I’ve been wanting to try out the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo in Costa Rica for a while now and after convincing some of our friends to join us, I proceeded to book award flights and the hotel for 5 nights for a trip next month. I booked all of this several months ago and it was pretty straightforward. The hotel booking was easy – I found points + cash availability and redeemed a diamond suite upgrade for the first 4 nights. For the last night, I used my annual free night from the Hyatt credit card (this is probably one of the best uses for the annual free night since this hotel is a Category 4).
For the flights, JetBlue and United offered the only non-stop flights from the NY area so I naturally looked there first. I decided to use 24,900 TrueBlue points per person for the roundtrip flight which is quite a deal when compared to other airlines such as United which charges 35,000 miles. Flights are generally expensive to Liberia since it is such a small airport so I was quite happy with this award redemption….until now.Due to unforeseen circumstances, we need to come back Sunday instead of Monday and thus, I need to change my return flight. Unfortunately, we just found this out and with only a month to go to the trip, there are no great options for switching my flight without a hefty cost in miles and/or cash. I’m curious to what others would do in this scenario based on the options below so I’m turning the tables on my readers and asking what YOU would do in this scenario.
Here is what I think all my available options are – feel free to suggest others in the comments if I overlooked something!
1) Change JetBlue flight from Monday to Sunday – This would be the easiest option as I’d switch to my ideal flight home just a day earlier. Except JetBlue wants to charge me $150 per passenger to make this change + the incremental amount of points which is 14,300 points person. The total cost in this case is $300 + 28,600 TrueBlue points (really American Express Membership Rewards points as I don’t have enough TrueBlue points).
Interestingly an agent at JetBlue quoted me a price 27,200 points for the flight when I inquired about switching. She claimed the price below was web only pricing so I’ve factored the incremental points above based on this higher figure since I can’t make the change online.
2) Pay Cash – In short, this isn’t a realistic option. The cheapest one way flight home, while ideal due to being non-stop, is $431. For my wife and I that’s $862 on a pair of one-way flights. Ouch. While I could use Chase UR or Citi TY points to book this, I’d much prefer to save those points and redeem them by transferring to airline or hotel partners.
3) Delta Options – If I am going to say one positive thing about Delta’s program it’s that they will sell you almost any flight on miles for the right price. Here are my options which shows Delta has all the flights in economy at Level 5…that is if they actually had an award chart.
4) American Options – In a word, absurd and that’s being nice. Take a look at the screenshot below and guess which Sunday I need to return. Yup, 65k miles one way. For economy. No thank you.
5) United and/or Copa Options – United unsurprisingly has no saver availability on their nonstop flight to Newark (or any flights operated solely by United) and since I don’t have the United Explorer credit card, I can’t even access standard awards in economy on any flight. I could use a standard award though for 70,000 miles one way for business class for that non-stop Newark flight. That at least beats the American option above since it is in business class right?
An interesting option is with Copa & United though I really don’t want to land at 5:25am in the morning and have both of us head straight to work. Especially after a 9 hour layover (and I have no desire for a quick trip into Panama at this time). The upside here is I could spend less miles than in other options above and fly business class.
6) Try to get home from San Jose, Costa Rica – I also looked into award availability from the San Jose airport (SJO) which is a 4 hour drive from the Andaz. I really don’t want to do this drive or hire someone for it but if I found saver level availability from SJO, I would at least consider this option. Alas, I couldn’t find any saver availability and cash prices are roughly the same (except for some strange Spirit flight that leaves at 1am).
Out of all those options, I think I’m leaning towards the JetBlue switching option as that seems to be the only semi-reasonable choice. While it undoubtedly sucks to pay more for this one-way flight home than I initially did for whole award and I also have to pony up for a change fee of $300, I don’t see a better way. If I really wanted the least cash outlay, I can look at the Delta or Copa options though at the expense of many more miles. For now, I think I’ll wait to see what (if anything) opens up as a saver level award on any airline is probably the ideal goal.
What would you do in this case?