Warning: American trying to impose fuel surcharges on award bookings

Well this is a rather convenient “error.” I’ve made two separate bookings for people on American over the past two days, one for travel on Cathay Pacific and one for travel on Qantas. In both cases when the agent came back with the taxes, they were outrageous. I asked them to provide me with a breakdown, and in both cases they read me the “YQ,” which is the code for a fuel surcharge. I asked them to go talk to the rates desk since fuel surcharges aren’t supposed to be charged by American (except for travel on British Airways), and the issue was promptly resolved.

Anyway, this is a scary precedent and a rather convenient error. American does impose fuel surcharges for travel on British Airways, though not for travel on any of their other partners.

I have to wonder whether this is an honest error, or whether they’re testing the waters to see how people respond when they’re asked to pay these “taxes.” After all, if some people don’t have an issue with it and don’t ask any questions, why not take a bit of extra money from ’em (from American’s perspective)? I’m hoping it’s the former, and it’s fixed soon.

So if you call American to make an award booking and the taxes sound too high, they probably are!


  1. This is very sad news, especially since I won’t be able to book my tickets to Japan on AA until at mid-2011… Hoping against hope for no changes until then.

  2. I’m not sure that I’d go as strong as “Scam,” but they are clearly playing games with the prices and benefits. As you note, specifically asking for a RATE DESK (and documented) evaluation IS worth the trouble and one will usually obtain a lower fare. As is almost always the case, they break even with those who question things and pocket a bit extra with folks accept the first answer. Your professional services are usually worth the modest fees. As the flying markets continue to evolve, I think that they will become far more valuable. So what is this – really? In the end, your services are really nothing more than those of an experienced travel agent – circa 1982-ish. It is mostly the same! The real difference is that clients pay you directly, rather than relying on the historical commissions paid by the airlines. It is a valuable service and one that must be compensated. Since the airlines no longer pay agent commissions(*)and the services are still needed, the only real difference is when and to whom the fees are paid. No matter what your official title, you ARE the travel agent of the early 80s, a very worthy title and profession. The need for your services and the real value of tose services will probaby grow over time, so… (With ) if you don’t get a real job, you may have already found a productive and profitable career! WTF not and I hope that it works for you! -Craig (Cedarglen).

  3. If you read TB, it’s just an error and supposedly there are instructions for agents to correct this.

  4. I saw a fuel surcharge show up on an award ticket I checked on from CDG to ORD and was scratching my head. Didn’t get anything on the direct award flight on AA from ORD to LHR a month ago. I think I’ll be calling.

  5. @ Jason — Are you sure it was a fuel surcharge and not a French luxury tax? If you don’t mind me asking, what were the total/taxes fees?

    @ steven — To clarify, I was talking about using American miles, and not using other miles for travel on American. That being said, I was under the impression that there were no fuel surcharges for travel book on American through British Airways. How much were the surcharges that you paid?

  6. Not totally related but I booked through DL miles an AF flight from YYZ-CDG and I was charged a total of $233USD. I refuse to book AC flights as it would have been close to $600CAD.
    Booked at TK flight through USAirways and only $98USD.
    NRT-FRA-VIE-IST-NRT was also $233USD with USAirways. Both USAir include the $50USD booking fee.

  7. I certainly doubt this was an honest mistake. How many people do not ask for the breakdown of the charges as you did? If you had not, you would have paid and been none the wiser. Its a shame what we have to worry about being messed over by our own U.S. based airlines. Unfortunately it extends way beyond just Airlines. Thanks.

  8. Many thanks for the heads up – much appreciated. Would using BA miles on Cathay Pacific incur any fuel surcharges?

  9. @ ken — Yes they would. Last I booked, fuel surcharges between the US and Asia in first or business class on Cathay Pacific are $300-400 roundtrip.

  10. It just happened to me! thanks Ben I would never realized. I just mentioned to the AAgent $200 is unusual and there should not be fuel, she came back after 20 second and told me the new total about %50

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