No More Official United Free Award Ticket Holds?

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Tonight I was booking some award tickets on United operated flights and I noticed something I had not seen before – the option to hold reward tickets when you don’t yet have enough miles in your account was gone.  I posted back on March 13th that it looked like the old Continental policy of allowing you to hold award tickets for three days for free if you didn’t have enough miles in your account had survived the merger.  At the time I wrote that post, it was true.

However, three months later, the tides seem to have turned.  Now, it seems that neither the old Continental policy of allowing free three day holds if you don’t have enough miles in your account, or the old United policy of allowing free holds for three days if you had enough miles survived.  More accurately, it seems that neither option is currently available online.  I am hoping (perhaps against hope) that free holds of some sort are still allowed over the phone.  Though we all know how long it can take to get through to United on the phone, so that would be a somewhat cumbersome consolation prize.

I tried many different dates and routings and came up with the same result.  No free hold online for award tickets.  You can still purchase a hold using the Fare Lock option (which I do appreciate very much), but free was better!

Are you seeing the same thing as me?  Have you recently been able to secure a free hold for a United award ticket over the phone?

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  1. It appears to still be working. I placed SFO-BKK on hold 3/27 until I could transfer UR points over and had no problems, although they take your credit card number and place a $1 temp authorization on it. I called and they said I wouldn’t be charged even if I did not redeem miles for the flight. I just tried SFO-LIM a few minutes ago and it allowed for a hold with a CC number, and I do not have nearly enough United miles to redeem for that booking.

  2. Given the push by $mi$ek to make money at every corner, as opposed to offering things that benefit the customer, I wouldn’t be surprised if this feature was no longer offered for free.

  3. The times are changing, my dear. Getting an experiences, dedicated ‘award’ booker on the line is about as fast as getting a general agen who has gone to lunch and left her (his) phone on. Truth is, the do NOT want to servive your award booking request and hope that you will hang up and go away. These days, the ‘award’ desk gets the least experienced agents and has some of the longest hold times, in part because the do NOT want to service your request. You should know that by now. Most of t he basic frequent flyer programs, as we have known them, will probably be gone on +/-five years. At that point, the only ‘status’ and mileage programs will be the invitation-only revenue and frequency programs such as Global Express. If even scraps of t he current programs remain, they will be like ‘almost silver’ in today’s market – worthless. If you’ve got points/miles to burn, do so ASAP as their value is on the way down.

  4. I was emailed about lock options. So I’m guess from now on it’ll cost a buck to lock it.
    But isn’t the lock guaranteed for a long time? Better than free?

  5. I can still ‘reserve’ a ticket free of charge. The only thing is after the merger, the maximum hold time for me is 24hr. That is to say, if I put an award ticket reservation on hold today, I need to get it ticketed by the end of tomorrow’s midnight. btw, i am a general member.

  6. When you’re on the website on the payment page, instead of selecting credit card, select “Cash”. It will hold the reservation until midnight the following night. However, it saves the reservation in your profile, allowing you to go back into your account, pull up the held reservation, and complete it using a credit card.

    Not the three days that were there before, but it’s something.

  7. @Dan – Does the system deduct the miles from your account when you select cash – suggeting you could ‘walk away’ from the reservation after 24 hours?

  8. On May 25, I was allowed to hold the flight without sufficient miles, called the next day to proceed after my tranfer was final and was told I was very lucky to have been allowed to do this. Guess it depends on the kindness of the individual??

  9. I actually had an experience with this about 2 weeks ago. I was trying to book 2 award tickets – 1 for myself and one for my wife. The itinerary was identical for both. From my wife’s account it let me hold it for free (which I did), but from my account it didn’t. Both accounts had sufficient miles to book the award, but my wife’s had only a few thousand more than necessary, while mine had almost double the necessary miles.

    After putting one on hold from my wife’s account, I called united to ask why the same option was not available from mine. The agent didn’t even believe me that I could have put it on hold at all, but I gave her the record locator and she realized I was correct to which she said something like “well it shouldn’t let you do that at all – all we have is the 24 hour refund policy.” I pointed out that 3 days is a lot longer than 24 hours and also that since the option was in fact available on the site, i should be able to do the same. No luck…she just told me to call the technical issues department, where I got a TOTALLY unhelpful agent who made me wait while she booked the entire itinerary from my account and then said “gee, it actually doesn’t work. That’s just the way it is.” When I asked to be transferred to someone who may know the reason, she HUNG UP ON ME!!!

    Also, there was a large discrepancy between the expiration date of the reservation as reported on the website’s confirmation page (3 days) and that on the confirmation email (1 day). Would love to have some clarity…

  10. All of the airlines are pulling back on their FF programs. Yesterday Lucky had a post on how hard it has become to even find award availability for this summer. On AA there is virtually no FC TATL availability for the entire 10 months out they are booking. But at least AA still allows you to put an award booking on hold for 5 days. Though you do have to have the mileage in your account first, I think.

    Cutting back on the FF programs seems a mistake to me. When we receive miles from credit cards, car rentals, etc. they don’t come from Santa. The mile awarding company has to BUY those miles from the airline. Which in many cases is their major source of profit. Devalue the award program sufficiently and we will stop caring about getting miles, and the airline will on longer be able to sell them. And mileage runs and discrectionary travel will disappear.

    Plus it’s the mileage program that for the most part that keeps us flying the legacy airlines over the discount upstarts. Cutting back on the FF program reminds me of the story about killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

  11. I posted this comment to you in the past. All you have to do is under the payment option, click on “Phone Order” and it holds the reservation for 1-2 days. The purpose of this option is for people that don’t want to put their credit card in the Internet so you are allowed to call and pay over the phone. This is how I always hold reservations. You can also use this to hold segments that you want combined into a single award that you are unable to do online yourself.

  12. @Mike – Not sure. I haven’t done it myself on award tickets. I would doubt it though since it goes ahead and actually puts it on hold.

  13. I just spoke with an agent and a supervisor that wouldn’t extend me the 3 day courtesy hold even without enough miles in the account. They stated that all UA metal would be possible, however, with partner airlines the system isn’t allowing it. I really hope this is a temporary glitch.

  14. It’s not a temporary glitch. Unfortunately there new policy is only 24 hours – unlike American’s 5 day reserve. Another way United is getting worse and worse!

  15. I just booked a low level CVG-MUC TXL-CVG flight for July after having it held for 3 days. I had to call to do it, so they hit me with a $25 fee, but whaddyagonnado?

  16. I was able to put a reservation on “hold” earlier today using the Pay With Cash option. Then I converted some Ultimate Rewards points into UA miles.

    Unfortunately, the UA site seems unable to allow me to use those (now adequate) miles…it still wants the cash 🙁

  17. UPDATE: After waiting about 3 hours, the UA website finally let me use the newly-imported miles to obtain the award ticket.

    For reference, I have no UA status. The UR points transferred to UA within 5 minutes.

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