The major reason I’m writing about this fare is because it’s super interesting. With more and more airfare flash sales you can take advantage of, it’s often the case that the fare itself is almost zero and the airline is only making money on ‘fuel surcharges’ — junk fees that make no sense at all in a world of cheap oil.
Some airlines have given up calling them fuel surcharges, the Department of Transportation says if an airline is going to charge separately then the fee has to track the actual cost of fuel. So they just use the phrase “carrier-imposed surcharges,” in other words literally a fee for nothing other than that the fee is charged.
I’ve written in the past that it’s sometimes possible to make fuel surcharges disappear from an airfare.
Usually this involves two different airlines in an itinerary that don’t have interline fuel surcharge agreements so they’d have split revenue on the basis of IATA’s BSP settlement tables. Those tables are country-specific. Some routes, on some airlines, aren’t fully updated correctly in some country BSP tables. So combining two different airlines that don’t have those interline agreements, ticketed correctly, can cause pricing engines not to include fuel surcharges in the price of the ticket.
This is colloquially referred to as a ‘fuel dump’. At one point it might have involved booking an Air Canada ticket to and from Europe on Expedia’s Spanish website, and adding an intra-Saudia Arabia segment at the end of the itinerary that you never intended to fly.
But here we have a super interesting fare because Star Alliance member and United partner Ethiopian Airlines will sell you a deep deep discounted ticket to Dubai without most of its usual fuel surcharges by adding one of its own flights at the end.
Burj Al Arab Hotel
Using multi-city search, look for:
- Washington Dulles – Dubai
- Dubai – Washington Dulles
- Lilongwe – Blantyre
Key things to know about Ethiopian’s TLPRUS fare:
- Travel permitted April 16 through April 30, August 13 through August 31, September 10 through November 30, and January 15 through March 31.
- The fare is valid through March 31 — but is likely to be pulled before then.
- It has a $300 change fee, and is cancellable for $350 – hah!
- 4 day minimum stay, 3 month maximum stay
The fare is $74.50 each way plus taxes and by spending $13.15 for the intra-African segment you drop what’s normally over $500 in fuel surcharges. Since it’s an airline’s own flight causing the issue, it’s known as a ‘self-dump.’
Just in case Ethiopian decides they want to renege on such a deep discount offer, a case of seller’s remorse, I’d awhile after buying tickets before making additional non-refundable travel plans around the fare. (In theory an airline refusing to honor a sale would have to reimburse any out of pocket costs you incurred but there’s not much history with enforcement of that particular DOT statement so I’d still not test it.)
Al Maha Desert Resort
(HT: James F.)