Tired of Huge Fees on Award Flights? Fly From These Countries That Limit Fuel Surcharges Tired of Huge Fees on Award Flights? Fly From These Countries That Limit Fuel Surcharges

Tired of Huge Fees on Award Flights? Fly From These Countries That Limit Fuel Surcharges

Earn Bonus Points

AwardWallet receives compensation from advertising partners for links on the blog. Terms Apply to the offers listed on this page. The opinions expressed here are our own and have not been reviewed, provided, or approved by any bank advertiser. Here's our complete list of Advertisers.

It's incredibly frustrating when you go to use your hard-earned airline miles for an award flight and find out that you'll still be charged an arm and a leg. Why? Fuel surcharges are the main culprit. Airlines charge multiple types of fees on award tickets, including mandatory country and airport taxes. Fuel surcharges, on the other hand, are levied by the airline itself, sometimes to the tune of hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the airline and cabin you're flying in. The good news is that you can find a handful of countries that limit fuel surcharges. For flights departing from these locations, airlines either can't levy these charges or they are capped at a reasonable level.

What Is a Fuel Surcharge?

Fuel surcharges are fees imposed by air carriers on their tickets. These are different than the actual fare. They apply to both cash tickets and award tickets. For the former, they make no difference, as they are rolled into the total cost of the ticket. You might not even notice they're in the price you're paying.

For award tickets, they can be problematic. This is because frequent flyer miles typically only cover the fare and not taxes, fees, and surcharges.

British Airways business class seat
British Airways business class. Credit: British Airways

In the cases where fuel surcharges are high, they may form the bulk of the total ticket price. When you go to book a flight with miles, you'll often end up paying a large fraction of the cash price with these airlines. In turn, this reduces the value of your miles.

You can avoid fuel surcharges by redeeming miles for flights on airlines that don't levy them (or have minimal surcharges). Also, you can avoid fuel surcharges by flying from countries that limit fuel surcharges by law.

Countries That Limit Fuel Surcharges on Flights

There are several countries that either ban or limit fuel surcharges to a very minimal level. These include:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • New Zealand

You should note several things. First, you may still be charged fuel surcharges on award flights departing Brazil. Although flights were not showing any carrier-imposed charges when searching through ITA Matrix, British Airways was still charging a total of $181 for a one-way flight from São Paulo (GRU) to London Heathrow (LHR). Perplexing, to say the least. The question is whether they are breaking Brazilian law by doing so. Supposedly, Brazil reversed the law that previously forbid carriers to charge these fees.

You also might experience issues trying to find flights departing Australia without surcharges. Searching flights from Perth (PER) to London (LHR) showed a minimal fuel surcharge when departing Australia, but a surcharge of ~$240 USD in the opposite direction. I could not find award seats to compare for this route.

a passenger in Emirates business class on an Airbus 380
Credit: Emirates

It was even worse when I searched Emirates. Pricing a one-way ticket from Sydney (SYD) to Dubai (DXB) on emirates.com showed ~$800 USD in taxes and fees. This is puzzling because the carrier-imposed surcharge is still $17.50 AUD — at least according to ITA Matrix. It is confusing why these taxes and fees are being applied when you go to book.

For comparison, the reverse trip (Dubai to Sydney) showed ~$720 in carrier-imposed surcharges, on top of other taxes and fees. My suspicion is that Emirates is trying to charge these in error for tickets departing Australia.

Reasonable surcharges

There are some additional countries where fuel surcharges are fairly reasonable. These include:

  • Hong Kong
  • Philippines
  • Vietnam
  • Turkey

The Philippines appear to limit fuel surcharges to ~$100 USD. Hong Kong used to limit fuel surcharges even more than it does at present. Currently, you'll find fuel surcharges in the neighborhood of $150 departing HKG. Vietnam's fees are similar — in the $135 USD range for long-haul flights. From research on Turkish Airlines and other carriers, fuel surcharges on long-haul flights departing Turkey are around $200 USD.

Using This to Your Advantage

Although some carriers don't seem to correctly apply local regulations, you still can use tickets departing countries that limit fuel surcharges to your advantage. Consider traveling to and from Brazil on Air France. If you fly to Brazil in Air France business class, you will pay over $300 USD in taxes, fees, and surcharges.

Brazil is among the countries that limit fuel surcharges; screenshot shows Air France business class fees flying TO Brazil

However, if you fly in the opposite direction, departing Brazil, these fees are eliminated. All you're paying is the taxes.

Brazil is among the countries that limit fuel surcharges; screenshot shows Air France business class fees flying FROM Brazil

It's the same thing departing Vietnam, although the surcharges are not eliminated. Here is the cost if you depart from Paris.

Brazil is among the countries that limit fuel surcharges; screenshot shows Air France business class fees flying TO Vietnam

The carrier-imposed charges are just capped in this case. It's still a $120 USD savings when departing Vietnam, flying to France.

Brazil is among the countries that limit fuel surcharges; screenshot shows Air France business class fees flying TO France

It may require some creative routing in order to avoid these charges, but doing so can save you a bundle. Consider using the countries that limit fuel surcharges to both save money and potentially plan a stopover on your next trip.

Quick Tips to Avoid Fuel Surcharges on Award Tickets

The easiest way to avoid fuel surcharges is to avoid airlines that charge them. These include U.S.-based carriers United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines (for the most part). You also can avoid fuel surcharges by booking flights through a frequent flyer program that doesn't assess these charges — even on airlines that levy them. The two most notable programs that don't pass on fuel surcharges are:

Related: Airline Programs that Don't Add Fees and Surcharges to Award Flights

Beyond that, you're usually stuck paying these fees. Here are some of the airlines with the most egregious fuel surcharges:

  • Austrian Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)

Most of the airlines above can be booked through a program that doesn't pass along the carrier-imposed surcharges. Alternatively, they can be booked at least through a program that limits the charges. The one exception to this is British Airways, where massive fuel surcharges — especially for premium cabin flights — are essentially unavoidable.

Related: How To Avoid Paying High Fuel Surcharges When Booking Flights with Avios

Final Thoughts

It's good for you to know the short list of countries that limit fuel surcharges on award tickets. The only frustrating aspect about it is that some frequent flyer programs don't seem to apply the rules correctly or consistently. Still, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars on flights if you carefully plan your itinerary to take advantage of this opportunity.

5 / 5 - (6 votes)
AwardWallet Tip of The Day
Did you know you can see the transaction history for most of your loyalty program accounts in AwardWallet? In your AwardWallet account dashboard, click the + sign next to the account you want to view. Then, click the History tab to see your individual transaction history.
Show me how

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved 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 *