American Keeps Hitting Customers With Fuel Surcharge Mistakes On Award Tickets

Hong Kong law doesn’t allow fuel surcharges on travel originating there. Even British Airways, for instance, doesn’t add fuel surcharges to Hong Kong – London flights.

Nonetheless, American Airlines was hitting customers with these fuel surcharges anyway. I pointed this out and American agreed to issue refunds. Not everyone got the refunds due to them, and I followed up.

  • They had pulled the list of customers wrong. A reader’s reservation that should have gotten a refund and wasn’t allowed them to identify the problem. I’m told that refunds have now been completed.

  • However American is doing something here that I still believe is squirrely. They are refunding illegal surcharges on Hong Kong – London flights, but they aren’t refunding surcharges is a customer booked London – Hong Kong – London roundtrip.


View from Deck of London Heathrow Galleries First Lounge

They’re apparently taking the position that itineraries originating outside of Hong Kong aren’t covered by the legal prohibition, so they don’t have to refund customers to get in compliance. Someone that booked two one-ways would get a refund for the overcharged Hong Kong – London flight, but someone booking a roundtrip wouldn’t.

The problem here is that customers wouldn’t have known they would save money booking two one ways precisely because American was illegally collecting fuel surcharges in both directions. If someone searched one way pricing they would have seen fuel surcharges both ways, concluding they might as well book roundtrip. They’d have been deceived by American’s illegal collection of fuel surcharges into booking a roundtrip, and since they booked a roundtrip American doesn’t see themselves as obligated to offer a refund. Talk about a deceptive practice! Shame on American Airlines.

But Hong Kong wasn’t the end of the story. I shared a paid economy roundtrip on British Airways that was selling for $646 for a week in December with the American team. (HT: Paul P.)

The surcharges filed with the fare total $250, and that’s consistent with how American prices a paid ticket.

However if I pull up a saver award in economy for the same flights I get taxes and fees of $730.46. An award costs more than a paid ticket, even while spending miles. Some might even say this is proof that AAdvantage miles have negative value.

The surcharges on the award total $518 — more than double what’s being charged on the same paid itinerary.

American was overcharging customers here, too. American says they’ve corrected that and they’re issuing refunds as well as trying to make sure they aren’t overcharging customers on other routes, too. A spokesperson tells me,

We have processes in place to help ensure we avoid these errors entirely but on occasion they do happen..

We’ve undergone a comprehensive review of the filings internally and with our airline partners and together we’re working to consolidate the information to contact impacted customers and issue refunds where appropriate. That process will take some time and over the next few weeks we will begin contacting customers and will share information as needed with our reservations team so they are best positioned to respond to customers.

If any readers come across another instance of American overcharging AAdvantage members let me know. I’d love to get refunds for everyone that’s being overcharged. We have to catch their hand in the cookie jar, because “these errors..on occasion” happen. So our quixotic question continues.

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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  1. This is related to overcharging, but in miles for the following scenario:

    KHI – DOH – BEY (on qatar), for business class american charged me 40000 miles (first class, because Qatar markets the 2-cabin DOH-BEY as first class), instead of 30000 business/first pricing.

    American’s partner award chart clearly says “For flights offering only two classes of service the Economy and Business / First Class awards apply. For flights offering three classes of service Economy, Business / First and First Class awards apply.”
    https://www.aa.com/i18n/aadvantage-program/miles/redeem/award-travel/oneworld-and-other-airline-partner-award-chart.jsp

    Repeated calls to AA call centers have fallen on deaf ears, supervisors cut off my phone or refuse to understand their own published rules. Sucked it up and paid the extra 10k but not happy about it.

  2. You know what I think is ridiculous? American will consistently charge an over the phone fee for any reservation. They make the person say that ‘so and so partner is not available on aa.com’. Only if you say that is the fee dropped. This has happened with 5 or 6 different agents in the past few months. I don’t get why the onus is put on the consumer instead of the agents knowing which partners are bookable online. I think it has more to do with trying to get fees than just ignorance.

  3. I recently got an award from FRA-MAD-BOG-GRU with LA/IB/JJ. Taxes were almost US200. I did a research on ITA Matrix with the same itinerary in the same day and got around US100 in taxes. Is there something shady that I am unaware of?

  4. O,n the subject of AA over-the-phone fees, the so-called Australian call centre matter of factly adds on a $60 fee. When you point out the award is not available on-line, they grudgingly drop it, as if they are doing you a big favour. A bit more staff training required there I think.

  5. Hi Gary, was I overcharged in surcharge fees?
    I booked AA partner award on Etihad from IAD to LHE and paid $7.40 in fees, then booked AA partner award on Etihad from LHE back to IAD on a separate one way and was charged $278.76. Both were booked by calling the Australian call center.

  6. Jamil, no you didn’t. Pakistan airports have high taxes and fees when departing specially in business class. Anytime you’re exiting Pakistan in premium cabin, expect fees of $200-300 at least.

  7. Not exactly on pint, but another data point for the value of AA miles: I had a paid business class ticket MIL-MIA. When I discovered it was the 7 across instead of the good one, I asked to upgrade to First at checkin. The two options were a $500 charge to upgrade, or I could use 25,000 miles and pay $550. I am Executive Platinum so no close-in charges, etc. should apply. WTF?

  8. LHR-DUB about a year ago. No YQ on BA revenue ticket, but charged on an award (us-dub with aa tatl). Tried complaining to a couple of supervisors but computer is always right.

  9. @Ryan — in April 2014 I said they were on probation with me, one untrustworthy move didn’t shatter trust but how they behaved going forward would determine whether I still trusted them. They’ve for the most part given advance notice of changes since then, they seemed to learn THAT lesson. Though I have also been flat out lied to on multiple occasions by the airline (versus by AAdvantage) since then… such as that they weren’t planning to remove the hold option from paid tickets a couple of weeks before they removed the hold option from phone bookings, and that they weren’t planning to eliminate through-checked bags on separate oneworld tickets a couple of weeks before they eliminated through-checked bags on separate oneworld tickets. So what do you think?

  10. AA has been untrustworthy and has provided poor customer service for years now. If anyone is surprised by this then you’ve been living under a rock. And since their FF program is in shambles is there really any reason to continue to do business with them?

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