Stuck in Paradise. Update 2. A COVID-19 story.

Today has been an interesting day in that I’ve not made nearly as much progress as I’d have expected to.

I was trying to accomplish two things, namely refund the travel that I can no-longer use, and re-book an optimal alternative to get me to Hawaii, in order to catch my Avios ticket back to the UK.

Travel Insurance

First things first, I called HSBC Premier travel insurance. After a back and forth, because there is no travel advisory from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for American Samoa, and because a pandemic hasn’t yet been declared by the World Health Organisation, I’m stuffed. I have asked them to look into this further and escalated to their customer services.

Hotels

In terms of refunds, thankfully the hotels I’d reserved didn’t have any penalties, so I’m good there.

Flight Refunds

I had a number of flights booked. Firstly the international flight from Apia in Samoa to Pago Pago in American Samoa was with Samoan Airways. Initially they refused to refund even any of my fares, but then essentially said they would do so with a 2/3 penalty. I’ll be doing a charge-back with Amex when I get back to the UK.

I also had flights with Hawaiian Airlines. They’re also taking a hard-line initially, and refusing to give me any kind of refund what-so-ever, for what was almost $800 of ticket from Pago Pago to Kona. They’ve said to take it to the customer services unit, which I have done, and depending on what they come back with, may need to take that over to Amex as well.

Next Steps

I have two broad options for getting out of Samoa. It’s Wednesday afternoon here at the time of writing (we’re GMT+14) and on Friday, there’s a Fiji Airways flight direct from here to Honolulu. Perfect!

Unfortunately flight FJ853 as the following availability:

J0 D0 C0 Z0 I0 Y0 B0 H0 L0 O0 K0 W0 Q0 S0 M0 V0 N0 T0 G0 R0 F0

Fiji Airways has been forced by the Samoan government to cancel a number of flights due to COVID-19, so this 737-700 service is full. I’m currently waitlisted on the service, so called the office here to understand how far up it was and if my oneworld emerald status would make a difference.

According to the station manager, it’s oversold by 117, for an aircraft that takes roughly 150. He said that very frustratingly, they have a spare A330 sitting around due to the cancellations to Asia, but the FAA won’t allow them to use it on the route into Honolulu. He has put in a request to revenue management at head office.

What I think is probably going to be my best bet, is to fly four hours back to Auckland with Air New Zealand tomorrow afternoon (Thursday). Then I can either take Air New Zealand again (the following day), or potentially Hawaiian Airlines, ten hours back to Honolulu, directly over-flying where I’d come from.

#GretaHatesMe

I’m going to make a call Thursday morning. If I can get confirmed on Fiji Airways by then, I’ll go with that option, if not, I’ll go the long way around.

Thoughts

Sometimes shit happens. Thankfully, I’m healthy and well, sitting in a rather fabulous place, but unfortunately it’s going to cost me to get home.

Despite doing everything right by checking the FCO website regularly and holding travel insurance, sometimes things happen that are out of your control and you simply can’t do anything about. This is one of those.

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