Last updated: 11:42 AM ET, Wed September 07 2016

Airlines Get Creative In 'Post-Fuel Surcharge' Era

Airlines & Airports | Gabe Zaldivar | September 07, 2016

Airlines Get Creative In 'Post-Fuel Surcharge' Era

Photo courtesy Thinkstock

There is good news for those who hate paying fuel surcharges. Oh, you will continue to pay an additional fee, but according to one report, you don’t have to call it a fuel surcharge.

We understand if those joyous feelings you felt at the start of this article dissipated by the second sentence.

View From the Wing’s Gary Leff reports there has been something of an evolution when it comes to pricing semantics offered by various airlines.

In simple terms, the reduction in fuel price means a great many travelers aren’t mandated to pay a fuel surcharge when flying, but when a company gets used to the warm and toasty feelings that come with garnering a surcharge they tend to figure out creative ways in maintaining the revenue stream.

Leff writes: “A dozen years ago airlines introduced fuel surcharges but with fuel half off its high, and with governments regularly taking the position that a fuel surcharge must approximate the actual cost of fuel, airlines have simply renamed the fee.”

You have to love the beauty and simplicity with this particular ploy. As Ron Burgundy once said, “I’m not even mad; that’s amazing.”

Back in January 2015, TravelPulse’s Rich Thomaselli reported on what was a growing trend in the industry as Virgin Australia, Qantas and AirAsia dropped the fuel surcharge. By the next year more airlines had followed in line, which included the likes of ANA and JAL.

Now, instead of a reduction on the overall price of an airline ticket, Leff sees airlines evolving the fuel surcharge into another fee rather than lose out on something travelers were already willing to pay.

Thankfully, this doesn’t affect the entire market. Unfortunately, the report signals that it will most assuredly show up on line items for so many of you: “But fuel surcharges are something many airlines use to scam their frequent flyers. Since the idea of some programs is that miles cover the base fare only, moving part of the fare out and calling it a surcharge lets them charge a high fee for the privilege of redeeming miles.”

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As Leff notes, Qantas – which you will note is one of the airlines listed above – is an airline that adds a surcharge for its frequent flyers.

Many of you will see things like “carrier-imposed surcharges.” This is kind of like going to the baker and seeing a line that says “baker-imposed fee.” It’s there because the baker wants it there and knows that you want your French loaf so badly that you will pay it.

So, celebrate the death of fuel surcharges if you'd like. Just don’t celebrate by buying expensive champagne, because you still have other fees to pay.


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