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Fuel Surcharge Award Cheat Sheet 2015 – How to avoid the fees

by on Tue July 28, 2015 • 5 Comments
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Fuel surcharges on award tickets are maddening and can cost you hundreds of dollars on what should be a nearly free ticket.

But if you use the right mileage program, you can often avoid them altogether, especially if you have a pool of transferable points to play with.

Airlines are terrible about disclosing when they add the surcharge, so to help, we’ve compiled the below tables of which programs add fuel surcharges to awards and listed them by airline. The table includes the most important transfer partners of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.

It’s a pretty deep in the weeds process drawn in part from award searches we’ve done for others, calling to make mock bookings, and using award booking websites when possible, though there may be some omissions and we’re happy to make adjustments as things change.

To use the charts look for the airline / mile program combinations in dark blue, which have no fuel surcharges. You can zoom in on each chart by clicking.

Note that we left Alaska MileagePlan out to save space, but it’s pretty simple – just avoid British Airways to fly surcharge free with Alaska miles. And Etihad’s carrier surcharges are small when passed through – generally around $100 each segment in Business Class.

surchargechartAsmall

surchargechartBsmall

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Apart from the chart, here are 10 general rules of thumb when it comes to fuel surcharges…

  1. Flights within North and South America don’t have them.
  2. You never pay a fuel surcharge when you use United MileagePlus miles.
  3. American AAdvantage only charges them on British Airways and Iberia flights, though surcharges on Iberia flights are more reasonable.
  4. Alaska MileagePlus only charges them on British Airways flights.
  5. No program can escape fuel surcharges that British Airways chooses to impose.
  6. Not every program charges the same fuel surcharge – for example what Aeroplan charges can differ from what ANA charges for the same airline.
  7. You can now fly *from* Australia with no fuel surcharges on all Qantas and Virgin Australia flights, no matter what miles you use.
  8. Air Berlin and Aer Lingus don’t levy fuel surcharges.
  9. No airline can levy fuel surcharges on flights departing Brazil – it’s illegal there. The same goes for the Philippines.
  10. Fuel surcharges to Asia are generally more reasonable than those to Europe, and returning (and returning from Europe to the U.S. is cheaper than the U.S. to Europe, so two separate one way tickets U.S. – Europe and Europe – U.S. are cheaper than a roundtrip U.S. – Europe).

If you want to see how much a fuel surcharge will be, search for your flight on ITASoftware.com. Then click on the price to see more detail.

itasoftwareprice

The fees labeled ‘surcharge’ in the fare add up are what you can expect to pay in addition to the normal taxes and fees. While it may not be exactly what you get charged (see Rule 6) – it’s usually the most you will possibly be charged and can help you see whether it’s reasonable.

singaporesurcharge

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5 thoughts on Fuel Surcharge Award Cheat Sheet 2015 – How to avoid the fees

    1. MileCards.com

      @BC – Yeah it’s a bit confusing – the Alaska line there is for awards on Alaska Airlines flights. The columns are for the individual mileage programs (where MileagePlan is not listed).

      Reply
  1. Diamond Vargas

    First off, phenomenal resource, thanks for all of the hard work.

    I’m guessing the lack of data points here answers my question, but any experience using Aeromexico miles? Aside from the hassle of calling to book anything, they have a pretty strong chart, allow one-ways, and are accessible with Membership Rewards. I’ve priced out a few awards with them, some had fuel surcharges and some didn’t, but I haven’t been able to ascertain the pattern as detailed in your charts. Might be worth a look.

    Reply
    1. JamaicanReefer

      Yes a good resource. Did you check if Aeromexico fuel surcharges apply always only to trans atlantic/pacific flights?

      Reply
      1. MileCards.com

        @Diamond @Jamaican We’re glad to help. The Aeromexico info above is for flying on Aeromexico metal using the points of the other SkyTeam programs listed (SkyMiles, Flying Blue). Aeromexico doesn’t have surcharges on any of its own flights.

        But if you’re using Aeromexico miles to book non Aeromexico flights, then yes you’ll generally see fuel surcharges from other airlines passed through.

        Reply

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