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In my travels far and wide, I’ve experienced delays and cancellations due to all sorts of reasons. However, on August 7, seeing “Cancel/Typhoon” next to my United flight number on the departures board was a new one for me. Getting stuck in Japan for four more days courtesy of Typhoon Noru, with hotels filling up quickly, was bound to be an expensive glitch. Thankfully my wife and I were covered for the delay, since we put the taxes and fees for this award flight on our Citi Prestige Card.
This flight came in the middle of a pre-stopover-devaluation United award that took us from Atlanta (ATL) to Cape Town (CPT) to Osaka (KIX) [open-jaw] Nagoya (NGO) to Saipan (SPN) for 47,500 United miles and $169 each. We knew that the Citi Prestige provides excellent trip delay protection even if you only charge the taxes and fees from an award flight to the card. So, we made sure to do just that. As a side bonus, we scored 1,014 ThankYou Points from the purchase.
As soon as we were notified that our Nagoya (NGO) to Guam (GUM) flight was cancelled, we jumped on the United app for rebooking options. For each of the days offered — which were the next three days — I received the error “Sorry, we do not have any more flights to Saipan on this date.” The United website confirmed the same. Checking ExpertFlyer, I was able to confirm that all of the United and ANA flights to Guam over the next few days had filled up.
To avoid a long and costly phone call from Japan, I worked with United’s Twitter team to book us on the next NGO-GUM flight four days later. We would have to spend the night in GUM before we could take the next available flight to our destination in Saipan (SPN).
Our biggest expense by far was our lodging costs. By the time we found out about the flight cancellation and were re-booked on new flights, hotels across the city were packed from all the other flight cancellations. The conveniently-located airport Comfort Inn where we had spent the past few nights was sold out. So, I figured I’d pick up some nights toward my IHG Accelerate bonus. But, all IHGs in Nagoya and in nearby cities were all full. Same with each other major US hotel brand I found.
So, we moved on to Citi’s Concierge to book our stay. One of the few remaining options was at the Mercure Nagoya Cypress for just over $200 per night. Shortly after, we were booked for a four-night, fourth-night-free stay.
Having just finished a month’s stay in Japan, we had completely fallen in love with the food. And, we knew that you don’t have to spend much to get some killer ramen. So, over four days and nights, we spent just ¥14,800 (US$135) on food. Most of the places we ate at didn’t accept credit cards, so a lot of these expenses were cash, for which we kept the receipts. At the two restaurants that did accept credit, we used my Chase Sapphire Reserve for the 3x points on dining. Citi’s insurance company didn’t mind either form of payment and approved it all.
$56.52 Ground Transportation
Between the two of us, we paid ¥6,200 (US$57) for ground transportation to and from the airport and for a couple of trips around the city. As Japan’s Suica cards can’t be reloaded with credit cards, we had to withdraw Yen and load cash to cover these rides. We saved each receipt though and Citi’s insurance company paid us back for each expense.
Total of $1,039.42 in expenses and a $1,000 payment
All together the four-day delay cost us $1,039.42 in expenses. Since there were two of us ticketed and the delay qualified under Citi Prestige’s insurance, Citi’s insurance company approved a $1,000 payment to be credited to my Citi Prestige in 1-2 billing cycles. After this expense reimbursement, our four extra days in Japan cost us less than $40 out of pocket.
For us, this experience confirmed our decision to always book flights with a Citi Prestige. The three-hour trip delay protection which covers up to $500 in expenses per person comes in handy, whether that delay is due to a typhoon or to something more prosaic. Sure, The Platinum Card from American Express earns 5x points on airfare rather than the Prestige’s 3x points. However, I’ll gladly give up the 2x point differential for trip delay and luggage delay insurance, especially when we are paying just $169 per person.
Also, this experience was a good confirmation that Citi’s insurance company doesn’t care how you pay for your trip delay expenses. Besides the hotel costs, none of the expenses went on our Citi Prestige, and still all of them were approved.
If you don’t have a Citi Prestige yet, now’s the time to get one. You can score a 75,000-point sign-up bonus for spending $7,500 in the first three months.