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"Medically Necessary Travel" - Booking options? Minimizing voluntary change fees?

"Medically Necessary Travel" - Booking options? Minimizing voluntary change fees?

Old Mar 10, 17, 7:19 am
  #1  
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Question "Medically Necessary Travel" - Booking options? Minimizing voluntary change fees?

Long story short: My dad is a stage IV cancer patient who is fully mobile and requires no medical treatment on board a flight, though he does need longer to get to/from a gate and pre-boarding so he can get settled. We need to travel 8 days from now for a clinical trial opportunity that just came up.

While we will try to work through the Corporate Angel Network (free travel for cancer patients on corp jets already going to X location), we must book a ticket in case that does not come through. So I am trying to figure out the best way to book the United tickets to ensure that if I need to cancel all or part of the tickets, I will minimize fees and/or other penalties. This is our first foray into "medically necessary travel" so I am totally lost.

I have a Chase Ultimate Rewards card and some rando legacy Chase MilagePlus (not Explorer) card. I have lots of UR points and United miles, but I lost all status due to being a caretaker for the last year. We can pay for the economy tickets with $, but we can't afford to buy fully refundable tickets. (One pax would be IAH-IAD-BDL on 3/18 with a 3/21 return, and one pax would be IAD-BDL 3/18-3/21. FYI: We are headed to New Haven, CT and trying to minimize effort of the IAH-based pax while getting the IAD-based pax there for support. This plan seems to achieve that.)

Anyone have ideas about how I can best make this happen? I might be asking in the wrong forum (so MOD should feel free to move), but I thank you in advance for any advice you can provide.

-rgustafs
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Old Mar 10, 17, 7:44 am
  #2  
 
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Since you have Chase Ultimate Rewards and a Mileageplus card, why not just transfer points when you need them to UA and then book an award ticket. If you don't need the seats, then no reason to transfer/book. You should have access to any seats available since you're a Mileageplus card holder.

Saver economy award: 12.5k one way
Standard economy award: 25k one way

Also forgot to add that since this is for a 'medical' reason you could test your chances and book a non-refundable ticket and then call UA and state that this is for a medical reason that you need to cancel. Supervising agents have been more forgiving to cancel without a cancellation fee for this reason, especially for someone in your case where you can provide boatloads of proof.
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Old Mar 10, 17, 10:56 am
  #3  
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Originally Posted by laxmillenial View Post
Also forgot to add that since this is for a 'medical' reason you could test your chances and book a non-refundable ticket and then call UA and state that this is for a medical reason that you need to cancel. Supervising agents have been more forgiving to cancel without a cancellation fee for this reason, especially for someone in your case where you can provide boatloads of proof.
The spirit of the rule is to allow cancellation when medical reasons make travel unnecessary, not when other alternatives have been found. UA may not be so flexible, especially for a number of travelers who are split across separate reservations. (They might -- but I'd hate for you to depend upon this and then find that they cite the letter of the rule and deny your request).

The standard UA reissue fee for a non-refundable ticket is $200. This is paid when you update a cancelled ticket with your new flight information. UA will not take that money from what you already paid; so if you have a $300 ticket, you have to pay UA another $200 and then you'd get $300 towards a ticket purchase by the original traveler. UA may choose to waive the $200 for medical reasons, but their standard approach to that is to make you pay the fee and then apply for a refund. You may get a sympathetic agent who will waive the fee entirely, but, if not, it's a bit of a lottery.

The $200 is per ticket, not per reservation.

However, OP, you have four other options:
  1. UA offers free cancellation within 24 hours of purchase for all tickets, regardless of when they're purchased. If you'll know whether or not you'll need the tickets soon, you can take advantage of that.
  2. UA may offer FareLock, allowing you to pay a small fee to reserve the seat without paying the full price. They may offer FareLock for 3 or 7 days, although a 7-day FareLock 8 days before the flight is unlikely. If this is available -- and I don't think UA publishes rules for when it's available -- you'll see it during the booking process.
  3. I don't recall whether or not the older MP cards offer last-seat availability on standard awards, but it's easy to check. Do an award search and see how many options show up. If every option that's currently available for sale appears in your award search, that's a pretty good indication that you could wait and still get standard awards even at the last minute. That would be 25K miles per flight, if your balance is sufficient for that. You would also need to pay a $75 per ticket close-in booking fee.
  4. As a last resort, the redeposit fees on an award ticket are "only" $125. Added to the close-in booking fee, it's the same $200 that you would pay to cancel a cash ticket -- but the benefit is that the miles get refunded and not tied to a future flight credit in each traveler's name. So, you could book award tickets and then cancel them if you don't need them. Note that transfers from Ultimate Rewards to MileagePlus are one-way, so if you move a bunch of UR points to United and then find alternative transportation, you'll end up with a lot of UA miles. Here's hoping you can use those on a future trip to celebrate your father's return to health. :-)

Best of luck to you and to your father. I hope this helps.
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Old Mar 10, 17, 10:58 am
  #4  
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Under UA's standard refund policy, the waiver is applicable only if traveler cannot travel due to medical reasons. Unless you can get a physician to write a note confirming that the traveler cannot travel, it's not going to work under this situation. Plus there's a $50 fee IIRC.

The best ways to avoid fees are:

* You can use miles, but you'll still need to pay $200 miles redeposit fee if you don't have status. How long before you know when you need to book your own flights? Might need to do a last minute booking using miles.
* Book Southwest, where there is no cancellation fee.
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Old Mar 10, 17, 11:29 am
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HOU-BWI-BDL and BWI-BDL on WN seems like the best approach here.

Remember to cancel your tickets before departure time if you do take CAN.
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Old Mar 10, 17, 1:33 pm
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Thank you guys so very much! My brain is filled with colon cancer clinical trial information, and trying to figure out this flight stuff was about to push me over the edge. Unfortunately we don't really know if fights will be available through the Corp Angel Net until 3-4 days before.

Not sure I am willing to risk pushing the appropriate limits of cancelling due to medical necessity. So since I have craploads of UR and United miles, I might try with award tickets and cross my fingers that I don't actually have to use them.

BUT! I totally forgot about WN. Thanks for adding that! I will look into that as well. I will let you know what we decide to do, as I HATE when I am left wondering.

One day I shall repay your kindness.

-rgustafs

PSA of the day: Stop putting it off. Call your doctor and go get scoped!
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Old Mar 11, 17, 4:55 am
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Don't have anything of real substance to add here other than God bless you and your father. We'll be praying for you.
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Old Mar 11, 17, 8:30 am
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Originally Posted by Ericka View Post
Don't have anything of real substance to add here other than God bless you and your father. We'll be praying for you.

Yeah same here. God bless and best wishes. I hope it works out for you.
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Old Mar 11, 17, 9:09 am
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Not sure if this is even possible and/or allowable but...

I was going to suggest - If OP had enough miles (or points converted) could the OP transfer miles to a willing 1K/GS, that 1K/GS book the award flight on their behalf and then cancel if necessary with no fee and re-transfer to OP if the other option came through?

But looks like the transfer fee is $0.015 per mile (without the current 25% discount) so it doesn't seem to make financial sense to do what I proposed.

As someone who lost a parent to cancer just over a year ago I certainly feel for the OP. If I had the miles currently I'd just book it as paying it forward but my current balance is ~2500 miles.

Isn't there a sub-form on FT for these types of issues but you need a minimum post count?
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Old Mar 11, 17, 12:39 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by sosptuba View Post
... Isn't there a sub-form on FT for these types of issues but you need a minimum post count?
You may be thinking about http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/flyer...s-posting.html -- that is for registered charities and does require certain minimums to be able to post.
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Old Mar 17, 17, 5:07 pm
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Thanks, everyone! My dad is doing okay, considering. I can't thank you enough for your thoughts and prayers. Along the lines of sosptuba's post (so kind of you!), here's what ended up happening, and it was most unexpected.

The same morning I posted my original message, I received a PM from a fellow FlyerTalker. She is a 1K and offered to use some of her miles for my dad's ticket if the Corporate Angel Network (CAN) did not work out. Needless to say, I was floored by this offer from a complete stranger, and I get choked up just thinking about it.

Though the fantastic team at CAN tried every conceivable option, it turns out that hitching a ride on a corporate jet to get to a Monday morning doctor's appointment halfway across the country is really hard to do. I guess I never thought about the fact that corporate planes typically fly M-F. Lesson learned. Hopefully once we start a clinical trial, we can better plan for my parent's trips to/from home.

It was going to suck an annoying amount of my hard-earned miles so I purchased my IAD-BDL RT ticket. At least I maximized points earning? Whatever. I will meet up with my dad at IAD and get him to New Haven. I am hopeful that my mom will thoroughly enjoy her few days of much-needed caretaker staycation.

I cannot thank y'all enough for offering such great advice, and it will definitely help for future planning. And to the wonderful life-saving (in more ways than one!) FlyerTalker, you have the eternal gratitude of my whole family. I assure you that we will pay it forward.

-rgustafs
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Old Mar 17, 17, 6:14 pm
  #12  
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Glad this trip worked out.

For future travel, consider off-loading this task to another relative or close friend. As you pointed out, you have more than enough on your plate and need to focus on that. If you get someone else to spend their time on the travel task, that is one less thing for you to do.

One thing to skip is the cancellation for "medically necessary travel". That is the exact opposite of your situation. You do want to travel. It is simply that you may find a better way to travel which is less financially burdensome. The UA fee waiver is designed for the person who purchases a ticket and then gets sick and cannot travel. Even then, it is not a sure thing and the last thing you need to do is to chase all of that.
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Old Mar 17, 17, 10:10 pm
  #13  
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I feel for the OP as I lost my dad to cancer last night. Happy it worked out as it did. Which regimen is the OPs father taking? I know OT so the OP can PM me.
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