Update at 12:45 PM ET: The Points Guys says he has an official statement from the American Airlines PR department:

“Last night, in a routine effort to better align American to industry standards with other global carriers, American began collecting carrier-imposed surcharges on tickets for travel on other carrier’s metal.  This change was intended for revenue tickets only, but the surcharge was erroneously added to AAdvantage award redemptions on other airlines as well.  Except in the cases of British Airways and Iberia (where American currently collects these surcharges), no carrier-imposed surcharges will be applied when redeeming AAdvantage miles for award travel on other carriers.  Any customers who encountered this fee in error will be fully refunded.”

This is incredible news, but it is fishy as heck. American Airlines has always collected the fuel surcharges on paid tickets, so I don’t understand this explanation at all.

Furthermore it doesn’t align at all with what the memo said or what @AmericanAir said on twitter.

The good news is that American Airlines miles have not been massively devalued, and we can continue to use them surcharge-free on all partners except British Airways and Iberia.

All this excitement for nothing! It does go to show that things can change in an instant, though, so please earn and burn instead of hoarding your miles.

Update at 7:37 AM ET: My good friend Mike Choi called American Airlines to price out one seat in economy on February 5 from Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita on Malaysia Air flight 93.

Total taxes and fees for one seat in Y came to $176.20

I asked for a breakdown for any YQ or YR and the agent came back with:
YQ $145
YR $2.00

YQ $5.00

For those who don’t understand the jargon, his economy seat would cost miles + $176 one way including fuel surcharges of $152. Yesterday, fuel surcharges were not imposed.

As far as I can tell, we still don’t have “notice” of these changes from American Airlines except for the confirmation provided on Twitter. When will American Airlines announce these changes. Will they?

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Update at 7:02 AM ET: There was a little confusion on Twitter (@MileValue, #devAAl) that finding routes without fuel surcharges means this devaluation is not as bad as thought. But I have a different reading. From the original post:

“as of August 28 (today) American will be imposing fuel surcharges for award tickets on all carriers… even for international travel on American! So far they’ve apparently only updated the rates for Malaysia Airlines, but I expect they will shortly as well for travel on other carriers.”

I agree with Ben there. The memo sounds like all awards will have fuel surcharges as soon as they can technically get the computer to start collecting them. Awards found without fuel surcharges now should be booked if this whole story is true.

Here are three more awards without fuel surcharges from Finnair, airberlin, and American. The price is listed below the flight info.

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Update at 6:47 AM ET: I’ve priced out two awards–one on Qantas and one on JAL and no surcharges on either. That means the only awards with surcharges so far that we’ve heard are Malaysia Air awards.

This flight on JAL in economy priced out over the phone to 25k miles + $2.50 tax + $25 phone fee. No fuel surcharge.

This Qantas flight priced out online to 37,500 miles + $26.50, which again indicates no fuel surcharges.

My internet connection is making it very hard for me to call AA to price out a Malaysia Air award. There is space on MH 93 from LAX-NRT on February 5 and 9 in economy class. It is a 2:40 PM – 7:45 PM +1 flight. If anyone can find out the price for that award, that would be great info to have.

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Update at 6:34 AM ET: @AmericanAir confirms it on twitter.

Then this:

I don’t know what they mean by “determined based on cities.” I mean I think it means that Los Angeles to Hong Kong could have surcharges while San Francisco to Hong Kong does not which would make no sense.

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On One Mile at a Time, Ben reports:

After a few minutes she came back and read me the memo, which stated that as of August 28 (today) American will be imposing fuel surcharges for award tickets on all carriers… even for international travel on American!

So far they’ve apparently only updated the rates for Malaysia Airlines, but I expect they will shortly as well for travel on other carriers. After all, this policy is only in effect as of a couple of hours ago. Just to be sure the agent wasn’t going crazy and literally making up a (really legitimate sounding) memo, I called back, and the agent gave me the same answer after putting me on hold to talk to the rates department.

I’ve just woken up in Paris, so I haven’t done anything to confirm. This is big enough news that if you were putting off booking with your AA miles for no particular reason, do it now.

I’m going to call American Airlines with some test bookings to get to the bottom of this and will have much more on this developing story including how it affects my mileage earning and redeeming strategies.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s hope the information turns out to be incorrect. I quickly did a test booking on a domestic flight and the fees were $5.00 as I would have expected. This would terminate my relationship with American as fast as I could burn my miles.

      • And international flights are what I normally use my AA miles for. Domestic on AA is normally cheaper with Avios. I can (and would) switch just about all my business to United, but right now I see 200,000 miles plummeting in value. I wonder if Citi has anything to say about all this. The value of owning and using their credit cards would also be plummeting.

  2. About 2 weeks ago I did a Malaysian Airline award redemption for my wife using American Miles to Sydney-KL direct 35,000 miles one way which included $81.63 of charges and $80 telephone booking fee , so this is without the fuel charges ?? I have not done my own booking yet , wonder how much would the surcharges be now ?? Also looking at a Qantas First – Syd- HK wonder if that would be affected by the changes as well ??

  3. Wow. This is going to mean a lot of rewriting for all those hard-working bloggers like yourself keeping up with the game – but don’t stop, we need your advice more than ever :-)

  4. I booked two tickets for April on AA from MAD-MIA plus a one way from MIA-DEN and it came out to $58 each ticket. No change from before. Yesterday I booked two tickets, LAX-PPT roundtrip for the same $58 each for July 2014.

  5. I do appreciate your hard work in getting and staying on top of this ahead of everyone else. Could be a complete game changer for the worse. I just booked an award flight to Brisbane, returning from Christchurch for June (QF of course), and put it on hold while I check on actually being able to get away those dates. Not my first choice of dates, but my choice of dates later in the summer won’t open up for booking for a couple of weeks. I wonder if a flight already booked and on hold will retain its very nominal fees if and when QF is added to a disastrous new fees regime. Also the statement that some carriers could be exempt makes me think LAN. I guess that would salvage something of value for the program. But will UA copycat or will they go aggressively after aggrieved AA flyers?

  6. Scott, I hope you had a nightmare :)

    I am not sure if anything has changed for the following one-way trip: CUN-JFK on December 1, 2014, but here’s a total fee I am getting for 3 redemption tickets:

    “Additional Taxes and Carrier-Imposed Fees per passenger
    3 × $47.12 $141.36″ in addition to 105K miles.

  7. FYI, DFW to GIG (Rio) was $5 in fees last year(my redemption) now its $53ish. Not bad…but still up…When I read the title of post, all i could think of was BA level fuel charges

    • $53 is all taxes. I can’t imagine the roundtrip was $5 because the USA charges more in taxes for entering the country.

  8. Can you use a rewards card like the Barclay Arrival to pay the fuel surcharge fees? Or can that only be used for the purchase of a ticket like ThankYou points?

    • You can pay the fuel surcharges with the Arrival card because it codes as a travel purchase on which you get 1 cent per mile and a 10% rebate on miles redeemed.

  9. I knew if it doesn’t happen RIGHT now it will happen soon . Banks giving away money ? So I booked my second trip way out as always .Book something I changed a United flt. $75 fee..$300 total but it was $1500 flt ..
    Banking from a Cave can be rough..

    Cj

  10. If this is true, would this only affect flight booked with AA miles? I was planning on booking a trip on AA with Avios this week. Did my trip just get screwed up?

  11. i just have a small redemption LIH-HNL which i needed about 1500$ in spend to build up my AA account over 5000 miles. was looking around last night on AA and availability was fine. now this morning they took away about three weeks (including the day i need my flight) of availability from the end of march into the middle of april 2014. Coincidence, or part of a larger scheme to make awards more expensive and difficult to redeem? United has the same partnership with HA (5000 miles) and they have full availability no blackouts.

  12. American issued the following statement:
    Last night, in a routine effort to better align American to industry standards with other global carriers, American begin collecting carrier-imposed surcharges on tickets for travel on other carrier’s metal. This change was intended for revenue tickets only, but the surcharge was erroneously added to AAdvantage award redemptions on other airlines as well. Except in the cases of British Airways and Iberia (where American currently collects these surcharges), no carrier-imposed surcharges will be applied when redeeming AAdvantage miles for award travel on other carriers. Any customers who encountered this fee in error will be fully refunded.

  13. Airfares have gone up in the last 4 years not down so they were TESTING the waters to see the response ( What they can Get Away with so you don’t leave)..
    Wise Cave Dweller

    Cj

  14. Looks like someone screwed up and misinterpreted policy. But even if it was a case of testing the waters, the outcome is good. I always thought AAdvantage was an important asset to AA, and that wrecking that program for some short term accounting gain would be insane.

  15. WHERE ARE ALL YOU GUYS WHO WANT THE MERGER TO GO THRU LOL?
    THIS JUST HAPPENED WITHOUT THE MERGER.
    IF THE MERGER EVER WENT THRU, YOU WOULD BE WAKING UP TO NEWS LIKE THIS EVERY WEEK.

  16. Scott,
    Can you confirm if MH tickets still get charged YQ? I just put an award on hold (MAA-SYD) and was told I’ll be paying $376 in fees.

    • It sounds like you’re saying they do. You might want to point out to the agent the statement issued by AA says they shouldn’t.

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