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Award Booking Strategies: Avoiding United’s $75 Close-In Fee

I needed to fly out from Okinawa to Nagasaki and was planning on using United miles.  United has a deal for intra-Japan flights at a flat rate of 5k miles and $0.  Although, if you book within 21 days, you’d be hit with a $75 close-in fee.  I was within that 21 days and did not pay that fee.

United’s Award Cancellation Policy

United has this AWESOME feature of being able to cancel/change an award flight up to 24 hours after making a booking. This has been useful a few times since sometimes better flights open up last minute or if I change my mind about going somewhere.

Booking An Award Flight With United Miles

I booked a flight from Okinawa to Nagasaki 5 weeks from when I wanted to go.  Pretty much any date with the same direct flight available and departed more than 21 days from the booking.  The award flight cost me 5k United miles and $0.  It was completed using United’s online booking system so I didn’t have to talk with anyone…yet.  After making that booking, I had 24 hours to change the departure date to the actual date I wanted.

In case I’m losing you, I made a “placeholder” booking to avoid the $75 close-in fee.

I then called up United and told them I just placed a booking online, but happened to put the wrong date on the ticket.  Then, I politely asked if it was possible to change the date on the ticket for me (I knew it was possible).  The phone agent was very nice and changed the ticket.  After changing the ticket, she told me that there would be no additional charges and asked if I needed anything else. I thanked her and hung up.airplane window view


Score! She didn’t charge me the $75 close in fee because she didn’t notice.  I’ve tried this trick several times and I haven’t been 100% successful, but today I successfully avoided United’s $75 close-in fee.

Bonus Tip: If the operator tries charging you $75, HUCA!  Hang up and call again.

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