Clarification From American: Fuel Surcharges & Award Chart Changes

Today I wrote about two potentially big changes involving US Airways miles:

The first post was about some US Airways agents apparently adding fuel surcharges for award travel on airlines other than British Airways and Iberia (which US Airways announced they would be imposing fuel surcharges on from the very beginning). I speculated it was agent error and that this in fact wasn’t intentional.

The second post involved US Airways updating their award charts to raise the cost of three cabin first class within North America, which would have been the second time in a bit over a month that they changed award rates without notice.

Anyway, I had a chance to speak to American’s Director of Corporate Communications tonight, and have a couple of quick updates:

Is US Airways imposing fuel surcharges for award travel on most oneworld carriers?

American is not imposing fuel surcharges for award travel on carriers other than British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair. I wasn’t aware they were imposing fuel surcharges on Finnair, though that’s not of all that much concern to me, and at the same time isn’t all that surprising given that they’re part of the same transatlantic joint venture.

A lot of people that told me they were being charged fuel surcharges for travel on other carriers referenced a memo that went out last week, which it would seem a lot of agents misinterpreted. The memo apparently said in part that the rates agents were supposed to delete fuel surcharges from award tickets on many of the other oneworld carriers (since they’d automatically appear in their systems), which may have been where the confusion originated. But it’s official that when redeeming Dividend Miles for travel on oneworld, you should only be paying fuel surcharges for British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair.

Did US Airways change their Dividend Miles award rates?

As it turns out the updated oneworld award chart on US Airways’ website was an error, and the award chart should be updated shortly. There’s no doubt that it was a really inconvenient error, but I do believe implementing it now was a legitimate error. The reservations system apparently never updated the pricing, which was reflected on usairways.com, as they were still charging 50,000 miles roundtrip for three cabin first class within the US.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the error wasn’t totally random in that the new price wasn’t pulled out of thin air (it’s the same rate American charges). And I would guess that at some point US Airways will update the pricing to that level (at best), which I’d be totally fine with as long as they provide some advance notice.

I do think our feedback has been taken into account

But actually the feeling I walked away with after this conversation more than any I’ve had with the airline in a while is that they actually heard our feedback the last go around and are taking it into account.

That’s not to say they won’t ever make another change without notice, but I did get the genuine sense that communicating changes to members would be a priority going forward. So I’m actually cautiously optimistic in that regard…

Comments

  1. @ Carlos — I spoke to American’s Director of Corporate Communications, who can clarify things on both the American and US Airways side.

  2. My two cents are telling me that these two things that happened in the past few days weren’t just simple errors. I see it quite likely that they saw the reactions from us (again) on the effects of making changes without notice and quickly reversed their decisions (at least for now)

  3. @ lucky – tks for the info, but unfortunately I simply can’t trust American after the crap they pulled last month, then tried to BS their way out of it without really addressing the underlying issue. Fool me once, shame on them. Fool me twice….. šŸ™‚

    @ Jonathan – completely agree

  4. I believe they’ve signaled with these “error” changes and previously that they don’t necessarily consider “program alignment” to be a devaluation worthy of of warning. While that may make it slightly more justifiable, it’s still not a good sign…

  5. While I don’t agree with how horrible United slashed some award rates, I respect them for giving us VERY advanced notice. In this way, we were able to get more value out of our miles before the devaluation. Not so with U.S. Air/American. I’m in the process of liquidating my miles with them, just like I did with United.

  6. @ Lucky – thank you for getting to the bottom of this! How flexible are US domestic redemption rules – can I do something not-entirely-direct šŸ˜‰ like IAH/DFW to LAX/SFO to JFK to YVR? And don’t think stopovers are allowed technically within one region, but is that enforced?

  7. @pointie I get that you are upset. Why are you liquidating miles just like you did with United? Are you out of the miles game? I understand keeping your balances low but liquidating? Too many opportunities.

  8. Optimistic they’ll communicate devaluations better? Methinks you’re setting yourself up for predictable disappointment.

  9. The moral of the story is if US Airways dba AA is doing a 100% bonus miles promotion, watch out.

  10. @ Ivan Y — All depends on the agent you get, though in general it’s unlikely to get a stopover on a domestic US award. Also think you’d have a hard time with a routing that’s too circuitous, given that most US Airways agents are fairly familiar with US geography, even if they’re not too familiar with non-US geography.

  11. Seems to me that the real problem is the fuel surcharges not the program. I blame BA for that. I don’t think most people would blame them for some reasonable fuel charges (enough to cover costs) but they just want it as a revenue stream. It seems to be the real sticking point for most BA and OW customers. Iberia and Finnair just follow along. This also ruins the BA companion ticket program.

    I also think that “some” US flyers may be seeing fuel surcharges on flights they book on awards to London that are actually codeshare or assigned to BA flights when they try to book. And it also sounds like there are mistakes being made on US metal as well.

    Bottom line to me is charge me for fuel ($200-$300 if needed) but don’t charge me for “fuel/revenue” on an award ($900-$1200).

  12. It’s okay for US to charge YQ on AY? Why? AA never did it even though it was part of the same TATL JV.

    You guys are just lame powerless and spineless mouthpieces for the airlines. Because you know that if you point out the eroding value to your readers your commissions and award booking fees will go down as people start getting out of the mileage game and going to cashback (an increasingly wise choice).

  13. @Grow a pair – “You guys are just lame powerless and spineless mouthpieces for the airlines.”

    Why? Because he’s not carrying a pitchfork like you want him to?

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