I will admit, few things in terms of frequent flyer programs infuriate me more than fuel surcharges. Which is an overreaction, since there are plenty of other, more serious issues. Shrinking award availability. Shrinking personal space. All kinds of devaluations. Why do these little scams perpetrated by even the most respected airlines in the world annoy me so much, I don’t know.
Maybe because they are so blatant. Maybe because they are lying to my face. Maybe because regulators have been too cozy and too complacent with these fraudulent practices for way too long. They have imposed draconian fines for even the smallest delays; they have designed complex consumer-protection laws; and yet they all, sans a few, have failed to see fuel surcharges for what they really are—a thinly veiled revenue generator that shouldn’t exist in the first place! Airlines sell tickets, not fuel surcharges. This needs to be stopped.
Too much baloney!
I had been searching ANA for an award between Moscow and New York—wanted to bring an old friend to visit–and you know how this new and “enhanced” ANA website screws with your brain because, you know, you can’t search anything beyond two zones, and beyond one day at a time. Why ANA? Amazingly, I’ve found it’s hard for me to use ANA miles due to their roundtrip restrictions. And because United charges 5,000 miles more. And because Delta adds on YQ, too, for flights originating in Europe. After playing for a while (read pulling my teeth), I was delighted to find a return ticket on Scandinavian because…
So I get to the final screen ready to make the booking only to face this:
You’re charging me $371 for fuel surcharges that you yourself…
removed… on all destinations with SAS, Blue1 and Wideroe.
What the HELL gives?
Imposition of fuel surcharges has nothing to do with the cost of fuel. It’s nothing more than an accounting trick, a slight of hand, if you will, but airlines’ benefits from this trick are enormous!
- They don’t have to pay full commission to travel agents.
- They have an “excuse” to charge you for a “free” award ticket.
European airlines are the worst offenders. At least, most carriers in Asia and Australia have either reduced or eliminated this shameful surcharge. Not Europeans. Fuel prices are at its lowest level since 2004, yet they blatantly keep charging hundreds of dollars in YQ/YR “surcharges” that often rival regular revenue fares. The worst of the worst? Think British, Lufthansa, Swiss, Brussels, Austrian, Air Europe… Avoid them like a plague on a long haul, unless you’re booking on United!
You know how for every 50 druggies there is only one functional user? That’s airlines! They have such an ingrown YQ habit that even when they try to do the right thing, they can’t go all the way in. The money is too easy. And come to think that I once placed Scandinavian into the “Good Guys List!” I’m too kind.
Scandinavian is Not the Only One
Scandinavian is not the only airline that plays this game. Both American and United add fuel surcharges when their flights are being redeemed by some partner airline for some world regions, while not adding YQs to their own flights. Delta adds YQ for flights originating in Europe, but not other parts of the world. That’s another problem right there: airlines are incredibly inconsistent about how, where, and how much. You can check ITA Matrix software all you want, but it’s useless! You simply don’t know whether the airline adds YQ or not and to/by which partner, until you’ve tried to book it.
Or until someone has told you. Airlines are the most secretive enterprises in the world as it is—but when it comes to fuel surcharges, they go into a true stealth mode! Well, most of them anyway.
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