Why Are British Airways Fuel Surcharges Still So High?

Dec 7, 2014

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TPG reader Donald emailed me to ask:

“Has anyone asked British Airways why they continue to charge those outrageous fuel surcharges when fuel costs have dropped more than 20% in the last few months? How do they continue to justify this?”

There are a lot of things that don’t make sense when it comes to airlines. Airfare pricing is seemingly random at times, and some airlines appear to be practically drunk on fees.

Although I’m not surprised, TPG reader Donald is wondering why British Airways still charges ridiculous fuel surcharges when the cost of fuel is actually lower. Well Donald, the reason they still charge these crazy fees is because people continue to pay them! Most foreign frequent flyer programs do charge excessive fees and fuel surcharges that escalated when the price of fuel went through the roof. Now that fuel is much lower, don’t expect to see any of the programs lowering their fees.

Part of the reason they do this is so that less of the ticket price can be taxed. If it’s a fuel surcharge, they get out of paying taxes on that portion. They can also advertise lower fares or award tickets “for free” or “for only 40,000 miles.” However, we as consumers know that really means paying even more in fuel surcharges than we might if we purchased the ticket outright!

There are ways to avoid British Airways' outrageous fuel surcharges
There are ways to avoid British Airways’ outrageous fuel surcharges

What I would recommend is to simply avoid British Airways redemptions that include these huge fees if at all possible. You can’t always get out of it, but redemptions with Aer Lingus or Air Berlin are good options to redeem Avios that will cost you way less. If you’re flying domestically, redeem with American Airlines. New York to Miami round trip is just 15,000 Avios, and you’ll avoid last-minute ticketing fees.The same flight using AAdvantage miles is 25,000 miles, and could incur a $75 last-minute fee. Taking advantage of  transfer partners helps you leverage the best aspects of each program.

I don’t see these fees being reduced anytime soon (if ever), so pour yourself a stiff drink, mourn a little, and then start considering other redemption options! Airlines are in business to maximize profit, and your only recourse is to make smart choices when redeeming your hard-earned miles.

For more tips & tricks, check out this post on how to avoid fuel surcharges.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook, or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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