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:

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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

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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

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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…

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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.

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

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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

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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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