Altering Our Summer Plans Due to MH-17 Tragedy

image from googlemaps

When news started coming in a couple of weeks back about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, I didn’t know exactly what to feel. My first thought was something like not again. I also wondered about the people onboard and learned about quite a few of them while reading (pretty much) whatever I could related to the disaster.

The idea of a plane being downed by a missile is such a scary thought, probably worse than a plane malfunction or weather causing an accident. Its crazy to think that the war in Ukraine could impact people that had absolutely nothing to do with their problems. Sad…

A couple of days after this tragedy I started to wonder about our upcoming trip in August and how these events could potentially affect us. 

After really enjoying our trip to the Balkans last summer, we decided to go back to the region for round two this year.

I’m not going to go into trip details during this post but I will talk about what we originally had booked for the start of it.

Months back I was psyched to find award availability using my American Airlines miles to get us to Chisinau, Moldova. Getting to Moldova isn’t so simple from the U.S. From what I understand, there are no direct flights there which meant Kim, Lucas and I would have to fly through Moscow (with an overnight stay) to reach Chisinau.

If you look at the map above, you’ll see that positioned in between Moscow and Chisinau is the Ukraine. This got me wondering how smart it would be to fly in the area.

I figured that due to the world reaction to MH-17 it would be safe and highly unlikely that any rockets would be shot at civilian aircrafts again, but then again who knows what could happen in this crazy world.

I also looked on the map of where the fighting is taking place in Ukraine and it doesn’t appear to be going on close to where Chisinau is located.

Either way, I decided to bring up the things I was reading into to Kim to see what she thought. She pretty much immediately liked the idea of changing course a bit if possible. I told her that it wasn’t likely that we could switch the flight without fees but I’d (reluctantly) try.

At first I was disappointed that I’d lose out on the opportunity to visit an additional country, Moldova and the breakaway state of Transnistria during this trip but then I came to my senses. Being a bit more cautious, especially due to traveling with Lucas was the right thing to do. Also, we only have 2 weeks for this trip so adding the time for the other countries we would be visiting could help make for a more in-depth visit.

Before calling the American Airlines Gold hotline, I checked and saw that the destination we now wanted to switch our flight to had availability at AA.com.

Now the fun part, calling up and getting the switch done without a fee.

Once I was connected to the AA rep, I explained our situation and raised the question about how safe it would be to fly from Moscow to Chisinau in light of what had just happened in Ukraine.

I was told that since there is no security warning, there would be a fee to redeposit the miles into my account and it could not be waived. The fee would be $150 for the first ticket and $25 for each additional.

Before going any further I had her do a search for the flight we were looking for. At first nothing came up so I told her the flight #s and it soon appeared, although at a higher rate than AA.com was showing. Online the flight was pricing out to 30,000 AAdvantage miles per person in coach while her search was showing 40,000!

After this, I asked again about waiving the change fee. After being told no again, I mentioned how ridiculous this was due to the recent events.

I then asked for a supervisor. The rep then told me “I think you don’t understand…” I then cut her off, told her I understand very well and to please give me a supervisor.

After a long hold, the original rep came back on the line and asked if we definitely wanted to make the change and if so, we had to decide right now. (She also told me that the first supervisor wasn’t very understanding but a different one agreed to waive the fees for us.)

Once I agreed to switch the flight, I had to find out about the amount of miles needed to book our new flight. Due to me seeing one amount and the rep a higher one, I hoped this wouldn’t be another headache.  I was happy to hear that they could help us out and honor the price I had seen online. (I still wondered why I got one price and the rep, another.)

I then got some more good news. Due to the change, I’d be receiving a refund of $50.10 per ticket.

With our new flight we now have around a half day to spend in Berlin, a city we visited and really enjoyed last September.

What do you think:

  • Did we make the right call by switching our flight? I for sure think that we did.
  • Should American have automatically offered to waive any change fees due to the circumstances?

5 thoughts on “Altering Our Summer Plans Due to MH-17 Tragedy

  1. Of course AA shouldn’t have waived the fee.

    There’s no official recommendation not to fly to wherever you originally planned to. You exercised your discretion based on your own risk assessment criteria.

    I also wouldn’t have changed my destination. IMHO that’s just a knee-jerk reaction to a situation.

  2. I would have changed the flight too. You have to go with your gut feeling and I understand that it is different when you travel with a little one. Chances are you would have been fine with your original itinerary but now you can relax and enjoy your trip completely. And hopefully you can visit Moldova and Transnistria in the future.

  3. You haven’t stated what airline but the entire area around the conflict is now avoided by civilian air traffic regardless. Looking at the map you’d fly over western Ukraine which is entirely stable. There’s also little to no chance of fighting spilling over to Moldova anytime soon.

    I do understand altering your risk tolerance based on traveling with children, I went to Ukraine during the original Orange Revolution in 2004 and found it to be a great and safe experience but I wouldn’t have done it if I had a child with me.

    My wife’s family is from Western Ukraine and we will be facing similar decisions if we decide to travel there in the near future.

  4. Mario- You are correct that there are no alerts related to flying from Moscow to Chisinau. However, due to the circumstances AA could and did waive the fee associated with redepositing the miles for the change.

    Knee-jerk reaction or not (I was fine with not changing it), if Kim felt more comfortable changing it then why would I not make the effort to do so?

    Denise L- Thanks for the support! I agree that it would’ve most likely been fine. There was no reason not to try to switch it if it makes Kim feel better doing so. And, yes when it comes to thinking of Lucas (or for anyone traveling with little kids), being a bit overly cautious isn’t a bad thing!

    Kimberly K- Thank you! 🙂

    omatravel- Our flight from Moscow to Chisinau would’ve been with S7. There was no worry of traveling in and around Moldova, it was flying near Ukraine for Kim which prompted the switch. I had no worries leaving things as was.

    I’d love to visit Ukraine, its just too bad what is going on around the region.

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