Comparing Airline Award Ticketing Fees (and How to Avoid Them)

Nowadays it’s pretty easy to feel as if your “reward” tickets aren’t much of a reward anymore, when you’re hit with phone ticketing fees, processing fees, close-in ticketing fees, etc.

While ticketing fees in and of themselves probably won’t affect whether or not you book an award, it can be useful to know the different fees, and also when it’s possible to avoid them. So let’s compare the award ticketing fees of several major airlines, and also how to avoid them:


Aeroplan (Air Canada’s Frequent Flyer Program)

Aeroplan has a pretty good online booking tool, so most Star Alliance awards can be booked online, where there are no ticketing fees.

However, if an itinerary is complicated, such as having two stopovers (a great value for business class to Europe, covered in The 10 Best Value Premium Cabin Award Tickets), or traveling from the US to Asia via Europe, etc., bookings need to be made by phone where a $30CAD phone ticketing fee applies.

Aeroplan’s agents are among the most competent out there (See Comparing Airline Call Centers When it Comes to Award Bookings), so I don’t for a second mind paying that, since they don’t waste my time.  It’s also worth noting that Aeroplan doesn’t charge any close-in ticketing fees, so you won’t be charged an extra fee for booking close to departure.


Alaska Airlines

Alaska charges a $15 ticketing fee per award reservation booked by phone. Furthermore, there’s a $25 partner award fee for redemptions that involve one of their airline partner airlines, be it on their website or over the phone.

Alaska does waive the phone ticketing fee for their MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members (middle and top tier status). However, everyone has to pay the partner award fee if traveling on one of their partner airlines.

Alaska doesn’t have any close-in ticketing fees.


American Airlines

American’s website only lets you book awards for travel on American through their website, which is the only way to avoid the phone booking fee.

If you’re booking an award on a OneWorld partner or a complicated ticket on American, you have to pay the phone ticketing fee of $25 per ticket. Furthermore, American charges a close-in ticketing fee of $75 if you redeem your miles for travel within 21 days of the travel date.

It’s worth noting that Executive Platinum members are exempt from the phone ticketing fee, while all AAdvantage elite members are exempt from the close-in ticketing fee.


British Airways

British Airways’ website is fairly useful for booking award tickets. The website will let you book tickets for travel on British Airways without problems, even if you’re including a stopover in London. They’ll also let you book travel on most of their OneWorld partners on the website, though not if you want a stopover anywhere other than London or an open jaw.


While British Airways doesn’t charge a close-in ticketing fee, they do charge a phone ticketing fee of $20, though it’s very easy to have them waive it. If a booking can’t be made online the agents are supposed to waive the fee. This includes things like wanting a stopover, getting an error message on the website, wanting to book an open jaw ticket, etc.  The thing is, agents often won’t proactively offer to waive the phone ticketing fee, so I usually employ a two-part strategy.

First, right when I get on the phone I say (for example) “I was trying to book an award ticket for travel on Cathay Pacific online, but the website isn’t letting me have a stopover. Do you know if there’s a way to get a stopover in Hong Kong online?” They’ll almost always respond “oh, that’s not possible online, though I can help you by phone” to which I respond “okay, great.” Then when it comes time to pay, they’ll usually proactively say “since you weren’t able to book this online I’ve waived the phone ticketing fee.” If they don’t automatically say that I’ll usually ask “and is there a ticketing fee in there?” If they say “yes,” I just say “well isn’t that waived because I wasn’t able to make the booking on

Almost always they’ll immediately say “of course, sorry about that,” though sometimes they’ll pretend like it’s more difficult, by saying “let me check with a supervisor.” Still, they’re supposed to waive the phone ticketing fee, and I’ve yet to ever pay it. Unfortunately I haven’t heard of anyone being able to have the phone ticketing fee refunded after the time of booking, if you’re just now realizing that you paid it.


Continental/United Airlines

Continental and United both charge a $25 per passenger phone ticketing fee. While United’s website only lets you book select partners through their website, Continental’s website is very thorough. However, if the routing is complicated or you’re flying an airline that they don’t display online (like Swiss), you’re probably best off calling.


So while there’s no way around the phone ticketing fee, what I’ll first try to do is book the itinerary online, because often times it actually all works out on the website, even when I don’t expect it.

Both airlines also charge close-in ticketing fees of $75 for travel booked within 21 days of departure.

It’s worth noting that the phone ticketing fees and close-in ticketing fees are waived for top tier elites (Platinum and 1K members). The close-in ticketing fee is also reduced to $25 for Gold/Premier Executive members and $50 for Silver/Premier members.


Delta Airlines

Delta has one of my favorite phone ticketing fee policies, and I’m guessing more people end up unnecessarily paying phone ticketing fees with them than with any other airline.

They charge a $25 phone ticketing fee for tickets purchased over the phone. The key word there is purchased, as opposed to held. This means you can call SkyMiles and have them hold a ticket for you (just say you’re not quite ready to ticket yet but want to secure the space), and once they give you a confirmation number just go to Delta’s website and ticket the reservation yourself. Just enter the confirmation number on Delta’s website which brings up the itinerary, which should display a “Redeem Now” button. Once you click it you’ll be prompted to log-in to your Delta SkyMiles account, where you’ll be able to ticket the reservation.


Many of Delta’s airline partners can’t be booked on Delta’s website, so if you hold an award for travel on one of Delta’s partners by phone and the website gives you an issue when trying to ticket there, call web support. They’ll waive the booking fee.

So no one should ever be paying phone ticketing fees for awards booked on Delta.

Phone ticketing fees on awards are waived for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold members regardless of the situation, however.

Delta does not charge close-in ticketing fees.


US Airways

US Airways is another funny airline when it comes to award ticketing fees. They only let you book awards for travel on US Airways through their website, so they waive the phone booking fee for Star Alliance award reservations made by phone (the fees are usually $30 for a domestic/Canada itinerary and $40 for an international itinerary).

That being said, they instead hit you with a “Dividend Miles Processing Fee,” which is $25 for a Continental US/Alaska/Canada award, $35 for a Latin America/Caribbean award, and $50 for all other awards. So essentially you’re thinking they’re nice when they offer to waive the booking fee, but instead you pay for another fee, which serves the same purpose.

It’s worth noting that agents often won’t automatically waive the phone booking fee. So when you’re given the total cost of the award, ask for a breakdown of the taxes and fees. Expect to have a Dividend Miles processing fee in there, though if there’s a phone booking fee in there, ask to have it waived.

US Airways also charges a close-in ticketing fee of $75 for travel booked within 14 days of departure.

The close-in ticketing fee is waived for Chairmans Preferred members, though the processing fee is not.

While I hate being nickel-and-dimed, at the end of the day I can live with award booking fees, given that they can get me $20,000+ international first class tickets for pennies on the dollar. That being said, I won’t pay them when I don’t have to!


Tip: Don't forget that you can use your 40K signup bonus miles from the Barclays Arrival World MasterCard to get your change fees up to $440 reimbursed in the form of a statement credit. See Barclays Arrival Card Review



Award Ticketing Fees

How to Avoid Them

Aeroplan (Air Canada)

$30 CAD for phone ticketing (needed for 2 stopovers, complex awards)

Not waived, even for elites 


$15 fee for phone ticketing


$25 fee for awards booked on partner airlines

MVP Gold/MVP Gold 75K members are exempt


Not waived, even for elites


$25 fee for phone ticketing


$75 for travel booked within 21 days of departure

Executive Platinum members are exempt


All AAdvantage elite members are exempt

British Airways

$20 fee for phone ticketing (needed for stopovers on Oneworld partners, open jaw itineraries)

Ask if phone ticketing fee was included, and if so, request waiver as ticket isn’t bookable on the BA Web site


$25 fee for phone ticketing


$75 for travel booked within 21 days of departure

Waived for Platinum and 1K members


Waived for Platinum and 1K members

Reduced to $25 for Gold/Premier Executive members 

Reduced to $50 for Silver/Premier members


$25 fee for phone ticketing (But no charge to hold the ticket)


Waived for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold members

If non-elite, simply have agent hold a ticket and give you the confirmation number; you can then ticket it online for free


US Airways

$30 phone ticketing for U.S./Canada

$40 phone ticketing for international


Dividend Miles Processing Fee:

$25 for Continental US/Alaska/Canada

$35 for Latin America/Caribbean

$50 for all other awards


$75 for travel booked within 14 days of departure

Ask for it to be waived if booking a Star Alliance award (since can’t be booked online)


Not waived, even for elites








Waived for Chairmans Preferred members


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Picture?type=large Frequent M. commented 13 Sep 2011

Awesome article.  I wish I had seen this a few weeks ago -- I would have saved $50.

Picture?type=large Stuart F. commented 13 Sep 2011

Thanks Ben, very helpful.


I'd love to see a similar article on taxes/fees on international premium travel awards, such as booking British Air through AA on a Oneworld Award.

Picture?type=large Sandeep commented 13 Sep 2011

Awesome! Thanks! very handy info...was just about to book a Star Alliance award on US. You just saved me $40!

Picture?type=large Ben Schlappig commented 14 Sep 2011

@ Stuart -- Thanks for the idea, will definitely keep it in mind for a future post!

Picture?type=large Jeff G. commented 26 Sep 2011

Hi Ben,


I just called Delta to book a ticket and they mentioned that they would not hold my reservation.  They only do instant booking. 



Picture?type=large Ben Schlappig commented 26 Sep 2011

@ Jeff -- Was that for an award ticket? If so, I suggest holding the ticket out of a SkyMiles account that doesn't have enough miles for an award, and ask them to hold it because you need to transfer points from Membership Rewards. That should do the trick.

Picture?type=large Ben Schlappig commented 26 Sep 2011

@ Jeff -- Was that for an award ticket? If so, I suggest holding the ticket out of a SkyMiles account that doesn't have enough miles for an award, and ask them to hold it because you need to transfer points from Membership Rewards. That should do the trick.

Picture?type=large Jeff G. commented 26 Sep 2011

Yes, it is an award ticket.  They said that since I have enough miles, I should book it online if I don't want to pay the fee.


What do you mean to "holding the ticket out of a SkyMiles account?"  Since it is for award travel, I assume they will want my sky miles number.

Picture?type=large Ben Schlappig commented 26 Sep 2011

@ Jeff -- Do you have a family member or friend with an account that wouldn't have enough miles in it to make a booking? If so, give the agent their SkyMiles number and say you want to hold the ticket out of their account and transfer points from Membership Rewards. They'll hold it, and when you're ready to ticket just give them YOUR SkyMiles number instead.

Picture?type=large Jeff G. commented 26 Sep 2011

Now I understand!  Thanks a lot, Ben!

Picture?type=large Jeff G. commented 03 Oct 2011

Hey Ben,

I called delta today and spoke with a different representative (of course).  They said, "Sure, we can hold your reservation until 11 pm tonight and you can access it through"  Not what the last person said per my comment above.  I had them hold it.  I went online, booked my award flights and saved the phone fees!  Perfect!!  Thanks Ben!  I appreciate it!


Picture?type=large Erik S. commented 03 Jun 2012
"Delta has one of my favorite phone ticketing fee policies"... so why does Delta want to charge $129 in taxes/fees for an intra-Europe award flight?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 03 Jun 2012
Erik, the $129 sounds like it's the regular taxes/fees for the ticket, not the $25 phone ticketing fee. Ben was just referring to how it's easy to avoid Delta's $25 phone ticketing fee by calling and getting the agent to hold the ticket and give you a confirmation number, then going online and ticketing it yourself. The other non-phone ticket taxes/fees (and finding Delta saver award availability for that matter) are another story. Hope that clarifies.
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