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How to Avoid Fuel Surcharges on Award Bookings

How to Avoid Fuel Surcharges on Award Bookings

Along the process of booking a ticket, one variable that’s always a bit of a black hole is fuel surcharges: which programs are guilty of them, which airlines levy them, which countries regulate them, and how do we predict the cost? 

Fuel surcharges are made all the more confusing by how arbitrary they are – there’s really no logical explanation for which programs levy them, and if so, how much. And yet, if you aren’t paying attention, you could easily map out a business class or First Class redemption but find yourself paying $1,000+ (CAD) in surcharges at the end of it.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the treatment of fuel surcharges among the major award programs to help you understand how to avoid the expensive traps that the airlines have set for you and extract the best value out of your miles.

What Are Fuel Surcharges?

On award tickets, we generally pay two types of fees: government-imposed taxes and fuel surcharges (also known as carrier-imposed surcharges). The taxes usually add up about $100–150 (CAD) at most, and there’s no way to avoid this fee (other than flying to/from a different country).

Fuel surcharges, on the other hand, can cost any amount depending on the airline and loyalty program in question, and to be completely frank, they’re really nothing short of a shameless cash-grab.

While they were ostensibly first introduced by airlines as a protective measure during times of high oil prices, these days they’ve transformed into an easy way for airlines to collect pocket change when their members redeem miles for “free” flights. After all, many passengers might not spend the time to learn how to avoid them and will likely pay up when it’s the first option that pops up on the search engine.

But of course, we know better than that, so let’s begin with a few general pointers on avoiding fuel surcharges before delving into the specific details of the major award programs. 

General Rules on Avoiding Fuel Surcharges

One of the easiest ways to take fuel surcharges off the table entirely is to pay attention to which country you’re originating from (or in some cases, travelling to). 

Countries like New Zealand have imposed strong regulations on fuel surcharges, so when flying out of these countries, it won’t matter which frequent flyer program you’re using or which airlines you choose. The governments and aviation authorities of these…

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