The legacy carriers–United, US Airways, Delta, American–all charge a fee if you ticket your award by phone instead of online. Here’s your guide to avoiding those phone fees:

United

United charges $25 per passenger if you book by phone. They will not waive this phone fee just because a booking could not be completed online. That’s frustrating because many multi-city and free-oneway awards can’t be booked online. They generate error messages despite being within the routing rules.

Here’s how you avoid the phone fee with United:

First, search for and reserve any United flight. if you reserve as much of your real trip as possible, you’ll save time, but you can literally put any one segment on hold, and this will work.

Continue as if you are booking online all the way until the payment page.

Then on the payment page, don’t pay. Instead, where you see the credit-card logos, you should click the link that says “phone order page.”

By clicking the link, you have reserved the award. You will get a confirmation number.

If you look on united.com under your itineraries, you’ll see that your award is held until 11:59 PM the next day.

Now you can call 800-UNITED-1 and change or add to the held reservation. Once the changes are made, you can ticket the reservation or hang up, in which case it would still be held until its expiration time.

Make sure when you decide to ticket it that you say you are calling in to ticket a reservation you started online, so they don’t accidentally charge you a phone ticketing fee. Don’t let them charge you that fee because if they do–and they shouldn’t–it will be very difficult to get the refund you deserve.

Phone ticketing fees are never charged to Premier Platinum members and higher.

Delta

While most possible United awards can be booked online, few Delta awards can be booked at delta.com, which shows only Delta, Alaska, and a few European partners’ space. To book complex itineraries or partners not listed on delta.com, you’ll have to call 800-323-2323.

There are two ways to avoid a $25 per passenger fee for ticketing online. The first is to call up and put the reservation on hold. Putting a Delta award on hold can only be done if you don’t have enough miles in your account to ticket the award at the moment. That means this first way is primarily useful for people who will be transferring in Membership Rewards for the award booking.

Once the reservation is on hold, you can see it in your account at delta.com. Log into your Delta account, and find your reservations by clicking Itineraries & Check-in under Travel Information on the top right part of the screen.

Inside your reservation, there will be a button to Redeem Now. Doing so will not incur the phone fee even though the hold was made by phone. I love this method because I can see my itinerary and double check the agents’ work.

The second method to avoid the phone fee–says my new award-booking partner Tahsir–is to ask the agent to waive the phone fee because the reservation was not bookable online. You’ll get it waived “as a one-time courtesy.”

Phone ticketing fees are never charged to Gold Medallion members or higher.

US Airways

US Airways has a $30 per passenger phone ticketing fee for awards in the US/Canada and $40 per passenger phone ticketing fee for international awards. US Airways proactively waives phone fees when you book an award on a partner airline. They do this because only US Airways space shows up on usairways.com searches.

So you never have to pay a phone fee because you can book US Airways flights on usairways.com or awards with partner flights by phone with no phone fee.

But US Airways charges an award processing fee on all awards: $25 for continental U.S./Alaska/Canada, $35 for Latin America/Caribbean, and $50 for Hawaii/Europe/Middle East/South America/all other destinations. This fee is greater than other airlines’ phone fees and unavoidable without Gold status or higher with US Airways.

Phone ticketing fees are never charged to Chairman’s Preferred members.

American

American charges a $25 per passenger fee for all award tickets purchased by phone. This fee is never waived and cannot be avoided.

AA.com shows availability on America, Alaska, Hawaiian, British, and Qantas. And apparently they will add more airlines in the future. Awards for airlines not bookable on aa.com will incur the phone fee.

The phone fee is waived for Executive Platinum members.

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