Yesterday Lucky wrote that Delta had started adding fuel surcharges onto award bookings made with Korean AIrlines.
Fuel surcharges are commonly billed to customers on award travel throughout the world. Nearly all European airline programs add fuel surcharges (usually several hundred dollars per ticket), with the notable exception of SAS Eurobonus which eliminated the practice a couple of years ago. Most Asian programs do as well. Most programs in the Americas do not. Notable exceptions are Aeroplan which began last year to add them to a majority of partner bookings, American which adds them to British Airways awards and a small one on Iberia bookings, and Delta which adds an ‘international origination surcharge’ to bookings originating from Europe (since their European counterparts add fees, they figure their European customers have little choice and they can get away with it, one imagines). Delta also adds fuel surcharges to awards on Virgin Australia, Air Tahiti Nui, and some Asian partners as well.
But not to any Skyteam redemptions originating in the U.S..
(It’s worth noting that only United and US Airways amongst U.S. frequent flyer programs are 100% free of fuel surcharges.)
Last week I posted about uber-cheap Korean Airlines fares from the West Coast to Tokyo. I believe this was related to a change that Korean was making, reducing fares and adding fuel surcharges which are coded as YR rather than the normal ‘YQ’ in fare construction.
When Continental joined Star Alliance, they certainly didn’t intend to add fuel surcharges onto award tickets. To this day, United/Continental does not. But their systems were pricing many awards on Swiss with fuel surcharges, because Swiss was coding their fuel surcharges as YR instead of YQ, and so Continental interpreted that to be a tax or other imposed fee rather than a fuel surcharge. So they included it in the pricing automatically. (Continental agents were told to contact the rate desk for manual repricing, some of them didn’t read the memos and weren’t aware of the problem, my understanding was that a sweep was done and everyone who overpaid was refunded.)
Changing the way that fuel surcharges are loaded into fares can certainly wreak havoc with automated pricing engines. So it’s completely plausible that this is a temporary glitch which Delta will get corrected.
The reason why some are jumping to other conclusions is that Delta seems the most punitive in adding fees to award travel. All of their European customers pay fuel surcharges. Anyone grabbing awards from Los Angeles to Tahiti on Air Tahiti Nui or to Australia on Virgin Australia get whacked. And since they are stingy on award space across the board, it fits a narrative.
But my best guess, probably = 70% I think, is that it’s an IT glitch. Which fits the narrative that their award redemption IT isn’t very good either.