American AAdvantage Fuel Surcharge and Oneworld Addition Speculation

JonNYC is speculating (and such speculations usually pan out) that American AAdvantage will begin adding fuel surcharges to awards on another partner imminently.

Currently they add fuel surcharges onto awards booked on British Airways. A London roundtrip might add $850 cash cost in addition to taxes. A South Africa roundtrip from the US might add $1450.

American began adding these fuel surcharges with the advent of their joint business venture. Previously AAdvantage members could not book awards between the US and London on British Airways (but could between Canada and the Caribbean and London, as well as between London and the rest of the world) but with no fuel surcharges. The US transatlantic restriction was lifted, but these cash surcharges were added to all BA awards.

And they began adding much more modest surcharges to awards on Iberia earlier this year.

Speculation is of surcharges on Cathay Pacific or Qantas.

Currently only United and US Airways do not add fuel surcharges to any awards. Delta even recently began adding them to awards on Skyteam partner Korean Airlines. They add such fees to China Southern awards and to Virgin Australia awards and Malaysian awards, as well as to awards originating in Europe (under the nomenclature of an international origination fee).

Ironically enough, international carriers have been heading the opposite direction, likely having gone too far with these fees — the programs themselves are profitable as it is, the point at which long-term loyalty and profitability is determined is when members redeem and an unsatisfying redemption experience undermines that value proposition. So British Airways reduced fuel surcharges on intra-Europe awards for folks with active accounts, Air France KLM Flying Blue has done the same (though significantly increasing the mileage cost of intra-European business class, with increases in transatlantic award pricing expected to come as well).

Meanwhile, will oneworld get a Middle East partner? Lots of speculation around three different possibilities: Etihad partners with American, and has taken a stake in new Oneworld airline Air Berlin. Qatar and United have severed ties, and has been the subject of oneworld speculation. Qantas is expected to enter into a codesharing deal with Emirates which would also switch some Sydney – London flying from Singapore connections to transfers in Dubai.

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, 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. “Meanwhile, will oneworld get a Middle East partner?”

    The already have one – Royal Jordanian (RJ) More would be welcome

  2. Gary, the link you provide is for a post from May, and I can’t find anything more recent on this. Have another link?

    You’re scaring me here!

  3. The fuel charges are just a revenue stream. They know it cost something like 5.5 gallons per hour at something like $5 or so per gallon. So they don’t want anyone taking a free ride even if theyve flown thousands of miles to earn the awards. It just devalues those frequent flyer programs in my opinion.

  4. @Lucky – it looks like JonNYC has deleted his posts on the subject. He had indicated there was lots of stuff flying around over the last week about an imminent addition of YQ to another partner, his first post guessed at CX and then he came back to say it could be QF. Now the posts are gone.

  5. To add to the fuel surcharge chatter: there has been word that AF want DL to include fuel surcharges on DL awards flown on AF metal. Not nice. To DL’s credit, nothing implemented yet…but who knows how it will get resolved. I’m unsure if the recent withdrawal of AF O space is, in part, the result of this Skyteam lovers’ tiff.

  6. Yep, does look like he retracted info. Sounds like it was just some ideas or something that is not inevitable QUITE yet, and knowing that this hit a blog he didn’t want to hear about it since he doesn’t like to start rumors, yet.

  7. If Qantas, well those seats are impossible to get anyway. If Cathay, that would hurt as is my favorite redemption. Does cx charge fuel surcharges to their own members on awards?

    Also, who gets the yq revenue when AA issues an award on BA? Would it be different if it was not a joint venture partner?

  8. @Gary

    @mark – not a blogger, it was a link to a forum, and I do not know what happened

    No screenprint?

  9. I can deal with some nominal amount of fuel surcharges (BA’s $400 pp/rt on my CX redemption seems acceptable) but what BA charges for trans-atlantic flying on their own metal simply isn’t.

    This game is fun to play when you can get premium seating for less cash than a coach ticket. This game isn’t so much fun when fuel surcharges on premium tickets cost as much as a coach ticket in the 2012 fare environment.

  10. Gary,

    Any thoughts on best course of action when BA site shows CX F availability for a particular flight and several calls to AA fails to find the same? I’ve tried having them look up segment by segment(ironically, the JFK-HKG segment had no availbility for either of two days, but when I asked for the full JFK-KUL, the returned suggestion was though…HKG), I’ve tried mentioning that BA shows availability and your post a while back quoted the OW spokesman noting that all OW partners should have access to the same availability, and I’ve tried waiting overnight to see if either BA or AA system updated. All to no avail. Suggestions warmly welcomed!

  11. @Mile – usually the problem is the reverse — folks call up American and ask for JFK – Kuala Lumpur and are told nothing is available, even though JFK-Hong Kong and Hong Kong – Kuala Lumpur are available separately. So when you ask the agent to search just JFK – Hong Kong they find the availability, and then ask, “Oh, great! Now that we managed to get to Hong Kong, would you check to see if it’s possible to find a flight to Kuala Lumpur from there?”

    Another problem is that some agents just don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve seen availability for a segment that it’s taken 5-6 calls to get an American agent to also see.

    But in this case you have JFK-HKG-KUL with availability but the agent not seeing JFK-HKG. In that case I can suggest only the hang up call back strategy. Don’t ever try to fight or even educate that they have access to the same inventory that British Airways does. Although honestly before being sure of myself I would also confirm that the Japan Airlines site shows the availability, rather than relying on the BA site not to be experiencing a glitch.

  12. Hadn’t thought to check the JAL site, thanks! Tried the Twitter approach; they said the AAdvantage expert will be in tomorrow and will get back to me (after confirming earlier that indeed, all availability should be the same). Thanks again!

  13. Indeed JAL shows as available. Never used that site before, very cool that it shows the number of seats available as well. Great tool to have.

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