Northwest’s Odd $44 Award Fuel Surcharge for Hong Kong Departures

A week and a half or so ago Northwest announced fees for award redemption. They call them fuel surcharges, but fuel surcharges are really part of the cost of a ticket. And with awards they aren’t even tied to the fuel surcharge imposed on paid ticket, they’re made up fees imposed based on the region of travel for your award.

$25 for flights within North America, $50 transatlantic, $100 transpacific, $75 intra-Asia (unless travel originates in Hong Kong, in which case it’s $44), and $50 on all other itineraries.

The $44 fee for award travel beginning in Hong Kong struck me as strange. My hunch was correct, it is a bit of an anomaly. Turns out that there’s a law in Hong Kong which prevents them from imposing fuel surcharges on award tickets that are higher than that imposed on revenue tickets.

Kinda shows that the emporer has no clothes, if they’re adding higher fuel surcharges on awards than revenue tickets in other markets, doesn’t it? Nobody should call it a fuel surcharge. It’s an award redemption fee. It’s a cash co-pay. Mileage tickets are no longer free tickets on several US carriers, they now offer only ‘miles and money’.

The holdout carriers — such as United, Continental, and Alaska (I’ll even throw American in there, since their minimum fee is just $5) — should be applauded.

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, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Just wondering what this $5 AA surcharge you speak of is – I might have missed this little tidbit of info. Mind sharing? Pointing me in the right direction?

  2. Thanks – I remember reading this, now that my memory has been refreshed. How pathetic is that – the online bookings are limited enough as it is, being only able to handle AA-metal only. I’ll choose to pay the $20 for the telephone, in any case – at least I’m getting *a bit* more value out of it.

    What can you do, really? It’s not like we have any choices these days…

  3. Why would they charge the $44 dollar amount for departures out of a Chinese speaking area? The pronunciation for 4 in Chinese (both mandarin and Cantonese) is the same as death, which mean this is double death. That’s just bad omen. *thumb down*

  4. What is the strategy with credit card rewards? i.e. If you open a credit card account solely for the purpose of getting the instant mileage bonus, do you then close out the account as soon as the miles post to your account?

    Also, how do you factor in the effect on your credit score with each new account? i.e. Are you selective with which credit cards you will go after — or do you apply for all of them?

  5. My apologies — I meant for the above questions to be posted under the “25,000 Bonus Miles for a US Airways Small Business Mastercard” blog entry.

    Either way, the questions still stand…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *