When Does British Airways Add Fuel Surcharges to Avios Awards?

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British Airways collects fuel surcharges on almost all award redemptions. People constantly complain to me that their recent “free ticket” cost $650 or $1,000 or more in “taxes.”

In fact, taxes make up a small share of the cash component of most British Airways awards. Instead British Airways is collecting fuel surcharges on almost all awards, making those awards very poor values.

But there are exceptions where taxes can be as low as $2.50 on an award with no fuel surcharges. And we only want to use our Avios on these exceptions.

When exactly does British Airways collect fuel surcharges on Avios awards and when does it not?

They collect fuel surcharges on any award flight that has fuel surcharges on the equivalent cash flight. How can you tell if the equivalent cash flight will have fuel surcharges? ITA Matrix.

ITA Matrix gives a breakdown of every dollar of the price of a ticket including fuel surcharges.

If I search for a flight from JFK to London on British Airways on ITA Matrix, and then select a specific flight, it will show breakdown of the ticket price, like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 6.09.32 PM

Anything on the breakdown labeled as YQ or YR is a fuel surcharge.

The fuel surcharges you see in the price of a cash ticket will match the fuel surcharges you have to pay on your British Airways award (even if you’re not searching British Airways flights).

British Airways Does Not Collect Fuel Surcharges In the Following Instances

These are the only flights you can book with Avios without fuel surcharges.

  • American Airlines flights within the USA, Mexico, Canada, Caribbean, Central, and South America.
  • Alaska Airlines flights
  • All LATAM international flights
  • Some LATAM domestic flights
  • Aer Lingus and airberlin flights
  • British Airways flights within Europe
  • Qantas domestic flights
  • S7 flights

British Airways has two US-based partners: American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Awards on American Airlines can be booked online, but awards on Alaska need to be booked by calling 800-AIRWAYS. Both types of awards escape fuel surcharges.Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.36.10 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.20.40 PM

Awards from the mainland to Hawaii–which is part of the United States, thank you very much–also have no fuel surcharges.Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.39.42 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.23.37 PM

Awards between the United States and the Americas and the Caribbean

Awards between the United States and Mexico, Canada, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and LATAM also have no fuel surcharges, just government taxes.Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.41.59 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.30.40 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.43.39 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.32.28 PM

All LATAM Flights Except Some LATAM Domestic Flights

LATAM flies to Auckland, Sydney, Madrid, and Frankfurt from Santiago, Chile–all without fuel surcharges.

LATAM Peru flights have no fuel surcharges, like this one from Cuzco to Lima…

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.44.48 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.45.08 PM

But there are fuel surcharges on other LATAM affiliates like LATAM Argentina. See this post on intra-Argentina flights for more info.

All Flights on airberlin and Aer Lingus

You can get to Europe without fuel surcharges on airberlin and Aer Lingus flights. (OK technically Aer Lingus flights have fuel surcharges, but they are about $30, so I am putting them here.) airberlin flights are bookable online, but you have to call 800-AIRWAYS to book Aer Lingus flights.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.53.48 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-25 at 8.54.11 PM

There are also no fuel surcharges collected on airberlin flights or Aer Lingus flights within Europe.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.11.17 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.11.24 PM

Intra-Europe on British Airways

British Airways collects a flat fee on its own intra-European flights in lieu of taxes and fuel surcharges. The flat fee is fairly low–$27.50 from Berlin to London–and is often lower than taxes would be on the same route.Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.15.02 PMScreen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.15.08 PMQantas Flights within Australia

British Airways collects fuel surcharges on Qantas long haul flights, like those between Los Angeles and Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. But British Airways doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on domestic Qantas flights like Sydney to Melbourne.Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.21.35 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.21.40 PM

I also just tried to test Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand, but ba.com couldn’t find the award space that aa.com did. Call in to test whether SYD-AKL has fuel surcharges imposed on Avios awards.

All S7 Flights

S7 is a Russian airlines based at DME airport in Moscow. Its domestic and international flights booked as awards with Avios have no fuel surcharges.

I could not find any award space flying S7 to show an example, however.

British Airways Does Collect Fuel Surcharges in the Following Instances

That means all other flights have fuel surcharges when booked with Avios including:

  • American Airlines flights to Europe and Asia
  • British Airways flights that go from Europe to any other continent
  • British Airways flights within South Africa
  • Cathay Pacific flights
  • Finnair flights
  • Iberia flights
  • JAL flights
  • LATAM Argentina flights
  • Malaysia Airlines flights
  • Qantas international flights flights
  • Qatar Airways flights
  • Royal Jordanian flights

To get an idea of the fuel surcharges on these flights, search them on ba.com.

Bonus

Brazil made fuel surcharges on award tickets illegal. Different airlines interpret that different ways, but most flights that originate in Brazil do not have fuel surcharges.

Double Bonus

Don’t forget that awards that originate in the UK are subject to the UK’s onerous Air Passenger Duty of about $200 on long haul economy flights and $300 on long haul flights in business or first class.

Here is a list of award taxes from major cities in europe, so you return from low tax countries (transiting through London is a lot cheaper, and skipping London is cheaper still.)

Triple Bonus

Your mostly fuel-surcharge-free oneworld miles of choice are American Airlines AAdvantage miles. American only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia flights when you redeem AAdvantage miles.

Which card should I pay fuel surcharges with?

Pay your award taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes.

Bottom Line

Avios are ideal for short, direct, economy flights, especially between regions on award charts. I just wrote a post a couple days ago about how you can combine Avios redemptions with your preferred region-based miles to spend less miles overall and see more places all at the same time. Avios help compliment a diversified mile collection.

British Airways collects nasty fuel surcharges on a lot of awards, but as you can see exemplified above, there are many options with no fuel surcharges (and even more with low ones– mainly short, direct economy flights).


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71 COMMENTS

  1. Can one book flights through Dublin on aer lingus to the rest of Europe using aeros? That is, if AL flies Boston>Dublin, and Dublin>Rome, can one call BA and use aeros to fly to Rome that way with few charges?

    Thanks!

    • Correct! Thanks. Not sure how I forgot this since I booked SYD-CNS-MEL with Avios and flew it this year. Getting old..

  2. I believe you are missing QF flights in and between Australia and New Zealand as having no (or relatively very small) YQ.

        • 🙁 I know this is off-topic but to redeem QR flights after it joins oneworld, best flight currency, in your opinion, would be AAdvantage miles?

          • Yes, and you don’t need to wait until QR joins oneworld. QR is already bookable with AA miles by calling.

          • Only if you want to stay within the Middle East/India region. AA doesn’t allow connections via the Middle East to anywhere else (Africa, Asia, etc), and would price two awards in that case which gets pricey fast since the ME/India region is expensive to begin with.

  3. Not sure about all the others, but I believe you are incorrect about S7. I have recently booked one way flights with Avios (DME-OVB and OVB-PRG) that had taxes that amounted to about $7.50-9/person.

    • I love my commenters! Thanks for the correction. As my Cash & Avios analysis showed, S7 has no fuel surcharges on domestic or international flights on Avios awards.

  4. There really is no love for Asia.
    I’d like to use my Avios to go to Japan but I guess I can only use them for intra-Japan flights

  5. The use less Avios is also great for preserving on these routes. You use something like 2250 Avios + $50 for SYD->MEL. To do that same on Qantas is 8000 QFF points + 36 due to the fuel surcharge!

    Hard to earn Avios here though I get 750 a stay at a lot of hotels but other than that it’s not that easy

  6. JAL flights inside Japan are YQ-free. E.g. Osaka Itami-Haneda prices out at 4500 Avios + $0. That’s right, $0, since there is not even the equivalent of a 9/11 fee

  7. Can one book flights via Dublin on Aer Lingus to the rest of Europe using Avios? That is, if Aer Lingus flies Boston>Dublin, and Dublin>AMS, can one call BA OR Aer Lingus and use Avios to fly to AMS that way with few charges? On Aer Lingus or BA websites? I suspect that BA’s website will always route you via London with horrible UK air taxes.

    • You call BA to book all Avios awards, never the operating carrier. You can connect on all Avios awards. Aer Lingus space doesn’t show up on ba.com. You can book BOS-DUB-AMS on Aer Lingus with Avios by calling 800-AIRWAYS.

  8. Does BA charge for telephone bookings same as AA? After calling BA on 1-800-247-9297, press 4-press 3-Wait.

  9. BA Avios can be instantly transferred to IB which has very low fees on its flights.
    NYC-MAD fees were about 50Euros, as I recall. Not free, but much better than BA.

  10. Self- correction: 68 Euros one way.
    But the number of Avios needed is much lower
    NYC-MAD in business r/t is 80,000 Avios + 170 .80 €

  11. ON BA.com, I tried DFW – SJD ( Friday 24 January 2014 – Tuesday 28 January 2014) and I’m getting high taxes and fees, lalmost $300+. Am I missing something?

  12. Thank you for such a comprehensive article because as someone who got trapped with the BA 100K offer a few years ago and has been unable to use those miles due to the high surcharges, my wife and I have already spent $95X6 on card fees, on a credit card that we never needed. Looks like as per your recommendation, we might try Air Berlin or Aer Lingus to visit these two countries that have been on our short list. We might also see if something in Latin America is an option but with the high visa fees by Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, these countries are out.

    • For Europe, many Oneworld alliance and codeshares with no or minimal fuel charges. Just don’t use BA, IB, (or AA to UK). Finnair and Malaysia (if they serve USA) could serve. Aer Lingus (from BOSton) and AB, as mentioned.

    • Well, since my last comment, I wanted to give an update. I did manage to redeem the miles on an Air Berlin flight from JFK to Berlin (we are based in Massachusetts so it was a hike to New York). And despite the bad reviews of Air Berlin, we found the airline to be pretty good and would fly again with them because I cannot imagine any other way to exhaust these miles. During this trip, we spent time in Berlin (a new city for us and worth visiting), and then headed by bus to Dresden and on to Prague.

      Ideally we would have liked to fly back from Prague, but BA system does not allow you to use Air Berlin and kept bringing us on BA flights to London and then to JFK, so we went back to Berlin by bus and took the flight back home.

      Next time, we will probably take a flight out of Berlin to another European destination using the low mileage options by BA.

  13. This might be a dumb question, but does British Airways charge the same fees for either direction of a trip? We are flying to Australia and back and have enough BA miles for one direction and enough AA miles the other direction. BA fees are $910 for Australia to SLC. Would they be the same for SLC to Australia? We’re trying to figure out the cheapest way to get there.

  14. How to book using Avios? When I’ve searched on BA.com for a short intra-USA trip, it routes me through LONDON!!!! Do I perform my search on AA.com? Similarly if I wanted to use the AVIOS to travel on LAN or one of the other international airlines- how would I search and then book?

  15. Scott,
    Where are you finding the flights from JFK to BER direct???? Are they off the BA website or another? I have been doing random searches to find any direct flights to no avail. I am sitting on a lot of Avios and this posting makes me want to use them towards Germany but I am obviously not as skilled as you on finding this sweet spots. Any suggestions please?

  16. I’m confused as to why when flying from Ecuador to the US on American metal, the British Airways avios taxes are almost twice as much as if you booked with American miles. For example:

    11/15/15 GYE->MIA 7:55am-12:24pm
    Booking with AA miles: 17,500k AA mi + $74.47 taxes pp
    Booking with Avios: 10k avios + $145.63 taxes pp

    Can you explain this? Is it fuel charges, and is there any way to avoid it?

  17. Hi, Scott!
    Great post! Considering AAdvantage from now…
    Just one thing to add to your list: flights within Brazil on TAM have no fuel surcharge either. Just 9euros fee. Maybe out of Brazil there’s no YQ either by government rule.

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