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Fuel Surcharges on award tickets need to go away. Seriously.

As you all know, I run an award booking service and with 90% of our clients, we book awards through United MileagePlus – meaning no fuel surcharges, and taxes on award tickets are usually no more than $100 per person. Very reasonable. However, I’ve been booking more and more award tickets from programmes that impose fuel surcharges on various carriers, such as Air Canada Aeroplan and Lufthansa Miles & More.

My clients are usually sad to find out when I quote them the additional taxes and fees on an award ticket with huge fuel surcharges. That cheap Economy Class ticket to Europe? 60k miles + $900 USD. VERY SAD! Especially when you can find a $300 USD revenue round trip flight to Europe these days. Fuel surcharges just do not make sense anymore and the only reason why airlines are still charging them is because they can and not because fuel is expensive. If they truly were fuel surcharges, the charge would go up/down depending on the cost of fuel – but that doesn’t happen!

The Queen of Fuel Surcharges - British Airways

The Queen of Fuel Surcharges – British Airways

In fact, some airlines have begun to call fuel surcharges “carrier imposed surcharges” just to get around the fact at how cheap fuel is and how they still want to rip us off. Perhaps the most notorious airline that charges them is British Airways.

While Lufthansa does impose fuel surcharges, the easiest way to get around that is by redeeming United MileagePlus miles since United won’t pass on the fuel surcharge and all you have to pay are the taxes. With a British Airways flight, every mileage redemption (no matter through which partner) will result in you being charged fuel surcharges. This is why American Airlines miles are mostly worthless when flying to Europe since American and other oneworld airlines rarely release award space on their flights and usually it is British Airways that dominates the AA award calendar.

With the dropping price of fuel and cheaper airfare, airlines really need to remove (or at least reduce) the fuel surcharges. Nowadays, all the surcharge does is essentially allows the airline to make more money since they use a part of it to pay for fuel and the other part they keep. While there are many terms, conditions, exceptions, and rules to award tickets, imposing a pointless surcharge shouldn’t be one of them because a promised “free” ticket shouldn’t cost more than $100 USD in taxes/fees.


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