It’s rare to see news of an airline eliminating a fee these days, but United Airlines Mileage Plus has eliminated close-in award ticketing fees for all members, including those without elite status. Before July 30, 2009, members were required to pay a $75 fee for award flights ticketed 7-20 days prior to departure and $100 for flights booked six days or less prior to departure. Award ticket change and cancellation fees will remain the same and Global Services and 1K members will continue to be exempt from all award fees.
Bottom line: This is good news for members who like to book award tickets close to the travel date. Airlines sometimes wait until the last minute to release award tickets and try to fill seats that would otherwise remain empty. Mileage Plus members can now book award seats late in the game at no additional cost and United Airlines ends up with fewer empty seats–a win-win situation that we hope more airlines implement. Of course, United probably expects to recoup lost revenue from award fees with checked baggage fees, on-board meals and other ancillary revenue.