United Raises Award Ticket Change and Redeposit Fees – Will Other Airlines Follow?

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With no formal announcement or advance notice, United has quietly raised the change fees it will charge non-Premier members to change award tickets starting today, June 19, 2013.

As you can see in the below screenshot, three fees have been increase for flyers without elite status.

United Award Change Fees

To change an award ticket 21 days or more ahead of time if the origin and destination cities remain the same.
Before: $0
Now: $75

Making any change less than 21 days prior to the date of travel; or changing origin/destination at any time.
Before: $75
Now: $100

Canceling your trip and re-crediting the miles, regardless of the date.
Before: $150
Now: $200

The fees for elite Premier members have not changed…for now.

Since airlines seem to have a pack mentality where when one makes a move like this all the others soon follow suit, I fear we might soon see a situation develop that’s similar to when first United followed by US Airways, Delta and American Airlines all raised their ticket change fees back in May. This is also just the latest move from United to make flyers pay more since the airline also just announced a new revenue-based aspect to its Premier elite status program that will require flyers to spend a certain amount of money on tickets or a United co-branded credit card in order to qualify starting in 2014.

Here’s a rundown of what the other legacy airlines will charge you to change your award ticket.

AMERICAN

Change to Origin/Destination Change to Travel Dates (21+ days) Canceling or Recrediting
General Member $150 $0 if origin/destination remain same, otherwise $75 $150
Gold $150 $0 $150
Platinum $150 $0 $150
Executive Platinum $0 $0 $0

Anyone can change an award (change carriers for example) for free as long as it is done 21+ days in advance and the origin and destination remain the same. A $150 charge will apply for a confirmed change to an eligible origin or destination on a MileSAAver award. A $75 charge will apply for a confirmed change to the date on an AAdvantage MileSAAver and AAnytime award ticket if the change results in a new outbound travel date that is within 21 days of the original booking date.

DELTA

Change 3+ days Change Under 3 Days Canceling or Recrediting
General Member $150 Not allowed $150
Silver $150 Not allowed $150
Gold $150 Not allowed $150
Platinum $0 Not allowed $0
Diamond $0 Not allowed $0

Award Tickets must be reissued at least 72 hours prior to scheduled departure time. Miles for Award Travel are nonrefundable for flights canceled or changed within 72 hours of the original flight departure time. However, I’ve had this rule overridden several times, so it never hurts to ask!

UNITED

Change 21+ Days Change Under 21 Days Canceling or Recrediting
General Member $75 $100 $200
Silver $0 $50 $125
Gold $0 $25 $100
1K/Global Services $0 $0 $0

US AIRWAYS

Change 21+ Days Change Under 21 Days Canceling or Recrediting
General Member $150 $150 $150
Silver $150 $150 $150
Gold $150 $150 $150
Platinum $150 $150 $150
Chairman’s Preferred $0 $150 $0

As you can see, by far American has the best award ticket change fees for those changing 21+ days out since only non-elites have to pay and the fee is just $75, well below that of the other airlines now that United has upped their fee to $100. Though when it comes to canceling an award and redepositing miles, American is pretty much on a par with the others for non-elites (except United now that their fee is $200 – $50 above all the others). When it comes to the cancellation/redeposit fees on award tickets, United elites still have it better than most since mid-tier elites get (small) discounts on the fee.

Although the United changes won’t affect elites, one demographic it will affect is those consumers who carry a United co-branded credit card like the MileagePlus Explorer in order to get para-elite benefits like free checked bags and priority boarding, as well as those who carry one of Chase’s premium Ultimate Rewards cards like the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold and Ink Plus (remember the bonus on these two is up to 60,000 points for spending $5,000 in 3 months for this week only) and who want to transfer points to United miles so they can book award tickets on the airline. While that’s still a great option to have, if you want to make any changes to your tickets once you do book them, it’s going to be more expensive to do so now.

Hat tip: Hack My Trip.

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