United Re-Introduces Last Minute Award Fees

Apr 15, 2011

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Earlier this week I wrote about using miles for emergency/last minute travel and I lauded Delta and United for not charging their frequent flyer members bogus “last minute” redemption fees. For example, American charges $100 for giving you the pleasure of using your miles close to departure and catching a last minute award flight on Continental and US Airways will cost you $75. I was hoping United/Continental would adopt United’s customer friendly policy, but they just announced they’d be taking Continental’s stance and charging their customers more for these awards.

This was part of a larger announcement about award fees. Per United’s official rep on Flyertalk:

“Hi Everyone, About a month ago, I shared with you the details of our award chart changes for Mileage Plus and OnePass taking effect on Jun. 15, 2011. Today, I’ll share the details of the award fee changes that will take for awards redeemed on or after the same date. I’ll also do my best to highlight some of key points along the way. Here they are:

  1. Close-in Booking Fee: This fee will apply to awards redeemed less than 21 days before departure. They’ll be $75 per person for general members, $50 for Premier and Silver members, $25 for Premier Executive and Gold members, and will continue to be waived for 1K, Global Services, Platinum and Presidential Platinum members.

    Worth noting: For OnePass members, there’s no change. For Mileage Plus members, this is the re-introduction of the close-in booking fee, but with Elite-based discounts.

  2. Award Change Fee: This fee will apply to award changes that are not considered ‘simple changes’. They’ll be $75 per person for awards redeemed by general members, $50 for Premier and Silver Elite members, $25 for Premier Executive and Gold members, and will continue to be waived for 1K, Global Services, Platinum and Presidential Platinum members . Also starting Jun. 15, we’ll offer Mileage Plus members a flat change fee of $75 for awards issued prior to Jun. 15. The Elite discounts, however, will only apply to awards issued on or after Jun. 15.

    Worth noting: For OnePass members, there’s no change. For Mileage Plus members, this is a reduction of 50% or more, depending on your Elite status.

  3. Simple Award Changes: Simple award changes will remain complimentary across both programs; however, the definition of what a “simple change” is will continue to be different between our two programs for the time being. Specifically:

    For Mileage Plus redemptions, the origin, destination, carriers and routing would have to remain the same.

    For OnePass redemptions, the change would have to be made at least 21 days in advance and the origin and destination must remain the same. The routing and carrier, however, may change.

  4. Mileage Re-Deposit Fee: This fee will apply to awards that are cancelled and re-deposited. They’ll be $150 per person for awards redeemed by general members, $125 for Premier and Silver members, $100 for Premier Executive and Gold members, and will continue to be waived for 1K, Global Services, Platinum and Presidential Platinum members.

    Worth noting: For OnePass members, this is an increase for general, Silver and Gold members. For Mileage Plus members, the fee is the same for general members, but will decrease for Premier and Premier Executive members.

Whether it’s having high fees in some areas and none in others, or having lower fees across the board – we’ve found the bottom line result to be about the same. Our goal with this new structure is to ensure that our most commonly-used fees are as low as possible and that our Elite members are rewarded with tier-based discounts. We’ve seen a lot of feedback on this, and hopefully this explains where we’re coming from.

United.com and continental.com will be updated later this afternoon with these details. Thanks as always for your feedback.

Scott O’Leary
Managing Director, Customer Solutions
United Airlines”

While the fees are coming down for certain middle-tier elite members, I’m sad to see the increase in United’s fees for non-elite members redeeming last minute awards. Alas, while Delta gets a bad rap for inflated award prices, at least they lead the industry in the following areas: upgrades for elites on award tickets, no close-in award fees,  elite mileage rollover, choice benefits for reaching elite status and no mileage expiration.

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