No Close-In Fees, Please

Q. I have frequent flyer miles on United, American, Delta and US Air and need to book a flight in the next few days using my miles. American is my preferred airline but they want to charge me $100 because I'm not booking 21 days or more in advance. I earned those miles and it's not fair for them to charge me to use them. Do the other airlines also charge this fee?

A. American does indeed charge a fee if you don't plan ahead. It's $100 for award requests 6 days or fewer before travel and $50 for 20 to 7 days before travel. United, however, no longer charges for "close-in" award ticketing, and Delta has eliminated the fee for holders of its American Express Delta Reserve card. US Airways and Continental also charge close-in ticketing fees. Southwest issues travel awards as soon as you've earned them (they must be used within a year of issuance), and there's no fee to use awards with little or no notice.