How To Modify United Award Ticket For Free

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I’ll admit it, I have no status with United Airlines. I don’t have it as good as some United Premier Platinum, 1K, or Global Services who can avoid pretty much any fee. As a result of not having status, when I want to modify or cancel an award, I have to pay attention to the fee schedule to avoid incremental fees.

United gives Non Premier members a few options to modify awards without penalty. This is helpful to change the award to improve routing, departure date, carrier, even seat preference, or tee up an award for a schedule change to then cancel the ticket for free.

The United fee schedule permits changing the departure date/time if the award is greater than 21 days out. In addition, members can add, change or remove connection points for awards that are greater than 21 days out.

United Change Fee Schedule

In my example, I’ll change the departure date and the number of connections for no additional miles and only the incremental taxes and fees for the connection or carrier difference.

Steps To Modify United Award Ticket

1. Select Change Flights Option

Go to the “Manage Reservations” section of your United account and select “Change Flights” on one of your reservations. You will be prompted to select the passengers and flights that you want to change.

Change Date and Connection 1

2. Enter Your New Flight Search Criteria

Next, enter your new flight search criteria. You can pick any date in the future, but to avoid the fee as a non-elite member, select a date that is greater than 21 days in advance.

Change Date and Connection 2

3. Select New Flight

The next step involves selecting your new flight(s) for the award ticket. In my example, I ultimately wish to cancel the award for free, so I searched for an award with multiple connections and multiple carriers. I also looked for awards that had availability in the same class, this may help avoid headaches later.

Change Date and Connection 3

4. Review Your New Trip Itinerary

Once you select your flight, the ticket exchange summary will appear which shows any difference you may owe or receive back from your award ticket change. In my case, I had to come out of pocket for $7.80 in additional taxes in fees due to an added connection.

Change Date and Connection 4

5. Update Traveler Information

Update your traveler information, as needed.

Change Date and Connection 5

6. Pay For Any Difference

The final step is to pay for any difference in the award price.

Change Date and Connection 6

Bottom Line

Some airlines require Non-Elite members to incur costly change fees to modify or cancel award tickets.

In my recent example, I cancelled a United award ticket when the scheduled changed by only 15 minutes. Another example, is when I changed an American Airlines award ticket timing earlier this year to improve the flight time.

If your airline does require a change fee and you wish to cancel your ticket, pay attention to whether or not there was a schedule change. Because if there was, you just might be able to cancel your ticket at no cost.

What other ways have you found to modify an award ticket for free?

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The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way.

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  1. I currently have an award ticket where United changed the departing time of my outbound flight from 10:00AM to 9:35AM with no change to the arriving time and no change to my inbound/return flight.
    What argument do I use to guarantee they will not charge the $150 fee, and are they obligated to waive the fee upon a time schedule change?

  2. Very handy info. Just booked an award ticket last night and thought I had only 24 hrs to tweak/cancel.

  3. @christo

    You have a meeting that morning/need to drop your child off at daycare and you are unable to make the earlier flight time. You specifically chose that flight time to accommodate your meeting/childcare schedule. Done.

  4. I am trying to book a return flight in Sept from Asia to USA for me and my daughter. I would like to fly business class (A380 :D) but am waiting for a few thousand points to post (hopefully in the next 3 weeks) to push me over the 120K. I am worried that if I wait I may lose out on both available economy and business saver award availability.

    With your method (assuming everything is over a month out) if I booked an economy flight for our two tickets now, in a month would I be able to upgrade to business and change the date (and possibly routing) to an available business class saver award without penalty?

  5. I got an email telling me that that my flight is leaving 50 min earlier, so I called and canceled without any problems. At one point, customer service lady asked me if I want to change the reservation to alternative itinerary. I told her that I have already researched all the options and neither will work out.

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