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|
|Phone Booking||$25||$0||$15 – $25||$25||$25||$30 CAD||$0||$0|
|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.
- United: Date 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.
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.
Southwest is the best. Alaska is pretty cool. Foreign airlines are pretty cool, usually.
And United, AA, and Delta are nickel and dimey fools.