Trick to avoid $75 close-in fee for award bookings within 21 days of travel

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There’s a simple trick that a colleague brought up to me some time ago that I wasn’t aware of.  Mile Value and MillionMile Secrets had written about it back in 2014.  United assesses a $75 fee to general members when booking an award ticket within 21 days of the departure date.  This workaround allows you to make your booking within that time frame and having the fee waived, without having to call United.  Some had reported, however, that the trick didn’t work, but again this past September MillionMile Secrets reported that it did still work.  My colleague was able to leverage this trick a couple of months ago successfully.  Since then, however, and since the piloting of the Basic Economy fare, United has made some updates on their website.  I’m not going to go into details about the changes I’ve noticed, but I can tell you that some functionality is now present that wasn’t there before, mostly in the form of pop-up dialog boxes and warnings.  I wondered if United had finally fixed this ‘bug’ that surely they’re aware of.  Then yesterday the opportunity presented itself for me to try it for the first time.  Here’s how it went.

I booked an award ticket outside of the close in fee 21 days time frame.  Note that because of some additional changes to the MileagePlus fee structure in October of 2016, any changes to award tickets within 61 days of the departure date will likewise be assessed a fee.  For that reason, ensure that you leverage the 24-hr cancellation policy to make your change without being assessed yet another fee.  As you can see below, I’ve initiated an award booking well past the 21 days from departure.

As you can see, there are no fees being assessed, other than the $11 and change for taxes.  So I went through with the booking, keeping in mind that I have a 24-hr cancellation policy on my side.  Then I began the change process for the dates that I actually want.

And voila!  Notice that the change fee has been waived.

You can see how this trick is beneficial.  You’d have to ask United why this process is still working this way.  In the meantime, feel free to try it for yourself and save yourself some $ along the way.

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