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Avoid Award Phone Ticketing Fees

The image shows three vintage rotary payphones mounted on a light green patterned wall. Each payphone has a black handset attached by a coiled cord and a coin slot at the bottom. The payphones have a label that reads "LOCAL CALL" and "CROSLEY" on the front.

Talking on the phone with another human is soooo antiquated… and if you are booking an award flight it might also cost you some walking around money

The whole point of this hobby is to travel on the cheap, right? Well, shelling out an unnecessary $15-$40 per person for you award flight does not exactly align with that mantra!

Before you pick up the phone…

Alaska Airlines – That’ll be an extra $15 please!

Alaska Phone Ticketing Fees

American Airlines – yep, gonna cost ya:

AA Phone Ticketing Fees

United – They don’t want you to travel cheap…

United Phone Ticketing Fees

Delta – recently made the switch to fee free phone bookings! Unless you’re in Europe…

Delta Phone Ticketing Fees

Southwest – LUV is FREE!

Southwest Phone Ticketing Fees

Avoid Phone Ticketing Fees

Book online!

Search online, book online and avoid unnecessary phone conversations and service fees!

Book Southwest or Delta flights!

These don’t charge phone ticketing fees. Reward them for their goodwill towards travelers and book their flights!

Must call? Detail your inability to book online

If you have to call reservations because your itinerary cannot be booked online, make sure you mention this fact pattern. Most phone agents won’t offer up this option, so be sure to speak up!

Note: For partner awards that cannot be online (i.e. flying Cathay Pacific with AAdvantage miles) the phone agent should know that no fee should apply and will not impose one.

My Recent Real Life Experience

I was casually perusing boardingarea.com when I came across the View from the Wing article “American Just Opened the Floodgates With Domestic Award Availability.” I was in need of a return from home from my South American stopover and have been on the lookout for American Award availability for quite some time now, so I sprung into action!

Sure, the article specified “domestic” availability and I was searching for both an international Lima – Miami segment, plus a Miami – Tampa segment, but I had a good feeling!

British Airways site to search the award segments:

Much to my delight, I found 3 economy seats available of BOTH segments at ba.com! Something I hadn’t seen in months of searching so far!

AA Booking 1 AA Booking 2

American Airlines site to book the award:

I searched and searched and search but ultimately was not able to find availability at the Saver level, as was seen on ba.com.

AA Award Avail

I was not giving up and knew that the availability wouldn’t last long, so…

Dial AA Reservations

I gave AA a call, was connected to a very nice representative, and was able to spoon-feed the agent my flight segments I wanted. When I placed the award on hold, the agent let me know that there would be a $40 booking fee per person when ticketed. I explained that I tied to book at aa.com, but this specific itinerary was not available. She noted my troubles and let me know the fee should be waived when I called back to ticket, but advised me to explicitly confirm that fact when I call back.

Fast forward 3 days, I go to ticket the award and lo and behold – there are no notes in the held itinerary detailing my aa.com troubles. The agent informed me that in this case the phone ticketing fee could not be waived, but he would be happy to ticket the award. Of course he would…

I hung up.


I called back 3 hours later, plead my case to the next AA agent, who then transferred me to the aa.com support team. Again I detailed my inability to find the availability at aa.com (and pointed out the superior search ability of the ba.com site) and the aa.com agent was able to extend the waiver, then transfer me back to an AA phone agent to ticket the award!

Whew! That’s $80 in fees just narrowly avoided!

Final Thought

Remember how to avoid these annoying phone ticketing fees:

  • Book online!
  • Book Southwest or Delta flights, since they don’t charge fees!
  • If you must call, detail your inability to book online, and ensure you receive a fee waiver!


It may seem like a lot of work that I put in just to avoid $80 in fees, but when you play the “free” travel game, every $1 counts!

Don’t ever pay a phone ticketing fee again!

Happy Travels!




  1. Sometimes you just can’t get the itinerary you want when booking online. And airlines want to charge you for everything if you want to actually talk to someone. That’s why I love tips like these!

    1. Tick-tac fees are great airline revenue boosters! I am all for the success of airlines, but don’t enjoy feeding that success based on non-value add services like award ticketing telephone fees! Thanks for tuning in!

  2. tongue in cheek comment here: I cannot get your message because my eyes cannot unsee the 20% battery life on your iphone! 😉 There are two types of people: You (and my wife) who will get their iphones down to the low digits, and myself who keeps mine plugged in every chance I get because it causes me to be anxious if I’m below 50%!

    1. I’m a generally risk averse CPA… but phone battery life is an area where I enjoy living on the wild side! If it makes you feel better, I’m currently at 55% as of this comment posting!

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