Yesterday morning @hoantran tweeted,
is there still a way to hold UA award tickets? I just tried to book w/ the phone option but it didn’t show up.
I was walking around San Francisco and couldn’t check on this, but I tweeted back:
not near a computer to check. If really gone are there other non cc options? Try non-US website where cc less used
This morning I went to the United.com website, and indeed the option to ‘pay by phone’ (which is how folks would put awards on hold for free, and could then go back online and pay by credit card or call up and modify a reservation prior to ticketing) is gone.
There’s still the ‘FareLock’ option for award itineraries on United, I checked this morning and was offered
- 72 hours for $9.99
- 7 days for $14.99
But this option only appears for me when the award is on United, not on partners.
And the only payment options on the page are credit card, echeck, and paypal. Which means I cannot use the U.S. website to put awards on hold.
This is a big deal for several reasons.
- Awards are not like revenue tickets, where you can arrange the rest of your travel plans and then buy the tickets. Award inventory can disappear in an instant. Whether or not you make a trip may depend on when you can use miles, but for many trips you also then need to confirm ground arrangement availability (this is often a challenge for safaris for instance), and you can’t always do that in real-time.
- You can still cancel fee-free for 24 hours, but it can take longer than 24 hours to confirm the rest of your plans, especially if they involve activities where time is 12 hours ahead.
- Other airlines still offer award holds. When I got started with United they offered 30 day (extendable!) holds, reduced it to 14 days and then 3. Now the option is gone. Even pre-merger Continental let you hold awards when you didn’t have enough miles in your account, even that is no more. But American allows holds for 5 days, and Delta will let you hold awards on their website.
- The website and phone agents often see different availability. So you need to hold space on the website and get the phone agents to add to the itinerary you’ve created in order to book awards that are actually available.
Up until this past weekend we had an easy ‘workaround’ to United’s customer-unfriendly move to take away award holds. Now we do not even have that.
Update: While the pay by phone option appears gone from the website, accounts that lack sufficient miles in them to ticket an award do appear to still be given the option to hold an itinerary until midnight (local time of departure city) the following day. So presumably you need to hold the award with an account that lacks sufficient miles, and then change the account when ready to ticket, in order to hold an award.