As you may or may not know, United Airlines charges a “close in booking fee” of $75 for award bookings made 21 days or less before departure. Luckily, there is a quick and easy way to get around this fee!
This is one of the things that frustrates me about the award travel game – close in booking fees. I tend to rarely plan my trips very far in advance, which usually means I am booking my award travel within a week or two of departure. Thanks to my American Airlines elite status, they waive the close in booking fee for me when I redeem my AAdvantage miles. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I do not have any status with United, which meant paying the $75 close in booking fee for my recent trip to Europe. But luckily there is a way around this fee.
To start with, you want to do a standard search for your award ticket. I will take my trip as the example where I was looking to fly from Fort Myers (RSW) to Dusseldorf (DUS).
The search for flights on my desired date showed up with $110.30 in taxes and fees.
Selecting the desired routing then shows you a full break down of the taxes and fees.
As you can see, my desired itinerary would have $35.30 in taxes and fees and $75 for the close in booking fee. But here is where the trick comes in. If we do the same search for a month later, we see that there is only $35.30 in taxes and fees.
Selecting the itinerary for a month later, you can see that the $75 close in booking fee is no longer included in the cost of the award ticket.
So I went ahead and booked this itinerary for a month later than my desired departure. Now, why would I do such a thing? Simple. Because United allows you to change or cancel your ticket free of charge within the first 24 hours of booking. That means you can book the award ticket for the later date, which avoids the $75 close in booking fee, and then simply log in to your MileagePlus account using your confirmation number and last name and change your flights to your desired flights.
Once you have located your reservation online with the confirmation number, simply select “Change Flights” in the upper left hand corner of the page.
From there you will be taken to a page where you can do a new search for flights. Simply enter in your origin, destination and new date in the search box.
For me, I had a very specific routing in mind (so I could review the United lie flat product), so I selected the multiple destinations section and entered in each segment separately. To make things simpler, I also checked the “Nonstop Flights Only” box.
After entering my desired routing, I clicked continue and proceeded to select my desired flights.
After selecting all of my desired segments, the system provides a price difference for you to see. As you can see, I was only charged the $35.30 in taxes and fees. The $75 close in booking fee was nowhere to be found!
My final itinerary – which was the itinerary I originally wanted to book, but not pay the $75 close in booking fee on – was as follows:
After reviewing your desired itinerary, you simply click confirm, and your flight changes will be made – albeit without the close in booking fee. And it is that simple!
It is also worth mentioning that you can call United to have an agent change your flights around as well. If you opt to call United, keep in mind that if you get a good agent, they can and will charge you the close in booking fee if they remember. A lot of times they do not remember to do this though so if you get an agent that wants to charge you for the close in booking fee, I would recommend simply thanking the agent for their time and hanging up and calling again. This is one of the rare moments where you are going to want that sub-par agent that doesn’t care to answer your call!
In this day and age where most things are handled by computers, I find it somewhat frustrating as a customer that airlines like United and American charge a close in booking fee for award tickets booked within 21 days of departure since the award tickets are handled by the computerized system. From a business perspective though, I obviously understand that this is an excellent added revenue stream for the airlines. But since this blog is all about saving money while traveling, I have no problem using this nifty little trick to avoid that $75 fee!
Has anyone else used this trick to avoid the United close in booking fee?
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