Why British Airways is Now Adding Hundreds of Dollars in Fees to US Airways Redemptions, and How to Fly for Less

Both Dan’s Deals and Lucky note that British Airways has begun collecting fuel surcharges on award tickets issued for travel on US Airways.

Lucky posits that the change is a result of changes to the way US Airways files fares.

US Airways has long embedded fuel surcharges on tickets, meaning that the ticket didn’t show any fuel surcharges (instead they were “built in” to the fare).

This meant that no fuel surcharges were collected on tickets booked using British Airways Avios.

However US Airways has been adding fuel surcharges to their fares for the past few months.

A more likely reason for the change happening now, rather than months ago, is that US Airways is finally collecting fuel surcharges when issuing award tickets for travel on British Airways.

In other words, that British Airways wasn’t collecting fuel surcharges on US Airways flights when US Airways wasn’t collecting them on BA flights. That way the airlines didn’t have to make financial transfers to each other while the partnership glitches were being ironed out. Basically they were being good partners during the transition, and members of both programs benefited.

To be sure, if US Airways hadn’t changed their fare structure then British Airways wouldn’t add fuel surcharges to travel on US Airways.

But the change in US Airways fares is driven by their having joined the joint business venture across the Atlantic with American, British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair back in April.

It’s still possible to use British Airways points for transatlantic travel with little or no fuel surcharges of course:

  • Air Berlin doesn’t file fares for paid travel with fuel surcharges, so there are no fuel surcharges redeeming British Airways points for Air Berlin travel.
  • Aer Lingus fuel surcharges are negligible. And the flights from Boston to Dublin and Shannon are quite short, so the mileage cost is low, too — just 12,500 points each way in economy and 25,000 points each way in business class.
  • When redeeming Iberia Avios for Iberia flights, the fuel surcharges are low. It’s possible to transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia Avios if you have an Iberia account that’s been open 90 days and has earned points in some way (such as transferring 1000 points in from American Express Membership rewards). Transfer BA to Iberia, redeem for Iberia flights, save on fuel surcharges.

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. This is a shame, particularly out of PHL, because coach redemptions on Avios are only 40,000 roundtrip for most European destinations, but Dividend Miles redemptions are 60,000.

    Of course, a lot of the “loss” is more theoretical than actual due to US’s historically poor award availability. When US was still in the Star Alliance, and you could easily pull up their inventory on united.com, if was often the case that there was more award inventory on Lufthansa’s one daily PHL flight than on the two dozen US flights to Europe combined!

  2. So what do you think is the best way to fly to London? Are there relatively inexpensive hops from Dublin to London so you could fly Aer Lingus without fuel surcharges and then a cheap hop to London? Or is there another airline that is a better choice to just go straight there, like Virgin?

  3. and not even one of today’s posts 🙂

    for what it’s worth i wrote it several days ago, knowing i’d have a very long flight during the day with no internet access.

  4. The suggestion to transfer avios to Iberia sounded so reasonable, I decided to see some reviews of Iberia since I don’t know it at all. I must admit all the negative reviews on several sites scared the bejezzus out of me. Is anyone personally familiar with Iberia?

  5. A Whiskey in the jar, topped with mint, sounds very refreshing after a day of sight-seeing in Vegas.

  6. I am new to British Airways and Avios, but not new to US-based frequent flyer miles programs. Recently I decided to use my Avios stockpile to book a flight from Sand Francisco to Tokyo. Most of the flights available are on Japan Airlines (JAL). I noticed immediately that each flight (departure and return) had a significant fee cost to it (more than $250 round trip). When I tried to book the same JAL flight using American Airlines miles the fees were much lower (about $50 round trip).

    I didn’t see fuel surcharges in there. I thought that one avoided BA’s excessive fees by booking on partner airlines, but yet, I am still be charged 5 times more fees on a JAL flight booked with BA Avios than on the same JAL flight booked with AA miles. Can someone explain why this is?

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