Don’t Pay Fuel Surcharges, Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Robert, commented:

Hello Daraius!  Could you do a post or list here all of the airlines that don’t assess fuel surcharges for award tickets?  Thanks for all that you do.

Hi Robert!  That sounds like a good idea!

Some airlines add fuel charges to their award tickets.  These extra charges can add hundreds of dollars to your “free” award seat!

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Fuel Surcharges Are Money Down the Drain! I’ll Tell You Which Airlines Have NO (or Low) Fuel Surcharges!

But some airlines have NO (or low) fuel surcharges.  Let’s take a look at the programs that save you money!

Fuel Surcharges, Listed by Airline

Some airlines add nasty fuel surcharges to your award tickets.

It’s never a good surprise to see your “free” award ticket actually costs hundreds of dollars!

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

British Airways Is Notorious for Imposing Fuel Surcharges

For example, a non-stop round-trip coach award flight from Chicago to London on British Airways costs 26,000 British Airways Avios points plus an extra $694.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

The Same Flights Cost ~$957

You can pay ~$957 for the same flights, which is ~$263 more than paying for an award flight.

But don’t worry, not all programs charge these extra fees.  Which is good, because I don’t like paying them!

1.   Air Canada

Link:   Air Canada Award Chart

Link:   Air Canada Partners

Link:   Air Canada Partner Award Chart

Aeroplan is the loyalty program of Air Canadaa member of the Star Alliance.  That means you can book award seats on nearly ~30 partner airlines.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Air Canada Has Access to Award Seats on Many Airline Partners. But Not All of Them Are Good Deals!

Air Canada Aeroplan is a transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Here are the airlines that do NOT have fuel surcharges when booking Air Canada Aeroplan award seats:

  • Adria Airways (part of Aegean Airlines)
  • Air China
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Croatia
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore Airlines
  • SWISS
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

It’s interesting to note the best use of Air Canada miles is NOT on Air Canada!

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Fly From Chicago to Zurich, Switzerland, on SWISS and Pay 60,000 Air Canada Miles and ~$60 in Fees

Even though these airlines do not impose fuel surcharges, you’ll still be responsible for taxes and fees.  And while LOT Polish Airlines DOES add fuel surcharges, they’re normally low.  So flights on their airline might be a good option for getting to Europe!

In fact, Air Canada Aeroplan is a great program for flying to Europe, or to India!

Note:  Air Canada’s award chart is changing effective December 15, 2015.

2.   Alaska Airlines

Link:   Alaska Airlines Award Chart

Link:   Alaska Airlines Partners

Link:   Alaska Airlines Partner Award Chart

Alaska Airlines has several fantastic travel partners.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Alaska Airlines Only Adds Fuel Surcharges on British Airways Flights, and Has Lots of Other Great Travel Partners

You can earn Alaska Airlines miles with the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card, or transfer from Starwood Preferred Guest.

Alaska Airlines does NOT add fuel surcharges to award tickets on any partner airline except British Airways.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Flights from Chicago to Paris on Partner American Airlines Cost 40,000 Alaska Airlines Miles and ~$109

Note you will still have to pay taxes and fees.  For example, on an award flight from Chicago to Paris on partner American Airlines, you’ll pay 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles and ~$109 in fees.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

There Are Still Fees on Award Flights, Especially Internationally, but None of Them Are for Fuel

Read my post about the best ways to use Alaska Airlines miles!

You can book all of Alaska Airlines’ partner awards on their website, except for Cathay Pacific and LAN.  Call 800-252-7522 to book award seats on those 2 airlines.

As you can see in the example above, even though there aren’t fuel surcharges, there are still passenger and airport taxes added.  So you’ll have to pay some fees, unfortunately.

But keep reading because I’ll give you some ideas about which card to use to earn bonus points or offset the cost.  And show to how to avoid the highest taxes!

3.   American Airlines

Link:   American Airlines Award Chart

Link:   American Airlines Partners

Link:   American Airlines Partner Award Chart

Link:   How to Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro

American Airlines is a member of the oneworld alliance, and has several other airline partners.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Book Flights on All These Partner Airlines With NO Fuel Surcharges, Except British Airways and Iberia

You can earn American Airlines miles with a credit card like the Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage or Citi AAdvantage Executive card.  You can also transfer from Starwood Preferred Guest.

You can book award flights on all of American Airlines’ partners without any fuel surcharges added, except for British Airways and Iberia.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Fly From New York to Santiago, Chile, for 40,000 American Airlines Miles and ~$59 Round-Trip in Coach

For example, you can book a round-trip coach award flight from New York to Santiago, Chile, and pay 40,000 American Airlines miles and ~$59 in taxes.  That’s a great deal!

No fuel surcharges are 1 reason why I love booking award flights with American Airlines miles.  Read about how to book American Airlines award flights like a pro!

You can book most award travel on the American Airlines website.  But if it’s impossible to book online, simply call to book and ask them to waive the booking fee.

4.   Avianca

Link:   Avianca Award Calculator

Link:   Avianca Airlines Partners

Link:   Avianca Partner Award Chart

Avianca is a South American airline with lots of Star Alliance airline partners.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Fly from Toronto to Munich on Lufthansa in Coach for 60,000 Avianca Miles and ~$173

You can earn Avianca miles with the US Bank LifeMiles credit card, and with Avianca’s frequent special promotions.

If you booked an award flight from Toronto to Munich directly with Lufthansa, you’d pay over $500 in fuel surcharges!  But when you book with Avianca miles, you only pay taxes, which are ~$173.

Read what you can do with Avianca miles.

You can book most partner airlines on the website.  If you can’t, you’ll have to call to book.  But be aware telephone customer service isn’t very good, so you may have to hang up and call again until you find a representative that can help you.

And remember you cannot mix cabins on award flights.  For example, you cannot fly to your destination in coach and back home in Business Class.  The entire trip has to be in 1 class of service.

5.   British Airways

Link:   Wandering Aramean British Airways Avios Calculator

Link:   British Airways Award Calculator

Link:   British Airways Partners

Link:   British Airways Award Chart for 2 or more oneworld Airline Awards

Link:   How to Book British Airways Award Flights Like a Pro

British Airways is the only airline on the list that has a distance-based award chart, which means the number of points required for an award flight depends on the length of each flight in your itinerary.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Most British Airways Partners Don’t Have Fuel Surcharges (or If They Do, They’re Very Low)

Most folks avoid using British Airways Avios points for award flights on British Airways.  That’s because British Airways adds high fees to most of their own award tickets (sometimes hundreds of dollars!).  So the best use of British Airways Avios points is to fly with their partner airlines!

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

A Round-Trip Coach Award Flight from New York to Berlin on Air Berlin Costs 40,000 British Airways Avios Points and $93

For example, round-trip coach award flights on partner Air Berlin from New York to Berlin costs 40,000 British Airways Avios points and $93.  If you booked this route with British Airways, you’d pay ~$800 in fuel surcharges.

Even better, the booking fees to fly on partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are very low for domestic flights, usually only ~$11 for round-trip flights in any class of service!

British Airways Avios points are useful for short flights here in the US, in Europe, and Australia.

You can search most partners directly on the British Airways website.

Be sure to read about how to book British Airways award flights like a pro.  And remember, there are lot of ways to earn British Airways Avios points!

6.   Delta

Link:   Delta Partners

Delta has fuel surcharges for many award flights on its airline partners in the SkyTeam alliance, like Air France and Alitalia.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Most of Delta’s Airline Partners Have Fuel Surcharges, but They’re Very Low on Delta’s Own Flights

But, Delta has very low fuel surcharges on its own flights all over the world, even to Europe.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

You’ll Pay 70,000 Delta Miles and ~$53 to Fly From Los Angeles to Seoul, South Korea, on Delta

For example, it costs 70,000 Delta miles and ~$53 to fly from Los Angeles to Seoul, South Korea.

Flights to South America, even on Delta’s travel partners Aerolineas Argentinas and AeroMexico, tend to have low fuel surcharges.

Search for award seats on these airlines on the Flying Blue website instead of Delta’s website:

  • Air Europa
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Czech Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • Tarom
  • Xiamen Air

And then call Delta to book at 800-323-2323.  Ask them to waive the award booking fee because these flights cannot be booked online.

If you need more Delta miles, you can transfer from AMEX Membership Rewards, or Starwood Preferred Guest.

7.   Flying Blue

Link:   Flying Blue Award Calculator

Link:   Flying Blue Partners

Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

You Can Fly Round-Trip to Europe for 50,000 Flying Blue Miles, but Expect to Pay ~$300 in Fuel Surcharges

Flying Blue is a transfer partner with AMEX Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Unfortunately, Flying Blue assesses fuel surcharges for all of its own flights.  These extra charges can add ~$200 to ~$300 to your award ticket.

You can use the Flying Blue Award calculator to check how many miles you’ll need on any award flight.

The best use of Flying Blue miles is for monthly promo awards.  Sometimes they have discounts of up to 50% fewer miles required for award flights!  But always make sure the discount is worth paying the extra fees on your award ticket.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Use Your Flying Blue Miles to Visit Venice for Gondola Rides, Delicious Food, and Gorgeous Sunsets!

You can book some Flying Blue award flights directly on the website.  If the airline has a computer symbol next to it, you can book online.  But the ones with a phone symbol require you to call 800-375-8723 to book.

There’s no extra charge to book over the phone.

8.   Lufthansa

Link:   Lufthansa Award Calculator

Link:   Lufthansa Partners

Link:   Lufthansa Partner Award Chart

Link:   How to Use Lufthansa Miles

The easiest ways to collect Lufthansa miles are by opening the Lufthansa Barclaycard, or transferring from Starwood Preferred Guest.

The best use of Lufthansa miles is NOT for flights on Lufthansa.  You’ll pay no (or low) fuel surcharges when you book flights on these partners:

  • Air New Zealand Flights to New Zealand, Australia and Oceania
  • Avianca – Flights to South America, Central America and the Caribbean
  • LOT Polish Airlines – Flights from the US to Europe
  • United Airlines – No fuel surcharge on domestic US flights and flights to South America
Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Fly From Chicago to Warsaw, Poland, on LOT Polish Airlines, and Pay Only ~$199 in Extra Charges

Remember, you’ll pay fuel surcharges on LOT Polish Airlines, but they’re much less than what Lufthansa charges.  For example, I found round-trip coach award flights from Chicago to Warsaw, Poland.  The taxes and fees were a reasonable ~$199.  Of that, $120 were fuel surcharges.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

You Can Easily Check Which Awards You Can Book Online

To see if you can book an award online, enter your starting point and destination into the Lufthansa award calculator.  It will tell you exactly which awards can, and cannot, be booked online.

Be sure to check out my series on how to use Lufthansa miles!

9.   Singapore Airlines

Link:   Singapore Airlines Award Chart

Link:   Singapore Airlines Partners

Link:   Singapore Airlines Partner Award Chart

Singapore Airlines has fuel surcharges on all their award flights except for United Airlines.

But you can get Business Class or First Class award flights in the US, or award flights in any class of service to Hawaii, on United Airlines for fewer miles than United Airlines charges themselves!

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Fly to Hawaii and Pay Fewer Miles Than United Airlines Charges!

Read my post about how to take advantage of this deal!

Keep in mind Singapore Airlines miles are easy to get.  You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Starwood Preferred Guest.  

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

It Costs 17,000 Miles Plus ~$202 in Fees From New York to Frankfurt 1-Way

Some folks might want to fly on Singapore Airlines.  For example, you can book an award flight between New York and Frankfurt for only 17,000 Singapore Airlines miles each way (with a 15% online booking discount).  You’ll pay ~$202 in fuel surcharges, but it might be worth it to use fewer miles.

In fact, Singapore Miles award flights are in my Top 10 best travel deals list!

You’ll have to call Singapore Airlines to book all partner award flights.  But you can book Singapore Airlines award flights on their website.

10.   Southwest

Why is Southwest on a list of fuel surcharges?

Because they recently began adding lots of new international destinations!

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

If You Fly Southwest to an International Destination, Like Aruba or the Dominican Republic, Expect to Pay More Taxes Than in the US

Every country has different taxes and fees, and some folks have been surprised to see them pop up.  They’re not fuel surcharges, but these extra fees can add a lot to your final price, especially if you want to use your Southwest Companion Pass.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

You’ll Pay an Extra ~$90 Round-Trip per Person to Fly From Houston to Aruba

For example, flights to Aruba have an extra ~$90 added to the base fare.  Even If you use your Southwest Companion Pass, that’s an extra $180 for 2 award flights!

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Flights to the Dominican Republic Have an Extra ~$125 in Taxes & Fees

Taxes and fees to the Dominican Republic add ~$125 on top of the base fare.

As you can see, these extra costs are not fuel surcharges.  Typically, they’re airport or departure taxes.  But they are something to be aware of if you plan on flying Southwest internationally.

Considering the base fares are ~$400 in both examples, you’re still saving a lot of money when you use your Southwest Companion Pass.  But be sure to budget the extra fees into your Caribbean getaway!

11.   United Airlines

Link:   United Airlines Award Chart

Link:   United Airlines Partners

Link:   United Airlines Partner Award Chart

Link:   The Ultimate Guide to United Airlines Miles

United Airlines never adds fuel surcharges to any of its award flights.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Use United Miles to Fly Round-Trip on Partner SWISS. Taxes & Fees Are Only ~$47 and NO Fuel Surcharges Are Added

To earn United Airlines miles, you can transfer at a 1:1 ratio from Chase Ultimate Rewards.  Or you can transfer from Starwood at a 2:1 ratio, but I don’t recommend doing that because there are better ways to use Starwood points.  Or apply for a United Airlines credit card.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

United Airlines Has Lots of Airline Partners With No Fuel Surcharges, and With Much Lower Fees

Some partner award flights still have added fees, but they’re much less than using other airline miles.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Fly From Toronto to Munich for 60,000 United Airlines Miles and ~$146

I found round-trip coach award flights from Toronto to Munich, Germany, for 60,000 United Airlines miles and ~$146.

The trip is on Air Canada, Lufthansa, and Austrian Airlines – all of which have high fuel surcharges with other mileage programs.  But NOT with United Airlines.

Don't Pay Fuel Surcharges Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

Taxes Are the Same No Matter Which Cabin You Select

And, you won’t pay more taxes to fly in Business Class or First Class!

Be sure to read my “Ultimate Guide” to United Airlines miles to learn more!

You can book most partner airline awards on the United Airlines website.

Which Card to Pay With

Barclaycard Arrival Plus – Earn 2.1% back on $100+ travel purchases when you redeem your Arrival miles

Chase Sapphire Preferred – Earn 2X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per $1 spent on travel, and enjoy Chase’s fantastic trip delay and cancellation insurance on award tickets

Citi Prestige – Earn 3X Citi ThankYou points per $1 spent on airfare, and get a $250 annual airline credit to use on ANY airline each calendar year

Lower Your Tax Burden by Returning From a Low-Tax Country

If your travel plans are flexible, you can save money on taxes and fees by routing back home through a low-tax country, like Ireland or Poland.

Some countries, like Germany and the UK, charge high taxes and fees to use their airports.

Keep in mind that arrival and departure taxes can be different, too.  That means it might be cheaper to fly into certain countries (like Germany) than to fly out.

So if your plans are flexible, run the numbers to make sure you’re paying as little in taxes and fees as possible.  I hate paying them, so I always check which flights are cheaper!

Bottom Line

The best airline for avoiding fuel surcharges is United Airlines.  They don’t add fuel surcharges to any of their flights, or to any partner flights you book with United Airlines miles.

The next best are Alaska Airlines and American Airlines.  Neither add fuel charges to their flights or to their partners except British Airways flights.  American Airlines also adds fuel surcharges for flights on Iberia.

Certain countries are cheaper to fly through, like Ireland and Poland.  And others, like Germany and especially the UK, should be avoided if you have flexible travel plans.  Always run the numbers to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Robert, I hope this post helps you as a reference for your next award flight!

Let me know your favorite way to book award flights!  And feel free to add your tips in the comments!

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10 responses to “Don’t Pay Fuel Surcharges, Save Money When You Book Award Tickets

  1. A few points and exceptions to note:

    1) There are many other airlines that BA does not tack on fuel surcharges when booking with Avios:

    a) International QF flights ex-Australia (http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/07/07/redeem-ba-avios-on-qantas-ex-australia-without-fuel-surcharges/) or domestic QF flights.

    b) Domestic JL flights.

    c) Some MH flights transiting KUL (but YMMV) and LAN flights (http://travelisfree.com/2014/04/15/master-charts-to-avoiding-fuel-surcharges-yq/)

    d) Any BA flights ex-Brazil.

    2) SQ Krisflyer does not charge fuel surcharges ex-GRU or ex-MNL. I would think the same holds for Flying Blue too.

    3) DL only charges AF/KL/AZ/VS fuel surcharges ex-Europe. All other itineraries ex-Asia/Africa/South America/North America on AF/KL/AZ/VS do not attract fuel surcharges. Most VN/SV/KE/GA routes also do not attract fuel surcharges (maybe except for those ex-Europe). Fuel surcharges are also imposed on all CZ/MU/CI/SU/ME regardless, even ex-MNL.

  2. Thanks for a useful guide concerning some of the more widely held loyalty miles and how to use them. I’d get away from the term “fuel” surcharges, which was always a fiction to hide dishonest pricing, and now even more so when the international price of fuel has fallen dramatically, yet these despised junk fees persist.

  3. Great piece with good info for a newbie like myself.

  4. @Joel – Thanks very much for adding this to the list!

    @DaveS – You’re very welcome!

    @Lisa N. – Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope it helps you when you book an award flight! Thank you for commenting!

  5. Pingback: Travel Miles 101 Roundup - Week Ending 11/20/15 - Travel Miles 101

  6. You left out that AA flights to LHR incur the ripoff fuel surcharges.

  7. Whether using AA miles or Avios to Europe, the ONLY Business and First MileSaver AAwards or Avios awards are on BA to or via LHR with ripoff YQ/YR surcharges. No AA/AB/IB/Finnair flights EVER not to LHR. Can you figure out any way use the other airlines?

  8. It’s no longer true that Alaska doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on any airline except British Airways. There are now outrageous fuel surcharges for new partners Hainan and Icelandair.

  9. Hey Million Mile Secrets,

    I have 21,000 Turkish Airlines Miles (Classic Plus) that are due to expire on December 15th of this year. It appears that they cannot get extended. I was wondering if you knew any travel hacks to get these extended and if not, what is the best way to get the most out of my 21,000 miles with redeeming for airfare? I am based out of Seattle but frequently travel to all parts of the globe (been to all 7 continents but always looking to explore a new far to reach destination). Could you recommend a way to reach one of these far to reach destinations (Central Asia, Central & West Africa, Caribbean, etc.) with my 21,000 miles? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,

    Daniel 🙂