I absolutely hate fuel surcharges. They’re a scam which is basically just a tax on frequent flyers’ loyalty. On some itineraries they can amount to $1000 roundtrip. Although bear in mind that you may pay lower fuel surcharges when you book two one way awards than a roundtrip.
British Airways settled a class action lawsuit because fuel surcharges really have nothing whatsoever to do with the price of fuel, they’re just extra charges for no reason other than that the airline can since they tell you when you can use your miles, they say what you can use your miles for, and they say how much.
Now British Airways — and other airlines — just call them ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’. They don’t tell us what the money is for, they just say it’s extra money required by the airline for no purpose whatsoever… other than that they can.
These surcharges make economy redemptions almost always a bad deal. You wind up paying almost as much in taxes and fees as just buying a ticket, and that’s more flexible and earns miles.
Nonetheless when I’m in an absolute pinch I can talk myself into paying fuel surcharges for a first class award. I think of it as a discount coach ticket which doesn’t earn points but where I’m spending miles for a confirmed triple upgrade.
And the thing about British Airways first class in particular is that it’s often very available. Here’s Boston – London Heathrow for four passengers non-stop in first class.
Here’s Atlanta – London Heathrow for four passengers in first class.
Here’s Chicago – London Heathrow for four passengers in first class.
British Airways also flies to Austin, Baltimore, Dallas Fort-Worth, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York (JFK and Newark), Oakland, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tampa and Washington Dulles. They’re adding service to Pittsburgh.
Some of these routes are to London Gatwick, for better or worse (it can be better for connecting to some leisure destinations) and not all are served with aircraft offering a first class product. But with all of the flights they offer, and since they extort redemption customers for cash in exchange for redeeming miles, availability tends to be good.
British Airways promised when gutting their own loyalty program seven years ago all flights would offer business and coach award seats when loaded into the schedule. This was a limited-duration commitment but it’s largely continued.
While on the whole I like American AAdvantage miles for first class transatlantic redemptions — costing 85,000 miles each way and including connecting flights in the U.S. and in Europe — I try to redeem my British Airways Avios for these since I have to pay fuel surcharges anyway and I’d rather save AAdvantage miles for redemptions where they don’t pass along these scam fees.