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United Airlines

Pay Up: Loophole to Avoid United’s Close-to-Departure Ticketing Fee Now Gone

Pay Up: Loophole to Avoid United’s Close-to-Departure Ticketing Fee Now Gone
Anya Kartashova

Airlines constantly find new ways to add fees. Checked bags, seat selection, ticketing fees are lurking behind every corner. For years, passengers have come up with tricks to avoid said fees, and unfortunately one of those tricks seems to have disappeared.

You might be familiar with United Airlines’ fee for booking an award ticket within 21 days of departure. Depending on your status, the fee can range from $25 to $75. The fee is waived for Premier Platinum and Premier 1K Elite status flyers and the United MileagePlus Club cardholders, but most of us fall into the general member category and have to pay the full $75 close-in ticketing fee.

For years, MileagePlus program members would book awards for more than 21 days out and call customer service within 24 hours to change their ticket for the desired date to avoid the fee. Well, it seems that this loophole has been closed, according to TProphet in Seat 31B.

Now, when you call United to make a change, the agent will tack on that pesky fee. In fact, the change has been implemented in the computer system, which now prompts an agent to collect the fee over the phone. Some travelers have reported in the comments of Gary Leff’s piece on the topic that they had been able to make a change with no fees recently, but the loophole is definitely closing.

Although the call-in option no longer works for most travelers, there are still ways to avoid the close-in ticketing fee. You can utilize Aeroplan miles or KrisFlyer miles to book an award flight on a Star Alliance-operated flight via partners Air Canada and Singapore Airlines, respectively. These programs do not charge fees for booking too close to departure and even charge fewer miles on certain routes. Of course, some routes will cost you more miles so make sure to consider all options before deciding on which program to use.


Have you been successful at making a change within 21 days of departure without paying the close-in ticketing fee lately? Please share your experience below.

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1 Comment

  1. emcampbe

    June 14, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    So, one is suggesting a solution to avoiding a (max.) $75 close in fee is to use Aeroplan, where, they don’t charge a close-in fee, but charges hundreds of dollars in other fees.

    For example, a non-close-in roundtrip Award via MileagePlus from the CVG to YYZ will run about $65 (it’s been a while, but something around there) in fees. Using Aeroplan, that same award would cost about $160. It gets worse for other destinations. Going TATL to LHR can cost like $700 in fees via Aeroplan…it’s probably $150-$175, again, without the close-in fee, on UA. Why someone would want to ‘save’ the $75 at that point is beyond me.

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