There is one annoying feature that some frequent flyer programs (such as Alaska Mileage Plan) still carry, and that’s charging members a fee for mileage award bookings operated by partner airlines.
Fees vary and can be as little as $12.50 per ticket but since there is zero additional effort to reserve a flight on another carrier, is there any justification for charging it?
Not only do certain programs charge for booking mileage tickets on their own alliance partners, but in case you have to cancel the ticket, that fee isn’t even refundable, and the airline will pocket the money.
Here is an example of a recent Alaska Airlines ticket operated by Japan Airlines that I had initially reserved for next week but which I decided to cancel:
It’s a simple one-way from Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur which was really the only decent connection in Business Class at the time I booked it.
These were the associated fees:
The good thing about Alaska Mileage Plan is that they (as most U.S. based programs) don’t charge the pesky fuel surcharges for awards, however the booking fee for partners of their own alliance still prevails. $12.50 are being charged for any mileage ticket that isn’t on Alaska.
And it’s nonrefundable!
When my plans changed and I no longer desired to either stay or transfer in KL I decided to cancel.
This is the refund notice:
The cancellation was done promptly and I have received the miles back instantly. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan currently doesn’t charge to change, cancel and redeposit tickets so that’s definitely a customer friendly policy that makes the $12.50 irrelevant.
It still begs the question why these fees exist in the first place. Booking awards on a partner carrier doesn’t cost them anything extra in maintenance or manpower. Of course they have to pay the partner for the flight but that’s part of the game if you offer it in the first place and it’s not like you can take Alaska Airlines instead of JAL from Tokyo to KL.
It’s simply a money grab by those carriers that charge it and have no justification in practice. On routes where both their own flights and those of partner flights are available it should probably deter people from booking other airlines rather than their own but to make this universal makes no sense. Don’t join an alliance or partnership then!
Alaska Mileage Plan isn’t the only carrier that charges such fees but the only one where I personally encountered it recently.
There are plenty of fees one can encounter when booking award flights. For the longest time, American Airlines wanted to charge a callcenter booking fee when booking awards over the phone, even though the website wouldn’t allow to book that specific award online (usually JAL or Cathay in my case). In 4 out of 5 cases I had to escalate it to a supervisor to get the fee waived. After all it isn’t a choice, let a lone a particular joy to call the airline and deal with the surly agents for an award booking. U.S. Airways back in the day was especially bad and likewise fee-laden.
Some airlines frequent flyer programs still charge fees for booking flights on partner airlines, even their own alliance that they elected to join. This fee is usually not refunable. Likewise you might be confronted with fees for booking through the callcenter rather than the website. Usually when people call to book rather than doing it quickly on their own the reason is that the website functionality doesn’t allow to book in the first place. Always take a screenshot and dispute such fees.
In the case of Alaska Mileage Plan they have very few other fees and currently allow free changes, cancellations and mileage deposits for all tier levels and as such I don’t want to beat up on them too much for charging $12.50 but it remains an annoying item.
Have you encountered this with other airlines as well?