Close-in fees & other recent shake-ups
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Q. I recently checked into booking a mileage ticket on United. It seems that United is constantly sending me opportunities to "spend" the thousands of miles I've accumulated. To my surprise, a $50 fee was added because one of the flights was booked fewer than 21 days out. When did this happen? I have been at the "Premier Exec" level in United's frequent flyer program for many years, dropping to "Premier" this year. At this point, it seems it's little to no advantage to spend my travel dollars with United, let alone any other airline, out of loyalty.
A. United added (well actually, reinstated) this close-in booking fee -which they had previously eliminated- on June 15, 2011. The reason given was to align United's policy with Continental's and provide consistency between the two airlines. On the plus side, United reduced the fee for changing your routing or destination on a free ticket from $150 to $75. A number of airlines charge this fee presently, including American, US Airways and Virgin America. Southwest does not. For a look at frequent flyer fees, including those for using miles to upgrade seats from economy to business and first class, have a look at our fee chart.