My friends and I have saved hundreds of dollars with the trick to avoid paying the $75-per-ticket fee for booking United awards within 21 days of departure.
The basic idea is that you book the trip you want online except with fake dates that are more than 21 days from now. After ticketing the award, you immediately call United and ask to change your award for free since you booked within 24 hours. You change dates to the real flights you want, which are within 21 days of departure. The agent forgets to manually add a $75 fee, saving you big cash!
My latest experience with the trick happened this weekend. My friend has been visiting Europe for several weeks. He arrived on a one way ticket without much of a plan. He is finally ready to go home this week from Madrid, and he wants to use United miles.
He found a fantastic one stop itinerary from Madrid to Los Angeles for 30,000 United miles and $52 in taxes, a really great deal since cash tickets were over $800 one way. However, if he just booked it without any tricks, he’d also have to pay a $75 fee.
He was all ears when I told him that he could save the $75 with 10 extra minutes of work, and he followed my instructions perfectly.
First he booked himself a ticket from Madrid to Los Angeles for September 1, which is more than 21 days from now.
That allowed him to book the award for just 30,000 miles and $52 with no fee. He had to spend five minutes finding this dummy booking with Saver availability, but I told him that he should really find the same routing and carriers, so that his dummy award and real award would have identical taxes.
If he had chosen a dummy award flying different airlines with different connections, his taxes would be different and that could cause the agent to pay closer attention to the change on the phone, which might make her to remember to charge you $75. Immediately after booking, he called United at 800-UNITED-1 and said, “Hi, I just booked an award a few minutes ago and want to change the date of travel.” He fed the agent his confirmation number and the date, cabin, and flight number of the award he really wants to fly this week.
She found the space and made the change during a five minute call. She informed him that since taxes were the same, and he can make free changes within 24 hours of booking, she could make the change instantly without needing his credit card details again.
As soon as he hung up and refreshed his United account, his new itinerary showed up under his original confirmation number.
He’s going home this week and not paying United’s $75 penalty for his spontaneity.
The trick to save $75 per ticket on United award bookings within 21 days of departure is alive and well. Read the full post on the trick here.
It remains to be seen how this trick will be affected by United’s upcoming award fee changes.