United charges up to $75 for awards booked within 21 days of departure.
American has a similar fee, waiving it for all elites. Delta technically doesn’t have a close in booking fee, but most of the cheapest mileage awards on Delta flights require 21 day advance purchase — they charge their close-in fee in miles rather than money.
Years ago you used to be able to book an American AAdvantage award more than 21 days out, avoid the fee, and then call to change dates for free — to within 21 days. They closed that loophole. Of course if American saver award space is available you can book it using British Airways Avios – without a close-in fee.
In contrast the ‘book farther out then change’ trick with United has persisted for a long time. I’ve written about it or linked to others writing about it many times.
With United you’d need to make your change within 24 hours to avoid a fee. This used to work on the website. Back in the fall it still worked if you called in.
Since then it’s been “your milage may vary” or “hang up, call back” if you don’t get the answer you want the first time. I’ve had a couple of agents recently tell me it’s no longer possible to make the free change within 24 hours to move up your date inside of 21 days and avoid the close-in booking fee. Seat 31B had the same experience.
Is it still a case of ‘be persistent’ and eventually you’ll get an agent to do it for you? I’m curious whether anyone has had success this month making such a change with United MileagePlus in order to avoid a $25 – $75 booking fee.