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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!
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!
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.
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
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
- Ethiopian Airlines
- EVA Air
- Singapore Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
- United Airlines
It’s interesting to note the best use of Air Canada miles is NOT on Air Canada!
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!
Note: Air Canada’s award chart is changing effective December 15, 2015.
2. Alaska Airlines
Link: Alaska Airlines Partners
Alaska Airlines does NOT add fuel surcharges to award tickets on any partner airline except British Airways.
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.
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
You can earn American Airlines miles with a credit card like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® or Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®. 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.
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.
Link: Avianca Award Calculator
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.
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: British Airways Partners
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.
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!
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!
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!
Link: Delta Partners
But, Delta has very low fuel surcharges on its own flights all over the world, even to Europe.
For example, it costs 70,000 Delta miles and ~$53 to fly from Los Angeles to Seoul, South Korea.
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
- 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.
7. Flying Blue
Link: Flying Blue Partners
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.
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.
Link: Lufthansa 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
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.
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
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!
Read my post about how to take advantage of this deal!
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.
Why is Southwest on a list of fuel surcharges?
Because they recently began adding lots of new international destinations!
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.
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!
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 Partners
United Airlines never adds fuel surcharges to any of its award flights.
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.
Some partner award flights still have added fees, but they’re much less than using other airline miles.
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.
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 World Elite Mastercard – 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!
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!