As any frequent flyer can attest, just because you’ve earned the points doesn’t make them free to redeem. From baggage to seat selection, airlines are raking it in these days thanks to fees, and your frequent flyer points are no exception.
An American Airlines loyalist trying to book a last-minute award ticket over the phone could spend as much as $110. That’s $75 for booking within 21 days of departure and another $35 for phone reservations. Book in person at an office and the fee can be as much as $40 for international trips. Suddenly have to change the date of your ticket? That’s another $150. And should you decide not to make the trip at all and reinstate your miles, that’ll also set you back $150, plus $25 for other award tickets booked on the same reservation. If you’re the type of person who likes to shift around their trip on the fly, as described above, you could easily end up spending just over $415 for the pleasure of changing your mind.
Meanwhile, Delta doesn’t charge a last-minute booking fee, but if you suddenly need to change or cancel within 72 hours before your departure date, you lose the miles entirely. Delta doesn’t allow miles to be changed or redeposited within 72 hours of departure.
As with non-award travel, if the airline makes changes to its flight times, as they often do, you may be able to alter your ticket without having to pay. Keep an eye on schedule switches and, if the airline emails you with a new departure time, tell them it no longer suits your schedule, or complain that the connection time is suddenly too narrow or long for your liking.
Some frequent flyer fees may not even apply to you, depending on which membership tier you’re at. Typically, the higher the status, the less you pay.
|Airline||"Last minute" ticketing||Ticket issued by phone or in person||Date/itinerary change||Redepositing miles/points||Same day change fee (confirmed travel)|
|Alaska||$0||$15 (for Alaska flights); $25 (for partner flights)||$125 for changes made within 59 days of departure. No charge if 60 days or over.||$125 for changes made within 59 days of departure. No charge if 60 days or over.||$25 (only if same award seat is available within six hours of flight)|
|American||Travel ticketed 21 days or less incurs $75 charge||$35 by phone/up to $40 in person||$150 for For MileSAAver awards||$150 (all additional award tickets returning to same account at same time are $25 each)||$75|
|Delta||$0||$0||$150 (no changes/cancellations are permitted within 72 hours of departure; all miles forfeited)||$150 (no changes/cancellations are permitted within 72 hours of departure)||$150|
|Frontier||$75 for tickets issued 6 days or less from departure||$0||$50 (if changes are made within 7 days before departure, otherwise free)||$75||$75|
|Spirit||$0||Free if booked 180 days before departure. $15-$75 booking fee||$110 (not permitted within 24 hours of departure)||$110 (not permitted within 24 hours of departure)||$25 (only for an earlier flight)|
|Southwest||$0||$0||$0||$0||Depends on type of award and possible point difference if using new award system|
|United||$75 if booked within 21 days of departure||$25||$0-$75 (depends on if origin/connecting city/destination changes and if the change is made within 21 days of departure)||$150||$75-$125|