Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.
Last year United changed up their award fees for changes, mileage redeposits, and more. In some cases the fees got a bit worse, and in other cases the fees actually went down. One piece of “good news” from when those changes were announced was that it was expressly called out that if your status changes between the time of ticketing and time of the change, the lowest fee based on your different status levels would apply.
Since this was very clearly called out on their MileagePlus Updates website, I went ahead and booked a somewhat speculative trip for next holiday season on the last day that I had United Platinum status last month. Since I booked it as a Platinum, the rules indicate I should be allowed free changes or cancellations to the award until 61 days out, at which time changes will run me $50 per person. As a current Silver elite, those charges would otherwise be $50 and $100, respectively, which for a family of four adds up really quickly.
It turns out I didn’t need those United award flights after all as I found something better via American. I tried to cancel the award and redeposit the award online, and not surprisingly it tried to charge me fees based on my current elite status instead of basing it on whichever fee was lower since my status had changed since the time I booked. I then called up United for help and went around and around for a bit trying to explain the situation and point out that their own website said I should be charged the lower of the two fees since my status changed since I booked the award.
I was put on hold while the agent checked with someone else, but ultimately he said no-can-do. He then offered to transfer me to yet another department for help, and after sitting on hold for another 5-10 minutes without going anywhere I eventually hung up. I hate wasting time on the phone in this manner more than getting dental work, so after that failure I tried to reach out to United for help via Twitter and their email. Unfortunately, both couldn’t do anything in this situation except encourage me to try calling again. Great.
Today I called again explained the situation, pointed to the rules on their website, and I was again put on hold while they checked with someone. It is obvious the computer is not programed to do what the website indicates should happen regarding charging the lower of two fees if status changed, but I was hopeful that someone would do a manual override.
Thankfully this time around they did agree to make a “one time exception” to waive the award cancelation fees and refund the miles and taxes without charging anything extra. I was thankful not only that they took care of it, but that on this particular call it didn’t take too terribly long to get to that point. However, in the end I felt like I was pestering them to do me a big favor when really all I needed was for them to do what was expressly written on their website.
Not having a higher tier elite status and having to almost beg for these sort of things is not fun. I share this story because I’m sure I am not the first or last person to have their Untied elite status drop after they book an award and then need to make a change or cancelation. It is clear that the computer is not programed to charge the lesser of the two fees, but instead is set to charge fees based on your current status. If you need a manual override as I did, be prepared for it to potentially not be a very straight-forward process. You may have to point to where the rules are spelled out in the FAQs here and be a little persistence to get it done.