A Trick To Knock 67% Off British Airways Award Fuel Surcharges Right Now

British Airways makes a lot of business class award space available, but they’re expensive. Departures from the U.K. incur significant ‘air passenger duty’ sometimes called the premium cabin departure tax. And awards also incur fuel surcharges. A roundtrip business class award between the U.S. and U.K. might run $1300 in taxes and fees.

That’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re trying to redeem your miles for a ‘free’ ticket. On the other hand, you might think of it as a non-mileage earning coach ticket and spending miles for an upgrade.

British Airways Airbus A350 Business Class, Credit: British Airways

British Airways surcharges are a huge problem for American Airlines AAdvantage. British Airways is their primary transatlantic partner. If you’re looking to go to Europe on miles and in a premium cabin, saver awards have traditionally meant traveling on BA.

Right now though there seems to be a quirk booking awards on British Airways that you can exploit to reduce fuel surcharges (or ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’) by about two-thirds.

If you look to spend Alaska Airlines miles between the U.S. and London you’ll see the normal one-way cost of an award. Taxes and fees are $737, of which $700 are surcharges, as I’d expect.

However American AAdvantage has been adding lower surcharges on BA redemptions lately. Flying U.S. to London will run about $289, with just $250 in surcharges. The surcharges are 64% lower.

Clearly you’d want to book a British Airways business class U.S. to London award using American miles, not Alaska miles.

But wait. It gets stranger. Let’s look at the return, London back to the U.S., and we’ll the opposite is happening. This time Alaska wants just a $79 surcharge, for the trip Westbound:

And now American Airlines wants bigger surcharges – $262. Booking in this direction using Alaska miles gets you surcharges that are 70% less.

Whether you book with American or Alaska miles for a roundtrip, total surcharges are lower than they’ve been. However it’s much more advantageous to book Alaska miles one way and American miles the other.

Right now you’re going to want to check BA award costs across different programs, because priced out separately there’s significant savings available.

It’s unclear how long this situation will last so if you’re considering award redemption on British Airways now might be a good time to pull the trigger.

(HT: Scott G.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting. But if you book this I would imagine BA or the originating program could come back to you and cancel or demand the correct surcharge. Is it really any different than a mistake fare?

  2. AA sells one-way award flights all the time. I do not see any problems with ticketing the trip as two one way tickets. The main question is why to this at all as right now AA metal is generally available.

  3. Unfortunately it seems to only work to or from LON so even if you save the surcharge on AS going west you pay the absurd departure tax. If you connect from elsewhere in Europe, you pay the surcharge. So either way it adds about $300 in charges.

    AA has been limiting the surcharge East bound to LON but not connecting for about 9 months. I booked one last December. It is surprising no blogs picked up on it. My guess is that it may not last very long now.

  4. Just a small point:

    “Departures from the U.K. incur significant ‘air passenger duty’”

    Not Scotland, though. So, if you’re connecting THROUGH London, there’s no APD

    I’m not entirely sure how reliable BA’s IT is, though, so best to check

  5. New rule has (insert postal code here) residents shocked when reducing fuel surcharges with one weird trick.

  6. My question is why in the hell would anyone pay that much to “use miles” on BA? Outside of flight availability they have a mediocre (at best) product and paying over $1000 r/t when you redeem over 100,000 miles is too painful for me to consider. I’d either fly another airline or just buy the damn ticket and get the miles instead of using an award. Can’t imagine many scenarios where the value works when you pay over $1000 plus use points for a ticket

  7. The Brain — Yep, huge fuel surcharges (even at these “tricked” rates) for pretty much the worst business class in the sky to Europe and all for the privilege of also having to pay hundreds of dollars to reserve a seat if you don’t one world sapphire or better status. The only reason to do it is for convenience and to avoid a USA connection if you’re in a city that doesn’t have many other options to Europe direct but has a BA flight. Austin, Phoenix, maybe SJC if you don’t want to go to SFO. Maybe BNA I guess.

  8. Panda Mick – According to aa.com APD is still charged for the flights originating in Edinburgh (EDI), presumably, because Scotland is still a part of UK.

    $3.96 USD
    $5.89 USD
    $7.00 USD
    $68.00 USD
    $230.40 USD
    $315.25 per person

  9. I guess it’s a different proposition for west coast people, but thinking about burning 60k alaska miles for a 6-7 hour TATL flight NYC-LON when 55k can get you to Australia or Asia is just crazy to me.

  10. @Panda Mick, not quite.

    The only Scottish airport that *doesn’t* have Air Passenger duty is Inverness. All other Scottish airports would incur full APD (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen etc..) like the rest of the UK.

    Alex_77W if you try that itinerary with INV (Inverness) you will see no APD applied (unlike EDI)

  11. This has been fixed on the AA side. Award tickets ex-US now showing Taxes + Fees in excess of $700

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