Things change. With the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) they can change fast.
In February, Delta Air Lines (it spells its name that way for some reason) initiated a limited-time sale on business class flights from Los Angeles, CA to Tokyo, Japan for 90,000 Delta SkyMiles. Delta hasn’t had set requirements for mileage awards for more than a year, but based on the former award charts and subsequent rates that frequently range between 175,000 to 265,000+ SkyMiles for DeltaOne business class, 90,000 SkyMiles was a great deal.
I booked a trip to Tokyo in March that would provide some time in Tokyo for a bit of cherry blossom viewing. Last year I had my first experience with sakura season and the magical almost spiritual effect cherry blossoms appear to have on the Japanese people.
I combined a few days in Japan with a trip to Bangkok, Thailand, my favorite international destination. That trip was booked in business class on Malaysian Airlines with 60,000 American Airlines miles. Malaysian Airlines has a very nice business class seat and service.
When I booked the trip the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued no travel warnings or restrictions on Americans traveling to Japan. That changed around the beginning of March when Japan experienced a surge in Covid-19 infections. The CDC changed its guidance to Warning – Level 3, Avoid Non-essential Travel– Widespread Ongoing Transmission. A Level 3 warning comes with the admonition to stay home for 14 days after returning from travel, monitor your health, and practice social distancing.
The new warning prompted cancelling the flights to Japan on Delta and to Bangkok on Malaysian Airlines. Delta refunded the 90,000 SKyMiles to my account due to the change in warning level. (Diamond Medallions in Delta’s frequent flyer program can cancel award tickets and get a full refund up to within three days of travel. My cancellation was just inside that window. The change in warning level was sufficient for the phone rep to cancel the trip and put the miles back in my account without any hassle.) Instead, I purchased a flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific in premium economy. Reports on those flights follow.