Don’t Overpay Taxes and Fees When Booking Frequent Flyer Awards

Reader Arthur has done some really interesting digging and passed along some great experiences in dealing with Star Alliance member ANA in booking an award.

Now, many folks will say “I don’t have any points with ANA, so why would I care?”

Well ANA is one of three Star Alliance members that are partners with American Express Membership Rewards for points transfers. There’s Aeroplan, Singapore Airlines, and ANA.

Singapore is great for redemptions on Singapore itself, since they give additional availability to their own members not offered to their airline partners. And also for one-way awards. But their award chart can be pricey at times and their website doesn’t let you book their partners.

Aeroplan can be useful, they have a functional website, but some awards are expensive.

ANA has a distance-based award chart which makes some awards quite cheap — JFK-London roundtrip in business class for 63,000 miles for instance. And their website is quite functional, and includes all Star Alliance partners.

But like Aeroplan and Singapore, they do add fuel surcharges to award tickets.

Well, Arthur decided to challenge the calculations that the website was coming up with, and he got the fuel surcharges they were asking him to pay out of pocket on an award reduced.

Yesterday afternoon he emailed:

I am not sure if you have observed this or not, but in putting together an award for September using ANA miles, I am finding outrageous fuel surcharges/taxes+fees. CLT – JFK – GVA // MUC – CDG – CLT of taxes/fees $1100+. Even a dummy booking of IAD – BRU – GVA // BRU – IAD on all UA (except BRU – GVA on SN) has $670; $540 of which is YQ!!!

He wanted to know if I’d seen anything like it and I had, indeed ANA can sometimes show higher taxes and fees than anyone else. And YQ is “fuel surcharges” or extra cash the airline asks you to pay when redeeming your miles that is not a tax imposed by the government.

Arthur played around further:

I just did a dummy booking on the phone for next week PHL – BRU – CDG; FRA – PHL with the transatlantic legs on US and in J, and they came back with taxes/fees of $1100. I asked for a breakdown, because there was a “fuel surcharge” component, but also a very hefty $400+ other fees that wasn’t clear.

I asked them for an explanation of the “other fees”, and they called the rates desk to get one. The rates desk found it odd, and wasn’t sure, and they said they are calling” headquarters in japan” and will give me a response tomorrow by phone. I’ll let you know what they come back with. This could be a new surcharge, or them accidently applying the YQ twice, or something.

Indeed, this is strange — fuel surcharges on US Airways flights. Normally airlines that collect fuel surcharges on award tickets will charge you whatever a fuel surcharge would have been on a paid ticket for the same flights. But US Airways doesn’t include fuel surcharges in their fares. So ANA really shouldn’t be collected those on an award ticket.

Arthur reports that ANA did indeed get back to him:

ANA called me back today after they talked to headquarters. For my dummy booking (PHL-FRA-PHL all US metal) I made with them that they initially quoted me $980 in taxes and fees they came back and said it really is only $280 (which seams more reasonable). So their website is not calculating it correctly for US metal and the rate desk has to catch this when ticketing.

Basically ANA called him back and said he was right, taxes and fees apply to international travel but of course there should be no fuel surcharges on a booking with US Airways flights.

This is a reminder that if taxes and fees seem off to you, question them.

I usually look up a paid ticket at ITA Software, look at the fare detail, and add up all the taxes and fees. That way I know what I should be charged. If the airline is billing me more than that, I know to question it.

And Arthur was right. Indeed, the ANA system did seem to be improperly adding fuel surcharges to US Airways award bookings. And they were willing to correct it when asked.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Question is when will they correct the error in their system so one doesn’t have to call; what a time wasting pain that will be.

  2. Very valuable info. I would never have thought to question the fees. Instead I would have walked away and missed an opportunity.

  3. Who knows how much money they have made off people just happy enough to use there miles and unwilling to question.

  4. That’s odd because when I try to book the same trip PHL-FRA-PHL they are not quoting me any taxes at all… not even a $2.50 fee or anything…

  5. Did you or anyone ever get confirmation from Delta that they are charging YQ correctly on Korean Air?

  6. Technically, US has a $403 fee each way included in the fare rules for PHL-FRA which I believe ANA was charging when someone made an award reservation.

    ORIGINATING THE UNITED STATES OUTBOUND –
    A SURCHARGE OF USD 403.00 FARE COMPONENT WILL BE ADDED
    TO THE APPLICABLE FARE FOR TRAVEL FOR TRANSATLANTIC
    SECTORS.
    NOTE –
    THIS SURCHARGE IS GOVERNED BY GENERAL RULE 10 AND
    IS ASSESSED FOR ANY FARE-PAYING PASSENGER EACH
    TIME TRAVEL INVOLVES AN ENPLANEMENT ON A US
    TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT TO/FROM/VIA U.S.A./CANADA.
    -EXCEPTION- THIS SURCHARGE DOES NOT APPLY TO
    PASSENGERS TRAVELING ON ANY US FREE TICKET.
    1. THE SURCHARGE SHALL BE CONVERTED TO THE
    APPLICABLE CURRENCY FOR THE COUNTRY OF
    COMMENCEMENT OF TRANSPORTATION IN ACCORDANCE
    WITH THE APPROPRIATE IATA RATE OF EXCHANGE.
    2. THE SURCHARGE APPLIES IN ADDITION TO ALL OTHER
    CHARGES AND IS NOT SUBJECT TO ANY DISCOUNT.
    ORIGINATING THE UNITED STATES INBOUND –
    A SURCHARGE OF USD 403.00 FARE COMPONENT WILL BE ADDED
    TO THE APPLICABLE FARE FOR TRAVEL FOR TRANSATLANTIC
    SECTORS.
    NOTE –
    THIS SURCHARGE IS GOVERNED BY GENERAL RULE 10 AND
    IS ASSESSED FOR ANY FARE-PAYING PASSENGER EACH
    TIME TRAVEL INVOLVES AN ENPLANEMENT ON A US
    TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT TO/FROM/VIA U.S.A./CANADA.
    -EXCEPTION- THIS SURCHARGE DOES NOT APPLY TO
    PASSENGERS TRAVELING ON ANY US FREE TICKET.
    1. THE SURCHARGE SHALL BE CONVERTED TO THE
    APPLICABLE CURRENCY FOR THE COUNTRY OF
    COMMENCEMENT OF TRANSPORTATION IN ACCORDANCE
    WITH THE APPROPRIATE IATA RATE OF EXCHANGE.
    2. THE SURCHARGE APPLIES IN ADDITION TO ALL OTHER
    CHARGES AND IS NOT SUBJECT TO ANY DISCOUNT.

  7. @Rick: I was hit with $571.80 in YQ and YR on a DL award ex-US in which the partner segments are precisely LAX-ICN-AKL (KE) and HKG-PVG (MU). I called to question it and DL confirmed that $250 in YR for KE is correct. They are awaiting MU’s statement on what the HKG-PVG YQ should be. I contend it should be more like $30 than the $321.80 I was charged in YQ. It was a week ago Monday when I called this in. I got an update last Friday confirming the KE situation, but still no word on the other money they owe me back.

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