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United recently raised the fees it charges for changes to award tickets booked using MileagePlus miles – which is disappointing since they are some of the easiest miles to redeem for award travel. How bad are they, and how do they compare to other airlines? We decided to compile the current award fees for each of the major U.S. frequent flyer mile programs.
The short of it. Southwest and American are the most generous when it comes to award ticket fees (none with Southwest, and for American, no charge to change dates 21 days or more in advance). Alaska and Virgin America are next up, followed by United, then Delta, JetBlue, and taking up the rear…US Airways.
Alaska American Delta JetBlue Southwest United US Airways Virgin America
21 days or more date change $75-$100 $0 $150 $150 $0 $75 $150 $100
Less than 21 days date change $75-$100 $75 $150 $150 $0 $100 $150 $100
Cancellation / destination change $75-$100 $150 $150 $150 $0 $200 $150 $100
Booking within 21 days $0 $75 $0 $0 $0 $75 $50 $0
Processing fee $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $25-$50 $0
Partner fee $25 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
There are at least 6 kinds of fees levied on award tickets. Most are less than the fees you would pay to change regular cash tickets, but the number of ways you can get hit with a fee changes with every airline. Here’s a look at the best and worst by each kind…
Want to avoid the fees?
With United, if you hold the $395 per year United Club credit card you won’t have to pay the close-in $75 ticketing fee. Otherwise, if you’re an elite member of Delta, American, Alaska, US Airways, or United you can get some or all of the fees waived as you move up the status ladder.
The big question will be if US Airways tries to impose its fee structure on American Airlines flyers when they merge. That’s a fireworks show waiting to happen…
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