Advertiser Disclosure

The fuel surcharge twist that can save you $200 or more and a lot of miles

by on Thu July 30, 2015 • No Comment

Fuel surcharges are nasty, and while there are creative ways to avoid them, sometimes they can be worth it when paying them means using fewer miles.

But one of the rarely mentioned parts of surcharges is that they don’t just vary by route.

They vary based on what region you *start* your travel.

So the fuel surcharge on a New York to London trip can be different than a London to New York trip.

Yes, the flight burns the same amount of fuel, but airlines have long ago stopped tying these charges to actual fuel prices.

You can read on to see the examples, but whenever you have to pay a fuel surcharge, always check the price of two one way awards versus a roundtrip. It could save you hundreds of dollars, and make paying a surcharge a reasonable option.

  • This is most common with British Airways Avios, Virgin Flying Club, and American AAdvantage on British Airways flights.
  • Air France Flying Blue has separate surcharges on awards that are not at all related to those on cash tickets, so one ways and roundtrips price the same.
  • Air Canada Aeroplan also has separate award surcharges that are different than those on cash tickets, but they can also be cheaper for one ways out of Europe
  • A good strategy is to save your no surcharge miles for flights leaving the U.S., and consider paying a surcharge on flights coming back from Europe

Here are some examples out of London…

With British Airways in Economy you pay $699 in taxes and fees on a roundtrip from New York to London


Yet if you book one way from New York to London you pay $256 in taxes and fees


And a one way from London to New York is $342 in taxes and fees, for a total of $598, saving you over $100.


Business Class is more dramatic…

A roundtrip costs $1,181


But the one way from New York to London is $441


And the one way from London to New York is $538, for a total of $979, saving you over $200.


You’ll find the same conditions if you use American miles to book British Airways flights – it’s less if you book a one way from the UK.

And while it may seem terrible to pay $538 plus 50,000 miles for a Business Class ticket, think about it this way.

That $538 includes $300 in UK taxes that you have to pay no matter what miles you use – you can thank the UK government for that – so you’re really paying just $200 more than flights that have no surcharge.

And those flights can be hard to find, while flights with surcharges on British Airways are much easier to find. $200 is not a terrible price to pay for convenience and being able to actually use your miles.

Virgin Atlantic is a bit better…if you book as a roundtrip you’ll pay $135 + $323 = $458 in taxes and fees in Economy and $1,138 in Upper Class.



But if you book a one way from London to New York you’ll pay 185 British Pounds in Economy and 330 British Pounds in Upper Class, which translates to $289 and $516, saving you $31 and $202 off the round trip price.


The real lesson here is Virgin and British Airways miles are not a bad deal for booking one way flights leaving the UK. You’re already stuck paying taxes no matter what miles you use ($200+ Economy Class, $300+ Business / First Class), and the added surcharges are actually pretty reasonable given you pay fewer miles using Virgin or British Airways miles.

Here’s what they look like on a one way between London and New York.


  • British Airways: 13,000 – 20,000 miles + $342
  • Virgin Atlantic: 17,500 miles + $289
  • United MileagePlus, Delta SkyMiles, American AAdvantage (AA/US flights) 30,000 miles + $193

The real deal here is paying just about $89 more to save over 10,000 miles via Virgin Atlantic, unless you are traveling between October 15 and May 15 and can get the American AAdvantage 20,000 mile off peak award. This can be a great deal during the peak summer months when airfares are high, but award seats are generous on Virgin.


  • British Airways: 50,000 – 60,000 miles + $538
  • Virgin Atlantic: 40,000 miles + $516
  • American AAdvantage (AA/US flights): 50,000 miles + $304
  • Delta SkyMiles: 62,500 miles + $304
  • United MileagePlus: 57,500 miles (UA flights) – 70,000 miles (partner flights) + $304

The deal here is again on Virgin Atlantic, where for $200 more, you can save about 20,000 miles over United and Delta’s prices, and enjoy Virgin’s great award availability in Business Class (or Upper Class as they call it).

Then, you can save your no surcharge miles for bigger awards, or your trip *to* London, where the surcharges are higher.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

Still confused? Have a question?

Leave a comment below -- we'll reply shortly -- no need to use your real name. Or, use the email form at the top of the page for private advice.

"These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X Email Alerts
Hear about new offers and tips