United Increases Change Fees on Awards for Most MileagePlus Members

After the big news yesterday that United was following Delta’s lead in imposing minimum revenue requirements for elite status, at least for US frequent flyers who don’t spend $25,000 or more on a United co-brand credit card (this exception, or the one for legacy Presidential Plus credit card holders, not applying to 100,000 mile flyer status), comes more news a mere 18 or so hours later.

The MileagePlus program has increased the fees that non-elite general members have to pay to change and cancel award tickets.

  • For travel more than 21 days out, changes that didn’t involve a different origin or destination were free. Now — effective immediately, no advance notice given — changes will be $75. If the changes are made inside of 21 days that fee is $100 per passengers.

  • Cancelling and redepositing the miles from an award goes from $150 up to $200.

These changes don’t effect tickets issued June 18 or earlier, although once a change is made and ticket re-issued presumably the new rules will apply on a prospective basis (to subsequent changes if any).

United increased its change fees on revenue tickets so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re increasing the change fees on award tickets as well.

But the old concept of an award ticket — a reward for loyalty — was that they were basically hassle-free. There are still some legacy characteristics of that notion, and indeed elite retain the ability to make fee-free changes when origin and destination remain the same (and top elites, as with other major airlines, get fee free changes that involve greater variation from the original ticket and also fee-free cancellation and redeposit of miles).

United dro9ve the recent revenue ticket increase in change fees, up to the now standard $200 on domestic US tickets, and others followed. When I began my professional life it was the tail end of the $25 change fee and $50 became the standard followed by $75 and $100.

With airlines often moving in lock step so often\ it will be interesting to see if they match United’s change to award tickets (and of course it remains to be seen whether New York’s senior clown in the US senate can manage to muckrake over the more obscure award redemption rules) although frequent flyer award policies tend not to move as quickly or identically as revenue-ticket policies do.

While I am not a fan of JetBlue’s frequent flyer program, their sensible change fees combined with this week’s announcements that their miles won’t expire certainly positions them as the friendlier and easier to work with carrier.

(HT: Hack My Trip)

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Is Cursing and expletives appropriate for those folks at United? I simply hate United now and that’s coming from someone that thought the world of them in the 90s
    I have some very unfriendly unpleasant things to say but I will leave that to their other customers
    This simply puts the nail in the coffin that in my lifetime I will make no effort to be their customer ever again unless one of the last resorts

  2. meant to say it affects general MP members with out status. non-event IMHO. Travelers not putting PQMs into their accounts and only using their credit card generated points should pay more IMHO. Seems like this marginally INCREASES the value of being a UA elite

  3. When all of the airlines slowly start to follow the other in the same long line of fees, increased fees, baggage fees, etc. I don’t see how all of this isn’t collusion in the marketplace.

  4. If for the tickets issued before 6/18, only one change is free now, it is definitely an unfair change to the rules. A person purchasing the ticket before 6/18 was doing it with expectations of unlimited free changes until 21 days out. Are you sure this less consumer friendly interpretation is true?

  5. Thank God my company pays for all my travels and has a generous policy. I fly AA all the time. But am sure they are next.

    I guess the Deltapoints guy is laughing all the way to the bank ( full of skypesos ).

  6. Ouch.

    A couple years back I managed to snag a couple F seats from Frankfurt to the West Coast in August only a week or so before travel. I was happy to pay the $150 per ticket change fee from double miles economy, because I knew that “book Y and change to J or F” is about the only way to get the transatlantic seats you want in the summer. This method is now 33% more expensive. Oh well.

    Drip… drip… drip…

    Every time I think Southwest is devaluing their loyalty offerings or their hard product too much I find out that Southwest is still lagging in the race to the bottom. We’re like those dinosaurs looking for food in the movie The Land Before Time, except that our movie will end the way it actually ended for the dinosaurs.

  7. nsx – actually things have gotten better for you. Pre-merger UA required that you cancel the coach award and book a new first class award. Post-merger UA allows you to change an award from “standard coach” to “saver first” for the change fee (which is now $100 for non-elites) and the difference in miles.

    Yes, Southwest is implementing draconian measures :-)- effective in September, they require travelers to cancel or change their reservation at least 10 minutes prior to travel if they want to retain the value of their ticket.

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