Why Are Fees on 1-Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round-Trip Tickets From the US?

Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.

Million Mile Secrets reader Fran emails:

Daraius, thanks for all the 2014 help!  Do you know why Delta is charging $350 in taxes and fees for a 1-way award ticket from London Heathrow to Boston?  Round-trips from Boston to London are only $250.

They changed their policy from last year and now allow 1-way award flights.  Shouldn’t it be possible to book a 1-way ticket and pay half the fees of a round-trip?  Some flights are much less originating from Boston.  Could it be a mistake?

This is a great question!  Delta made big changes to their SkyMiles frequent flyer program on January 1, 2015.  And you can now book 1-way award tickets for half the number of miles as round-trip tickets.

So shouldn’t the fees be half as much, too?

The answer isn’t so simple.  It depends on your departure city!

Why Are Fees On 1 Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round Trip Tickets From The US

New Delta SkyMiles: One-Way Award Tickets, but Sometimes Confusing Fees!

I’ll explain why flights originating in Europe have higher fees, more so if you’re departing from the UK.

What’s the Deal?

Link:   Delta New 2015 SkyMiles Program

Before January 1, 2015, if you wanted to book a 1-way award ticket on Delta, you’d have to pay the round-trip price.

But now you can book 1-way award tickets for half the number of miles as a round-trip.  The taxes and fees, however, are a different story.

In the past, Delta would add fuel surcharges to round-trip flights originating in Europe to the US.  However, if your itinerary started in the US, you wouldn’t pay fuel surcharges.

Why Are Fees On 1 Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round Trip Tickets From The US

Starting Your Delta Journey in Europe Means You’ll Pay Fuel Surcharges

Now that Delta allows 1-way award tickets, the principle remains the same.  Round-trip or 1-way award tickets originating in the US do NOT have fuel surcharges added.  Flights originating in Europe DO.

Let’s look at Fran’s example.  A low level, round-trip, coach class award ticket from Boston to London Heathrow costs 60,000 miles and ~$199 in taxes and fees.

Why Are Fees On 1 Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round Trip Tickets From The US

A Low-Level, Round-Trip Award Flight From Boston to London Heathrow Costs 60,000 Miles and ~$199

If we book these flights as 2 separate 1-way award tickets, the taxes and fees are NOT split evenly between the outbound and the return flights!

A 1-way award flight from Boston to London Heathrow costs 30,000 miles and ~$6!  The taxes and fees are small because there are NO fuel surcharges on flights leaving the US for Europe.

Why Are Fees On 1 Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round Trip Tickets From The US

The Taxes and Fees on a 1-Way Award Flight FROM Boston TO London Are Only ~$6

But look at the taxes and fees on a 1-way award flight from London to Boston!  You’ll pay 30,000 miles and ~237 British pounds (~$361)!

It’s enough to rile up Bostonians to throw tea into the harbor while shouting, “No taxation without representation!”

Why Are Fees On 1 Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round Trip Tickets From The US

The Taxes and Fees on a 1-Way Flight Originating in the UK are MORE Than a Round-Trip Originating in the US!

As Fran noticed, that’s more than the total taxes and fees on a round-trip ticket!

Why Such a Difference?

You’ll pay much higher taxes and fees on a 1-way ticket from London Heathrow to Boston for 2 reasons:

  • Delta adds fuel surcharges to award tickets originating in Europe
  • Passengers departing the UK pay an Air Passenger Duty, which varies depending on the destination and class of service, plus there’s an extra tax for folks departing London Heathrow (Passenger Service Charge)

You’ll still pay the UK Air Passenger duty if you book a round-trip ticket originating in the US.  So the big difference is the fuel surcharge, which Delta adds because the flight originates in Europe.

Note:   Folks connecting through a UK airport (a stopover of less than 24 hours) don’t have to pay the Air Passenger Duty.

Why Are Fees On 1 Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round Trip Tickets From The US

The Departure Taxes Alone (UK and Heathrow) Are ~113 Pounds (~$172)…and Delta Adds Fuel Surcharges on Award Flights FROM Europe

So taxes and fees on a round-trip or 1-way award flight originating in the US are lower because Delta does NOT add fuel surcharges to these tickets.

Fran’s best bet is to book a round-trip award flight starting in Boston.  But if she doesn’t have enough Delta miles, she should consider booking the Boston to London flight on Delta (only ~$6 in fees).

Then, choose an airline that does NOT add fuel surcharges for the return trip, like United Airlines.

Bottom Line

You’ll pay fuel surcharges on 1-way and round-trip Delta award flights originating in Europe.  There are NO fuel surcharges on flights to Europe that begin in the US.

Because of this, the taxes and fees on a 1-way flight from Europe to the US are MORE than a round-trip award ticket originating from the US to Europe.

And remember, any flight departing the UK (especially London Heathrow) will have higher fees, because of their departure taxes.  That’s why I avoid flying out of UK airports whenever possible!

Thanks for the question, Fran!

* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 16,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 25,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!

Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 responses to “Why Are Fees on 1-Way Delta Award Tickets From Europe Higher Than Round-Trip Tickets From the US?

  1. Good report. So what I take from this is that the desirable availability of one way redemptions on Delta is useful on an international itinerary only if you do it on the outbound leg. You still need to work with a legitimate program to get back to the U.S. SkyPesos worth slightly more than before, but still far inferior to other award currencies, aren’t they?

  2. I had no idea! Thank you so much for this post Darius! My husband and I have 80,000 skymiles and we are going to Europe in February. We were going to leave out of London, but not anymore 🙂

  3. Hi Darius. You mentioned that United does not charge fuel surcharge on the return trip from Europe back to LA. Can you confirm? I just checked a one way trip from LHR to LAX at 30K miles Economy. Taxes and fees are $189.90. Is the fuel surcharge included there? Is there anyway of avoiding that?

  4. Thanks for this Darius. I just found this out the hard way this past week while booking an award ticket on Delta’s site for Alitalia biz class. I really wanted to try their product and decided we would fly from the East Coast (using the Southwest Companion pass and a lot number of miles to get there from the West Coast!). I booked a one way flight from JFK to Rome, then was going to book our return from Rome to Boston to spend a couple of nights in different cities. Found out the hard way the fees were crazy expensive compared to the flight originating in the U.S.

    Ended up calling Delta and they easily added the return leg from Rome to Boston completing the round trip for the same amount of miles and only about $50 in fees. Was an easy fix and still got the itinerary I wanted.

  5. @Jason, You are mostly referring to the U.K. government’s “because we can ripoff fee” (they have some other official name for it), not something imposed by United. They way to avoid it is to not fly home out of the U.K.