get to see each other and spend some quality time together. Some options included Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey or Poland.

However, this meant that my great-grandmother and great-uncles would be left behind in Israel and we'd spend an inordinate amount of time Skyping with them instead of enjoying the European city to be named later. Additionally, if things did escalate in Israel, it would put a very tough decision upon my grandparents to choose to return to Israel knowing there's a war to be with my great-grandmother.

Cost: $300 Change Fee x 2; plus any differences in fares; plus flights for my grandparents; plus hotel costs.

(D) Cancel with No Immediate Plan. Similar to Option (B), we'd just have $2,300 of credit to use for a future flight on United. We don't need to use all the $2,300 by August 2, 2014, but at least part of it. Somehow I think we'll find a use for it.

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