United oh united - always trying to charge additional fees when it comes to making reservations. In this post, I will be revealing a way to avoid the notorious "close-in award booking fee"for us urgent travelers.
The close in booking fee is a fee added when the departure date of an award ticket falls within 21 days of the time of booking. For the purpose of experimentation, I used BWI-YVR as an example. As you can see, the reservation below would cost a total of 12.5K miles (not bad for a transcontinental crossing!!) but a whopping 102$ in taxes and fees. Looking into this, we noticed that the high surcharge is due to the $75 close-in fee that is added automatically due to the recency of travel. This might be the deal-breaker - cash tickets only cost 150$ more than the fees of an award ticket ("no man's land") - yikes.
This can get especially annoying when plans change and an urgent booking is needed. In many cases, we would just decide to suck it up due to the lack of options - and United really wins here most of the time.
However, gladly, there is a way to work around the fee. Follow the steps.
First - look for the same flights outside the 21 day window, for example on September 27/28. Hah - only $27 in taxes and fees. No close-in fee. Much more acceptable.
Now get the new reservation ticketed (on Sep 28). You will then have a confirmed reservation, with only 27$ in taxes and fees.
And then this is where the real fun part begins. You will now need to call United reservations - remember, NOT mileagePlus customer service (I will explain the reason later) - just the reservations team, preferably even an international United reservations call center (China, Japan, Australia - you name it). You will tell them that you would like to change your date of travel to your desired date within 21 days. Here, in many cases, you will get away with being able to change the date for free due to the 24 hours protection policy and most agents will not mention the close-in fee.
China Hotline - +86 400 883 4288
Japan Hotline - (81)-3-6732-5011
Another number that many reported success with: 800-421-4655
Mind you - the method does not always work. HUCA (Hang Up Call Again) is usually the way to go if it doesn't work. Agents will need to remember and manually add in the close-in fee, and calling a foreign call center will mean that many are inexperienced and will forget to add the fee. MileagePlus help center would be too experienced in this case that they would likely not forget to add the 75$ fee.
Hope we helped you save some money!