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Fuel dumping, at least among people searching for a deal, is the practice of purchasing a ticket in such a way that fuel surcharges are not added. Paid tickets have three components: base fare, government taxes, and fuel surcharges.

On some tickets, the majority of the price is made up of fuel surcharges, so dumping them from the price makes the ticket far cheaper.

Here’s page 712 of the FlyerTalk thread on the topic if you want to know more.

Two days ago, American Airlines added fuel surcharges to Malaysia Airlines awards. Later that day, American Airlines released a statement saying that said in part:

“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.”

I gave Two Reasons I Don’t Believe the American Airlines Statement about Fuel Surcharges. Because I concluded the statement didn’t make sense, I said the most likely real story was that American meant to add fuel surcharges to awards then backtracked.

I wasn’t sure of my theory, but it was the best I could come up with based on what I knew at the time. New information has come to light though.

On twitter and on that post, the idea was floated that there had been a possible fuel dump by calling American Airlines to book paid Malaysia Airlines travel.

To me, this is now the most likely answer that squares away most of the details.

There was a fuel dump booking Malaysian Airlines flights by calling American Airlines because for whatever reason the fuel surcharges weren’t being added to paid ticket prices. American Airlines found out about it, and wrote a memo instructing fuel surcharges to be collected on Malaysia flights. These surcharges were erroneously collected on awards with Malaysia flights.

This doesn’t tie up all the loose ends. Why did the memo say, per Ben:

“As of August 28 (today) American will be imposing fuel surcharges for award tickets on all carriers… even for international travel on American!”

And why did the AA twitter team handle the situation as they did, seemingly confirming that the fuel surcharges were on purpose?

I can’t explain the memo, but I can assume the twitter team just didn’t have all (or any) of the info, so they got it wrong.

Similar to my old theory, I don’t have 100% confidence in my new theory of what happened with the fuel surcharge fiasco, but this is my new best guess: the fuel surcharges collected on Malaysia Airlines flights were a mistaken overreaction to a fuel-dump loophole that AA was closing.

Do you have a better theory?