Yesterday, I started the day with a post about how United had indeed eliminated the close-in booking fee of $75 for award bookings made within 21 days. That was truly the highlight of an otherwise disappointing award day that saw United eliminate their award charts. But, the day was not over for United yet…
United Replaced the $75 Fee with a Mileage Surcharge
I had wondered in that post if United may eventually follow Delta by increasing the mileage requirements closer to departure. But, then last night I found out that United had gone back on their word by charging more for straight partner bookings. However, as some readers brought to my attention, it wasn’t just about raising award prices.
United is Charging All Customers (Including Elites) for Close-In Bookings of 30 Days or Less – In a Mileage Surcharge
Instead, it appears that United now charges a 2,000 – 3,500 mileage surcharge for economy, business, and first class on award bookings within 30 days of booking. To continue down this bad road, the 3,500 miles is not a hard/fast number. For some, it can be as “little” as 2,000 miles but for others it can be more. To make it even worse for elite customers, even top-tier Premier 1K customers have to pay this mileage surcharge! In the past, they were exempted from the $75 close-in booking fee so this is an outright negative for them for sure.
United may think that this is ok since paying 3,500 miles (or 7,000 if the whole trip is inside of 30 days) is “just” miles instead of paying cash. But, those 3,500 miles could be worth at least $50 to some of us making a 7K fee even worse than before. Plus, it is now inside of 30 days instead of 21 days!
I wrote yesterday how you can now book Lufthansa First Class awards without paying the close-in booking fee but now United has effectively raise the price on those awards by 3,500 miles one way. If you can deal with LifeMiles with some of their negatives, that is still going to be the place to go to book Lufthansa First Class – thanks, United.
The Value Loss
Let’s look at it another way. Since you can transfer Ultimate Reward points to United at 1:1, here is what you are potentially missing out with having to pay a close-in booking surcharge. For the 3,500 point amount, you could almost pay for a free night at a Category 1 or the Points part of the Points+Cash component at a Category 2. Or, if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you could redeem those 3,500 points for $52.50 in travel on other airlines, hotels, cars, etc. Or, you could get about that value if transferred to Southwest.
United went low on this one – really low. Earlier this year, they pitched the removal of the close-in booking fee as an enhancement, something that would calm the customers worried about no more award charts. They had months to say, “Hey, we are going to let you keep your $75 but it will cost you more in miles and we are going to add 9 more days to that “close-in” term.” Of course they didn’t do that.
This just shows (again) that airlines like United cannot be trusted to be honest with their customers. Would we have liked that announcement before? We wouldn’t have liked it but we sure would have felt better about it than stumbling upon it when business closed for the week on United.
Who knows if it will do anything, but I would definitely let United know how displeased you are with this change. This is just ridiculous, especially since they can now charge whatever they want for awards with no chart anymore.
Featured image courtesy of Jorg Hackemann : Shutterstock.com