Six years ago I wrote about a law firm looking into a class action lawsuit against British Airways over its fuel surcharges. Several readers reached out to the firm.
The lawsuit was able to move forward because British Airways actually claimed their fees were to compensate for the cost of fuel. Of course the fees had nothing to do with the cost of fuel. In some cases customers paid as much or more than the equivalent cost of a paid ticket.
Lots of customers got excited about this because the charges are a pure tax on members. But the claim wasn’t that surcharges were illegal, just the way British Airways used to describe them. Airlines rarely impose fuel surcharges anymore, now they are just surcharges (money for no reason).
In 2013 the Department of Transportation said fuel surcharges had to be related to the cost of fuel so airlines just stopped calling them that.
Finally though that class action lawsuit has settled. And if you redeemed British Airways awards between November 9, 2006 and April 17, 2013 you can get your choice of either 16.9% of your fuel surcharges back or between 12,500 and 35,000 Avios depending on how many times you redeemed awards during this period. (If the Court doesn’t approve all the fees to the lawyers then the amount of fuel surcharges that will reimbursed will go up.)
- The page to look up your benefits and file a claim will go live on Sunday although a copy of the claim form for cash already appears under ‘case documents’ on the website. You do not need to research and list out your awards and surcharges, no research is going to be required.
- If your account is active and you don’t file a claim (and you don’t opt out of the class action), British Airways still knows who you are and you’ll get points if eligible. The claim form will be necessary if you want cash. I plan to ask for cash.
- A final hearing to approve the claim will be held July 27. If there are no appeals, mileage deposits and checks could go out within 30 days.
The documents in the case make interesting reading in any case. And some interesting data:
- They’re prepared to pay out 2,228,677,500 Avios — that’s 2.2 billion.
- Or they’ll pay up to $27,125,000 if everyone opts for cash
- At 16.9% of fuel surcharges that means British Airways collected $160,502,965 in fuel surcharges just from U.S. members during the class period
- It appears they’re valuing Avios at 1.22 cents apiece.
Bottom-line: If you are a U.S.-based member and paid British Airways fuel surcharges you should get points deposited into your account — without doing anything at all — or if you prefer (and fill out a simple form) 16.9% of your cash back.