British Airways Drastically Increases “Fuel Surcharges” On Award Flights. Is American Airlines Next?

the tail of an airplane

It appears jet fuel is getting more expensive, but only if your plane takes off from the US.  For years, British Airways has charged a fee when you redeem Avios, their version of airline “miles”.  These fees are commonly called fuel surcharges, also sometimes referred to as carrier-imposed surcharges.  It’s important to note that fuel surcharges have very little to do with the price of fuel. They move up and down, sometimes in correlation with fuel prices though rarely so.  The level of fuel surcharges British Airways charges on award tickets makes it almost impossible to redeem points for a coach ticket on a trans-Atlantic flight and save any real money.  Now, we’re starting to see the same for business class and first class award tickets as well.

British Airways Increases Fuel Surcharges On Flights From The US

One Mile at a Time reported earlier today on the drastic increase British Airways seems to have instituted for fuel surcharges on flights that depart the US.  Did the price of fuel really go up $250 for a flight like this one?

Fuel definitely hasn’t gone up that much.  Ben dug in a bit deeper and found examples where the round-trip cost has increased $400 or more for a premium cabin ticket.  This includes paid and award tickets.  That’s a painful increase.

Is American Airlines Next?

A number of years ago American Airlines started instituting fuel surcharges when booking British Airways trans-Atlantic award flights originating or arriving in the US.  Not all of the US-based legacy airlines handle this the same way.  For example, United generally charges more miles to fly to Europe in business class than American Airlines does, but doesn’t tack on surcharges.  That’s really good for business travelers, since they earn many of their points on airline tickets paid for by their business.  Those surcharges on American make it harder for me to get as great a value out of my miles.  I haven’t booked much international travel on American lately, due in no small part to those fees.

British Airways and American Airlines operate a joint-venture partnership for flights across the Atlantic.  That means they split revenue for the flights regardless of which carrier operates the flight.  Now that British Airways has upped the ante in the surcharge game for flights from the US to Europe, it seems reasonable to think American might copy them.

a magnifying glass on a computer screen

The Final Two Pennies

One Mile at a Time points out one way that you can continue to save a bit of cash on fuel surcharges.  If you book your flights as two one-way trips, the flight leaving Europe will have lower fuel surcharges.  It’s unclear if that’s the case for flights booked as a round-trip that originate in Europe.  I’ll have to fiddle around a bit with that.  If you’re really industrious, it’s possible to have the vast majority of your trips “originate” in Europe.  Fellow blogger Seth, of Wandering Aramean, managed to keep a streak of European departures alive for over 3 years.

Miles and points are less valuable than they were 10 years ago.  Heck, they’re less useful than they were 5 years ago.  There are still solid strategies to use them for incredible travel.  However, when I see changes like this, it reinforces my opinion that the vast majority of people should not be buying miles or points for travel.  If you have a very specific use for miles or points and plan to spend them profitably in a short timeframe, go for it.  Other than that, I’d just stay away.

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