TM Travel World runs down the fuel surcharges added to award tickets by various carriers. Bottom-line is that most North American programs do not add fuel surcharges to awards, most programs in the rest of the world do.
However, there are exceptions.
Air Canada Aeroplan adds thesef fees to flights on Air Canada only.
American adds them to flights on British Airways only. On the one hand it can seem worthwhile to pay them with American — British Airways availability in premium cabins tends to be excellent, and they offer a very good business class seat. But flying multiple long haul BA flights can really get costly. US to London, stopover, London to South Africa, and then back to the US via London can be more than $1000 cash per person in addition to miles as a result of fuel surcharges, high airport taxes, and the U.K. premium cabin departure (luxury) tax. Ouch.
Delta quietly adds these fees to rewards on some partner airlines and not others, and the list apparently changes. Troy does a good job keeping track of these. I had no idea they had begun adding fuel surcharges to Air Tahiti Nui redemptions. (American, which also partners with Air Tahiti Nui, does not impose these charges.)
Delta also has an ‘international origination’ fee, they add an extra charge for flights that begin outside of North America. Go figure! What’s more, they still to the best of my knowledge (please correct me!) do not publish an award chart that doesn’t begin or end in North America. How many miles is it to fly between South Korea and Thailand? Shh… It’s a secret.!
How big a deal are fuel surcharges? One Flyertalk thread this morning notes that redeeming an award using Lufthansa Miles & More miles can be more expensive than just buying a ticket.
This member found out that buying a coach ticket between Prague and Moscow cost 30% less cash than redeeming miles for an award, and of course you don’t spend any miles (and earn miles, and help qualify towards status).
Fuel surcharges pretty well make redeeming for economy class awards utterly illogical. Of course, I recommend premium cabin redemptions anyway, and it certainly makes those more expensive, but the outcomes with coach can be just absurd.
That’s why SAS Eurobonus is really to be commended. While most European, and indeed most non-North American programs add fuel surcharges to their award tickets, at the very end of 2009 SAS Eurobonus ended the practice. A real win for their members, really engendering loyalty, and a move that earned a Loyalty Leadership Award at the first annual Frequent Traveler Awards in Houston in November.