Reader Carol asked,
When I try to make a reservation using my American Airline miles, there’s always a fee of $500-$1200 included. Do you know why?
Yes, I do know why! It’s because you’re looking at award tickets involving travel on British Airways.
And because awards on British Airways incur fuel surcharges. The idea is that the miles pay for the base airfare of the ticket only and not taxes (which is normal) or fuel or other miscellaneous charges.
American collects these fees on British Airways awards, and in a miniscule amount on Iberia awards. (Only oneworld carrier LAN will issue British Airways awards without fuel surcharges — all other British Airways partners, including Alaska Airlines, collect them.)
The challenge here is that American usually offers little award availability in premium cabins on its own flights to Europe. And their primary transatlantic partner is British Airways.
You can avoid fuel surcharges flying Iberia and airberlin. Iberia award space is actually pretty good.
With fuel prices low, the idea of fuel surcharges have very little credibility. That’s why they’re now often renamed ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’ (which is essentially meaningless, but not fraudulent).
Here’s my guide to Understanding Fuel Surcharges.