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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 clears up the horrible scare we all had that American Airlines was going to collect fuel surcharges on all international awards.
But I just don’t believe the statement for two reasons.
What really happened?
1. American Airlines has always collected fuel surcharges on cash tickets.
A fuel surcharge on a cash ticket is something one doesn’t notice because all one cares about is the all in price, which is the price listed on kayak.com and all airline sites by law now.
But even though we don’t care how an all in fare breaks down between the base fare, taxes, and fuel surcharges, there is a breakdown between those things.
I read American’s statement to say that before they were only collecting the base fare and taxes on cash tickets booked through American to be flown on partner metal. That’s bollocks. If that were true, it would have been possible to buy a ticket on Malaysia Airlines or Qantas or Cathay Pacific from American Airlines for hundreds of dollars cheaper than from those airlines themselves. That was never the case.
2. American Airlines official twitter account was confirming a change this morning.
I asked about changes to the AAdvantage program and @AmericanAir confirmed them (and apologized.)
@milevalue We’re sorry for your disappointment. These changes were just announced to us yesterday.
— American Airlines (@AmericanAir) August 28, 2013
What Really Happened
I don’t believe the statement, so what do I think happened? I think the backlash on blogs, forums, and Twitter caused American to backtrack. I’m not sure of it, but having eliminated the possibility that the statement is true, what explanation do we have left?
I am ecstatic that American Airlines miles have not been gutted. I would have dropped their value to about 1 cent each if fuel surcharges were to be collected on all international awards, and even 1 cent of value would have been impossible on most economy international awards.
I like American Airlines miles too much to really change my behavior towards them. But I will be a bit more wary that we might see future negative changes coming from the old American (pre-merger) or the new American (post-merger, which yes I think is going to happen still).