Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cursed with Israel Flights

As you longtime LCD readers may remember, last September we found pretty cheap tickets to Tel Aviv on United ($1,100/person). We were pretty excited to visit my grandparents, but then my father had a ridiculous time getting extra pages added to his passport.

Despite finally getting a new passport just in time for the trip, Iran and the US decided to have a tense conflict over the Iranian nuclear weapons program, using Israel as a hostage. So we cancelled that trip.

Then when Russia and the US negotiated a peaceful way to settle the conflict, we booked an award flight to Israel using United miles to salvage the trip.

Fast forward to November when a crazy Norwegian website was accidentally selling fares without adding the fuel surcharges, we were able to score 3 tickets from Newark to Tel Aviv for just $400/each! We booked for Jan 21-Jan 31 so that we'd be able to celebrate my mother's and grandfather's birthdays together in Israel.

As luck would have it, my mother's US Naturalization interview (to become a U.S. Citizen) was scheduled for January 29th in NYC - right in the middle of our planned trip! Of course, my father started evaluating his options:
  1. Attempt to reschedule the Naturalization Interview.
  2. Change the return flight to January 28.
  3. Cancel the Israel trip altogether.
Unfortunately, after much research, we learned that just trying to reschedule her Naturalization interview would mean we'd be back in the queue waiting for a new interview date. Given we had been waiting since September 5th for the interview to be scheduled, we didn't want to risk waiting another 3+ months for another date, especially when it might end up being rescheduled during our our big trip to Hong Kong coming up in March

After all, we didn't want to risk my first time to Hong Kong for yet another trip to Israel where I've already been 3 times. So we looked at changing the return from Jan 31 to Jan 28. 

Unfortunately, change fees would cost $300/person + difference in the fare (which would be a lot since our original fare was $400 vs. $1,200 normally). So $1,100 x 3 to change our return flight by 3 days. Um, no thanks!

We could also just cancel the flight (but not the reservation) and then we'd have $400/person of credit on United for a future flight. Unfortunately, to access that credit, we will have to pay $300/person of change fees. That means paying an additional $900 to United to use $1,200 of credit. Not that compelling.

So unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to just cancel the Israel trip outright. Apparently, if we just cancel the reservation, we can recoup the taxes on the fare we paid, so we'd get back about $250 of the $1,200 we paid. But we're going to wait til next week in the .01% chance that United makes a last minute flight schedule change that will allow us to cancel with a full refund.

Not ideal, but I suppose that's the risk we took booking travel while my mother's US Naturalization process was still pending. Guess that's a lesson learned for us.

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