On October 1 I wrote about American Airlines beginning to add fuel surcharges to awards redeemed on British Airways.
Previously, AAdvantage members couldn’t earn or redeem miles on British Airways between the US and the UK at all. So members would fly from Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. And there was no restrictions on flights beyond London, such as to Africa. But there were no fuel surcharges.
Now, there are more available routes for redemption but all of those routes (including those which were previously available) are significantly more expensive. How much more? I find a US – Europe roundtrip in a premium cabin will often total nearly $600. Now the regular taxes are a bit over $200 anyway, that darned U.K. premium cabin departure luxury tax. But the fuel surcharges are a killer.
And when you do a bunch of British Airways flying, the fees can really stack up. A few days back I reserved the following with American Airlines miles:
- Los Angeles – Chicago – London, American and British Airways First Class
London – Johannesburg, British Airways First Class
Johannesburg – London – Los Angeles, British Airways First Class
The taxes and fuel surcharges totaled over $1100 per ticket.
When I first wrote about the changes I thought they were on net positive, British Airways award availability between many cities in the US and London is really excellent… Phoenix, Houston, and Philadelphia in particular in my experience but even Chicago, Dallas, and New York especially in first class.
But now I’m not so sure, $1100 in taxes and fees for an award ticket really does make me choke. Oh, and this was an award for more than one person so those fees really add up.
Other US carriers don’t generally add fuel surcharges to awards. Alaska does on British Airways redemptions. And Delta egregiously adds an international-originating surcharge on tickets that start outside of North America. Asian and European carriers’ programs are no stranger to these fees, but to some extent even these are moving away from them. In December 2009 SAS Eurobonus eliminated fuel surcharges on award redemptions. Lufthansa has offered an option to redeem additional points to cover these fees. Hopefully we won’t see a spread, no doubt American will be looking at the extent their members balk at redemptions when the fees are in place and if they don’t they could choose to add them to other carrier redemptions as well. And if American does it… Certainly dangerous potential here.