Sunday, December 7, 2008

Airlines Adding Lots Of Fees to Not So Free Tickets

Fees associated with redeeming frequent-flier miles are taking off.

Don't even think about calling the airlines to redeem your miles – book online. You'll be hit with fees of up to $40 just to have a live person book that ticket. Most airlines charge $10 to $40 to redeem miles by phone. Spirit Airlines doesn't even offer booking by phone.

Book award tickets well in advance. Many airlines charge a fee if you redeem miles less than 21 days before you travel. US Airways charges $50 to $75; American $50 to $100; Continental and Frontier $75 (14 days or less); United $75 to $100; and Delta $75 to $150.

If you book an award ticket and change it after it's issued, you could pay up to $250. The same goes for canceling a ticket and redepositing the miles.

You may be hit with a fee just for redeeming miles. Frontier charges $25. US Airways charges $25 for continental U.S., Alaska and Canada travel, $35 for Caribbean and Latin American travel, and $50 for Hawaii and international travel.

Many travelers use miles to upgrade their seats. American and Continental charge when you upgrade. (United will begin charging in July 2009.) For example, for travel within the continental U.S. on American, you'll pay $50 along with using 15,000 frequent-flier miles each way.

Southwest is the exception when it comes to fees. The airline doesn't charge to book by phone, for rush fees or for changes or cancellations.

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