Posted by Beth | Wednesday, April 13, 2016
We’ve been pretty fortunate six months into our round-the-world trip so far not to run into any major travel snafus. When flying to Copenhagen for New Year’s Eve we missed a series of flights and our bags ended up taking several days to arrive. We had minor incidents with both of our rental cars in South Africa, we had to check into the Protea Hotel on two separate occasions in Kampala for a breath of fresh air in the form of wine, wifi and a mosquito net free bed, and we (my loving husband) was downgraded to economy on a business class booked flight. But other than those minor things, very, very blessed so far.
For the most part we even feel that we timed things pretty appropriately so far. One of the hardest parts about planning this trip was estimating how long we should spend in each destination. The only times we really felt we had more than enough time and were ready to move the heck on were in Patagonia and here in Queenstown, New Zealand, both of which involved a lot of camping and hiking. Unfortunately we are “stuck” in Queenstown nearly 48 hours longer than we anticipated thanks to some high winds that cancelled our flight on Monday.
After living in Denver for several years and making it out on some questionable flights in ice storms and even a tornado warning, we were quite surprised to be grounded due to high winds, though everything looked peaceful from the ground. We painfully watched our aircraft circle above before it flew off to land in Christchurch instead and the announcement was made that the flight was cancelled. After striking out in the Air New Zealand customer service line, we wandered back to the Priority Pass lounge (clutch in times like these) to use their phone to call customer service. After 75 minutes of being transferred, we were informed the best they could do was book us on a flight two days later.
Because it was weather related, Air New Zealand/Virgin Australia (who connecting flight was booked on) were unable to compensate us for any expenses including a rental car and hotel room. Though we somewhat expected this, most other passengers at the airport, primarily those served by Qantas, were being shuttled for free to hotels that the airline was covering for them. We jumped onto a nearly empty shuttle headed to the Double Tree and at least saved ourselves $25 cab fare, but were still stuck shelling out 60,000 Hilton points for two nights. Had we booked with AA miles in this situation instead of United, we probably would have been covered, though of course it’s hard telling.
Several hours of phone calls later we were unable to secure a rental car to any of the surrounding airports for flights the next day, so were left to wait it out in Queenstown. We’re sad to miss out on two full days in Melbourne, and disappointed to lose 44,000 Club Carlson points (plus a bonus award night) on our Melbourne hotel reservation. We did reach out on Twitter to all three airlines involved and Virgin Australia tried to be helpful, but in the end nothing came of it. Just a reminder though that sometimes social media can be your best outlet in a delayed or cancelled flight situation.
We are quite thankful that because of points and miles we are only out points, not cold hard cash. We will end up losing several hundred thousand hotel points, but I suppose that’s much better than losing several hundred thousand dollars. We’re quite fortunate that we left ourselves some wiggle room with points remaining in many of the major programs. We had to stop and laugh at ourselves a bit this during our initial cancellation pity party. Tough life that we got delayed in a place that’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, we have plenty of Hilton points to burn, we have Diamond status, which means free hot breakfast and cocktails, and that we don’t have anything major that we’re missing out on or at least pre-paid for at our destination.