Chart of Airline Award Fees

Here’s a chart of different airline fees when booking or changing awards with different airlines’ miles programs as a non-elite. The first row shows which airline miles you are using and the first column shows the different fees. A close-in fee is a ridiculous fee where you get charged for booking a ticket within 21 days of departure. Hopefully the rest are self explanatory. Either way, I’ll go over the differences in prices and details below the chart.

Also, Southwest isn’t on here because Southwest has no fees!

United AA Alaska Delta BA Avios Air Canada Singapore Lufthansa
Close-in $75 $75 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0
Phone Booking $25 $0 $15 – $25 $25 $25 $30 CAD $0 $0
Ticket Changes:
Dates $75 – $100 $0 – $75 $0 – $125 $150 $55 $90 CAD $0 – $20 $60
Origin/ Destination $100 $150 $0 – $125 $150 $90 CAD $12 – $20 $60
Cancel/ Redeposit $200 $150 (+ $25 for each extra person) $0 – $125 $150 $55 $90 CAD 22 days before departure $30 $60

 

Explaining different prices in the chart

Let me first be clear that this is for people without status. Almost all of these fees are waived for top tier elites with each mileage program, and many are waived with the other status levels.

  • UnitedDate changes to tickets are $75 if booked more than 21 days, and otherwise $100.
  • AA: Date changes to tickets are free unless it is changed to a date within 21 days of the original departure date.
  • Alaska: Booking a ticket over the phone is $15 for Alaska flights and $25 on partner flights.
    Ticket changes and cancelations are $0 with Alaska, as long as you do it at least 60 days before travel.
  • BA Avios: There’s nothing I can find about changing destinations with Avios, so I assume that it would be the same as canceling and rebooking ($55 + $25). I believe I was quoted $80 when I last did this (in 2011/2012) and the fee was never charged.
  • Air Canada: Canceling within 21 days of travel will get you your cash but not your miles back. But I suppose you could change the date and then cancel for $180 CAD.
  • Singapore: Changing dates is free if you fly on Singapore/SilkAir and is $20 for partners.
    Change of route is $12 online with Singapore flight, and $20 for over the phone changes of routes, or for partners.
    Cancelations need to be made more than 24 hours before travel to maintain the lower $30 fee, and if made later the fee is $75.
  • Lufthansa: Cancelations made more than 24 hours before are $60, and after it’s 150 Euros.

 

Close-in Fees (and avoiding them)

One thing that may be obvious is that airlines here in the US are way more into the nickel and dime thing. The fact that any airline has a close-in fee is insane. There’s nothing about tickets booked within 21 days that should require a fee. Heck filling the plane should be encouraged.

United and AA are the main ones charging close-in fees. However, CrankyFlier has a post on how Delta stops releasing saver space 21 days out on certain routes.

However, there are possibly ways around them. For example, there’s an old trick of changing a United ticket within 24 hours of booking from a ticket more than 21 days out to a ticket within 21 days of departure. Here’s more info on the concept. I personally haven’t done it, but be careful because there are otherwise change fees with UA tickets.

 

Changing tickets

Again, the major airlines in the US are big and bad, and the rest are pretty decent. I think Alaska is a good mix, with a generous free option. Free changes 60+ days out. Works and makes sense to me.

I learned via a post on OMAAT that AA doesn’t charge a change fee on awards where you change class of cabin. Change your ticket to a business class or first class ticket and just pay the difference.

 

Southwest Airlines is the best in this aspect.

I can’t tell you how many Southwest tickets I’ve had to change or cancel. I end up just booking and flying tickets with Southwest when I see sales because I know I can cancel. And 90% of the time I actually fly. But just being able to make adjustments is awesome.

Of course you always pay the difference. If the ticket cost went from 5,000 points to 10,000 points,  you’d pay another 5,000 points for the difference. Then again, if the price of the ticket goes down you can get refunded the difference! Southwest is amazing and profitable… so hopefully other airlines catch on and don’t live to nickel and dime customers.

 

Conclusion

Southwest is the best. Alaska is pretty cool. Foreign airlines are pretty cool, usually.

And United, AA, and Delta are nickel and dimey fools.

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16 Comments

  1. very useful… solid content as always… that’s why you’re a must-read…

    Reply
  2. Hope I don’t come off as pedantic here, but I want to correct a few things:

    “AA: Date changes to tickets are free unless it is changed to a date within 21 days of the original departure date.” This should be “within 21 days of the original booking date.” Really this is just to prevent a work-around of the close-in booking fee. For example, this past January I booked a JAL flight for March 21. On March 14 I changed it to leave 2 days earlier, on March 19. This change was made 5 days before departure, but it was free because I first booked the award in January.

    Also, I didn’t see this noted: Alaska charges $12.50 per one-way, or $25 per round trip, for partner awards, even if you book online.

    Reply
  3. When booking flights with Avios I believe it’s $55 or whatever cash you paid, whichever is less. If you book a flight with $0 taxes, then you’d pay the full $55. In April 2015 I booked and cancelled a few JAL flights without paying the full $55.

    Reply
    • If you book a flight with $0 taxes, then you pay $0. If your taxes are $5.60, you just forfeit your taxes. Look at it this way, there is no fee to get your miles back, but it costs $55 to get your taxes back.

      Reply
    • Wrote my earlier comment too fast. Instead of ‘booking’ and ‘book’ I meant to write ‘canceling’ and ‘cancel.’ So yeah, depending on which is less you foreit taxes paid or $55 when canceling.

      Reply
  4. Great work drew but there are better tables out there..

    Reply
  5. Can confirm UA trick still works, used it last week on a last minute flight (within/24hrs)

    Reply
  6. It should be noted that AA does charge a phone booking fee, but only if the award can be booked on the website.

    Reply
    • I thought that the phone booking fee was waived now?

      Reply
    • Ben is correct–fee waived only if booking can’t be completed online. Furthermore, many of the agents don’t know about the fee-waive policy. I had to HUCA three times before I got an agent who believed me when I said the fee should be waived for a booking I couldn’t do online. That was 3 weeks ago.

      Reply
    • As I mentioned, it is waived if you can’t book the award on AA.com. If your itinerary is available on aa.com, you get charged the fee.

      Reply
  7. Great solid information that can be actually used…I don’t post much, but your blogs continue to be on the must read list.

    Reply
  8. Just ran into this issue with Southwest today…
    Originally booked TPA-CUN for 8,610 pts
    Today a fare sale dropped it to 7,910 pts. I went to my reservation, clicked “Change reservation” and then searched for the exact same flight…only searching via this route gave me a price of 10,xxx pts!

    I went through this at least 5 times and cont’d getting the same higher price. Finally called Southwest and the agent was able to re-book the lower (7,910pts) fare.

    She told me that on international itineraries customers have to call in to change flights.

    Previously I’ve flown ATL-CUN and had no problems making changes to my itinerary online by myself. I related this to the CSR and she didn’t understand why it let me do that.

    Not sure if this is some sort of change in policy, but it’s slightly more annoying to half to call in to change. Anyway, I was still able to save 700 pts for my flight (x2 for my SO’s flight as well!).

    Reply
  9. Also, for BA it costs $55 to redeposit your miles plus refund taxes paid OR you can give up the taxes you paid and get the miles back for free. If you’re using your BA miles to fly domestic routes it’s almost always a better deal to just forfeit the taxes paid. That was true as of ~2 months ago.

    Reply
  10. Just signed up for your emails. I find your posts very helpful. Thanks!

    Reply
  11. I imagine most folks should not redeposit if they are frequent fliers. I often have UA bookings that I decide not to use but it’s much cheaper to cancel the itinerary and then do a change ($100 vs. $200). The only catch is that you have to remember to use it within 1 year of the original booking date.

    Reply

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