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Frequent Flyer "Award Booking Fee"
Old 07-19-2014, 08:43 PM   #1
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Frequent Flyer "Award Booking Fee"

Wow, I love United Airlines.... I just cashed in my miles for "free" flights. Besides some nominal $5 award fee, I also have to pay $75 per ticket for "Award Booking Fee." Obviously, I'm still paying less than a regular ticket, but I view this fee as an insult.
And, to add insult to injury, even though I used my fee-based United credit card, I will have to fight them when they want to charge me for checked in luggage. Terms of this credit card are no fees for luggage, yet EVERY year we have flown United they try to charge us, and we have to fight with the attendant before he/she reluctantly "waives" the fee.
Only good news is that my frequent flyer mileage balance is close to zero. I'm cancelling this card and will look to other airline choices for my future domestic travel.
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:06 PM   #2
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Man, so many bad travel experiences come to mind when I read your post.....my job required me to travel extensively, sometimes as much as 250 nights a year. I also got to hate United but pretty soon I hated them all...the only advantage I think I received because of all the travel is this: I am now retired and the furthest I want to travel now is to the end of my driveway So, I am pretty sure my retirement travel budget is lower than probably everyone else's here!!
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:45 PM   #3
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Did you book your United flight online with in 21 days of departure? When I book (online) United flights with FF miles -and the departure dates is longer than 21 days- I have not paid this fee.

You might check milevalue.com. Some great FF booking tips there. They also offer award booking services- for a fee of course
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Old 07-20-2014, 01:45 AM   #4
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I booked a flight to London for my DH on United last month and only paid the $5 fee and the bag was free. I booked a ticket for a friend the month before (domestic) and it was the same story. Never heard of the $75 charge or any trouble with the free checked bag.
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Old 07-20-2014, 05:32 AM   #5
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Indeed, the $75 fee applies when flights are booked within 21 days of travel or when changes are made to existing award travel reservations.

I'd be surprised that baggage fees would be waived for award travel, since the bonus is only supposed to apply when tickets are "purchased". For as long as I can remember (decades) award travel tickets have never qualified as purchased tickets.
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Old 07-20-2014, 05:56 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Lancelot View Post
Did you book your United flight online with in 21 days of departure? When I book (online) United flights with FF miles -and the departure dates is longer than 21 days- I have not paid this fee.

You might check milevalue.com. Some great FF booking tips there. They also offer award booking services- for a fee of course
Thanks Sir Knight.

Looks like a useful site, and with several 100Ks of miles available and having just semi-REd, looks like I'll have a chance to use it.
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Old 07-20-2014, 06:46 AM   #7
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Having been a longtime poster on a frequent flyer board, I'd seen sad stories from people who had stockpiled tons of miles/points from business travel with grand plans to use them in retirement, only to find that they were worth far less than they used to be. Standard awards are scarcer because of tighter capacity restrictions and fewer flights (meaning you have to use twice as many points for desirable routes). It's gotten even worse with Hilton, where properties in Europe that we used to be able to get for 50,000 or 60,000 points/night now have only "premium" award rooms available for 200,000 points per night.

DH and I just used United miles to go to and from Seattle and, frankly, I don't know if it was worth it. I'd originally scheduled flights to SEA with a 3-hour layover in Denver and when they changed their schedules that turned into 7 hours. Our flight out of SEA was moved from 7:30 AM to 6:20 AM with a connection that added a few thousand miles to the trip. Southwest flies nonstop from our city. Next time we'll take Southwest.

We have enough AA miles to get one of us to Europe in Business Class. We'll pay for the other when/if we decide to go. My plan is to gradually move to cash-back cards such as Chase Sapphire (also convertible into miles/points) or the Fidelity Visa and use those rebates for future travel, letting the cards with fees expire as they come up for renewal. Why get a hotel/airline point that's worth about a half cent when you redeem it when you can get 2 cents in cash instead? We've already got over $700 in the Chase account and I haven't put the second half of my dental implant work on the card yet.
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Old 07-20-2014, 07:02 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by athena53 View Post
Having been a longtime poster on a frequent flyer board, I'd seen sad stories from people who had stockpiled tons of miles/points from business travel with grand plans to use them in retirement, only to find that they were worth far less than they used to be. Standard awards are scarcer because of tighter capacity restrictions and fewer flights (meaning you have to use twice as many points for desirable routes). It's gotten even worse with Hilton, where properties in Europe that we used to be able to get for 50,000 or 60,000 points/night now have only "premium" award rooms available for 200,000 points per night.

DH and I just used United miles to go to and from Seattle and, frankly, I don't know if it was worth it. I'd originally scheduled flights to SEA with a 3-hour layover in Denver and when they changed their schedules that turned into 7 hours. Our flight out of SEA was moved from 7:30 AM to 6:20 AM with a connection that added a few thousand miles to the trip. Southwest flies nonstop from our city. Next time we'll take Southwest.

We have enough AA miles to get one of us to Europe in Business Class. We'll pay for the other when/if we decide to go. My plan is to gradually move to cash-back cards such as Chase Sapphire (also convertible into miles/points) or the Fidelity Visa and use those rebates for future travel, letting the cards with fees expire as they come up for renewal. Why get a hotel/airline point that's worth about a half cent when you redeem it when you can get 2 cents in cash instead? We've already got over $700 in the Chase account and I haven't put the second half of my dental implant work on the card yet.
I'm with you on this approach. After 30 years of FF programs on airlines, I am at the point where all my travel costs go on Capital One card that pays 1.5%. I had to burn up 50,000 miles to get DW a RT flight from Houston to San Jose, Ca because all the 12,500 mile seats were long gone. And I booked this several months ago. Airline miles are not that significant to me anymore because of the difficulty to use at low miles/flight.

I'm accumulating Marriott and HI points for retirement travel since the room rates are rising too. I guess I have 300,000 points in Marriott and 120,000 in Holiday Inn (IHG) and can use them across a bunch of hotels. I'll buy the airfare from now on.
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Old 07-20-2014, 09:12 AM   #9
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I did get the Barclays Arrival Card a few months ago, which can be used for statement credit when buying travel items. I used some of my bonus credit it to buy a SW ticket for a friend. It is nice because you am find a cheap ticket on any airline, and just apply the credit. Barclays also offers free FICO scores as part of the deal.
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Old 07-20-2014, 10:32 AM   #10
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Yes, we booked this trip within 21 days. We just cancelled our planned Israel trip due to the issues there, so at least now I know why that $75 fee was charged. As to the luggage fee, the terms of the credit card specifically note that any miscellaneous charges for award travel, if paid by the credit card, means no fee for the luggage. I have some honey-do errands to do so can't cut and paste it now, but it is quite explicit.
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Old 07-20-2014, 11:09 AM   #11
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FF miles are one of the fastest depreciating assets you can own. Use them as quickly as you can, but "free" tickets nowadays are often not free at all, and anyone who has used miles probably has a story or two about availability, or lack thereof.
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Old 07-20-2014, 11:17 AM   #12
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We have had so many issues with FF miles and US Air but have had great experience with using FF mile on Southwest.
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Old 07-20-2014, 03:52 PM   #13
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I have a good number of miles.... and will probably use them next year or so... got most when it was Continental....

But, the 'cost' to fly using FF miles is now so high I would rather just pay the ticket price.... I do not have a FF card and will probably only get one to get the extra miles I need for my trip.... then it will be cancelled when the big annual fee comes the next year...

DW now has Hilton and used it recently for a trip to Paris... but we only use that card to book stays at Hilton so we will not be making many points in the future (we got the card for the bonus miles)....

Yep, all of them seem like a waste of effort when you get 1.5% back with Cap One... I used to use some ones that were better, but Chase decided to convert them to 'better' cards that were not better at all....
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Old 07-20-2014, 03:58 PM   #14
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My DH and I were always looking forward to the day we had no "status" with any airline, hotel etc. It meant we were not traveling more! I thought it was a great, fun idea!
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:21 AM   #15
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Thanks Sir Knight.

Looks like a useful site, and with several 100Ks of miles available and having just semi-REd, looks like I'll have a chance to use it.
No worries. I've found the owner, Scott Grimmer, to be knowledgeable about the little secrets of booking award flights that aren't always straight forward
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Old 07-21-2014, 07:41 AM   #16
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My DH and I were always looking forward to the day we had no "status" with any airline, hotel etc. It meant we were not traveling more! I thought it was a great, fun idea!
We've got 4 trips planned between now and Spring, 2015. All are by car because I'm retired now and we can take our time getting there!

I have Lifetime Gold on AA from back when they allowed you to accumulate any miles (credit card, brokerage, etc.) towards million-mile status. (I'd also made quite a few business trips to and from London, Zurich and Bangalore in Business Class.) Occasionally it comes in handy; just on this last trip we saved checked bag fees on 3 Alaska Airlines flights (in the same alliance). Not sure what Lifetime gold status will mean when the USAirways/AA programs are totally merged.

From now on, though, we'll pretty much choose what makes sense given scheduling and pricing. If it's Europe, we'll find a way to go Business Class, which gets you most of the same perks people with Elite status get. Airlines will sell their love for a price.
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Old 07-21-2014, 02:30 PM   #17
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I can see the sentiment against loyalty programs and can understand why. I am not loyal to any program but have a diversified portfolio of over 2 million points/miles with just about every airline and hotel chain there is including other programs like Barclay Arrival card, Membership rewards, and Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Even though these programs devalue every year they can be great still for the retired person. For example, I am flying to Thailand in September (I know it is the rainy season) and into October. I am flying from the east coast and arrive back via west coast so it is around the world. I am flying in first class in planes that are 3 class cabins for the overseas portions. I booked this for only 140,000 United points back in January before the last devaluation took place. I priced this out at appr $17,000 for this if paid for (which I never would).
The key to points and miles is to diversify to guard against significant devaluation in one program, and to use the miles wisely during off peak travel (for the retired this should be easy).
I got these points mostly from credit card applications, cc spending, and promotions (80%) and the rest from business travel when I worked.
There are some great bloggers out there you can read to "get into the game".
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baggage fees
Old 07-21-2014, 10:11 PM   #18
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baggage fees

The key to waived baggage fees even when booking with FF miles is to use the airline credit card for the $5 booking fee (or $75 if booking last minute - I had to do that for a funeral last year & it was annoying, but not nearly as annoying as paying full fare). This works for American & United, or at least it has for me several times each.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:06 PM   #19
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I got these points mostly from credit card applications, cc spending, and promotions (80%) and the rest from business travel when I worked.
There are some great bloggers out there you can read to "get into the game".
I've done this. We always pay in full every month, so interest rates aren't a concern to us. I've frequently signed up for a new card with a steep bonus. My best score was an AA Visa and an AA MC about 4 years ago, each with a 75,000-mile bonus after you'd spent a certain amount. I periodically cancel cards that are no longer valuable to us.

I'm running out of these, though. They're very specific about the bonus applying to new accounts only, so if you cancelled the card 3 years ago and apply for the same card, you don't get another bonus.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:14 PM   #20
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The getting another bonus is an "it depends". Chase is quite generous with letting you get a new card and new bonus with a year or so on most of their cards. I usually apply in my name one year, and my DH the next, so by the time I want to get the bonus again, it has been a while.
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