How to Avoid Ticketing Fees on Last Minute Award Redemptions

For all you last-minute travelers/procrastinators, there are many frequent flier programs that penalize travelers if they book an award redemption close to the departure date. For example, if you book a ticket using miles on either American or United and your departure date is less than 21 days away, you will have to pay a $75 ticketing fee. Sometimes this fee will wipe out the value of a redemption and on the rare occasion, it will be more than the entire cost of the ticket were you to pay in cash. Delta doesn’t charge a ticketing fee but will charge additional 5k points per one way ticket (and even more for business class). Alaska Airlines does not charge a close-in ticketing fee and neither does JetBlue.  Southwest does not charge a ticketing fee but the number of miles required will increase significantly. If you have status with an airline, that might be enough to skirt around the close-in booking fees. There are a couple of ways to bypass the close-in fee and I’ll demonstrate how.

Using British Airways to Book on American Airlines

  • I talked about the benefits of using British Airways Avios to book on American Airlines here.
  • One valuable aspect of British Airways Avios is the ability to redeem it on American Airlines as close to a few hours prior to departure.
  • British Airways has a distance based chart so certain redemptions can be made using fewer miles.
  • If economy saver award tickets are available on AA.com, they will usually be accessible through British Airways.

Here is an example of the exact same flight from Albany, NY to Chicago (ORD) and the costs associated with the two different programs.

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ALB2ORDAA

If I were to book this one-way ticket using AA miles, the cost is $12,500 miles plus a $75 ticketing fee (the mandatory 9/11 security fee is $5.60 making it $80.60). Now let’s see the price using British Airways Avios…..

ALB2ORDBA

ALB2ORD2

No $75 ticketing fee and only 7.5k Avios as opposed to the 12.5k AA miles that would have been required. It is important to note that if you have a connecting flight, it will cost double the Avios for a trip since BA charges 7.5k per segment. I’d still rather dish out 15k Avios rather than 12.5k AA miles with the $75 ticketing fee tacked on.

Using Singapore Krisflyer Miles to Book on United

ALB2ORDUA.JPG

If I want to book a one-way flight to Chicago for this Friday using United miles, it’s 12.5k miles + $80.60

  • Similar to AA’s policy, United also charges a $75 ticketing fee for flights booked within 21 days of departure.
  • Singapore Airlines allows you to book via United up until 24 hours prior to departure if saver award redemptions are available on United.
  • Unlike the American Airlines example, this ticket cannot be booked online. You need to call Singapore Airlines reservations and they will book it for you. Just make sure you have a Singapore Krisflyer frequent flier account set up prior to calling.

Both British Airways and Singapore Airlines are transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest. Singapore Airlines is also a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou points. If you are booking on United Airlines via Singapore miles, DO NOT transfer any points into Singapore Airlines until you have confirmed seat availability for your travel dates on United. Transfers into an airline’s frequent flier program are not reversible.

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