The Other Shoe Drops from Aeroplan: Adding Fuel Surcharges to Most Partner Airline Redemptions

Last week — without notice — Aeroplan began adding fuel surcharges onto award redemptions with several partner airlines.

The next day they adjusted to only adding fuel surcharges onto Lufthansa reward flights.

And now they’ve changed their mind again, and are going to be imposing fuel surcharges on most Star Alliance partner airline awards.

With the increasing cost of fuel, many airlines have started charging fuel surcharges on redemption tickets. All fuel surcharge amounts are applied by Aeroplan on behalf of the ticketing carrier and are passed through directly to the ticketing carrier. Fuel surcharge amounts are determined by each airline and may change from time to time. Aeroplan has applied fuel surcharges for flight rewards on Air Canada since 2004. The fuel surcharge amounts to be applied by Aeroplan for flights on Star Alliance airlines will be the same as those applied by the individual airlines within their own frequent flyer programs.

Fuel surcharges to flight rewards on the following Star Alliance airlines will be effective as of the dates noted below:

November 30th, 2011: Asiana Airlines, Thai Airways International, All Nippon Airways, Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, British Midland Airways
December 14th, 2011: Aegean Airlines, Japan Airlines, TAM Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Portugal airlines
These are in addition to fuel surcharges to flight rewards on Lufthansa that became effective on November 9th 2011 at 7pm.

Members making voluntary changes after the applicable effective date to existing bookings with these airlines will also be subject to the fuel surcharges.

Fuel surcharges to flight rewards on other Star Alliance member airlines not referenced in this notice will come into effect only if those airlines elect to apply them within their own frequent flyer programs.

They say they’re only adding fuel surcharges onto awards on partner airlines whose associated frequent flyer programs impose surcharges on their own members. Which sort of makes no sense, bmi’s Diamond Club imposes fuel surcharges on all partners that have those charges on paid tickets. Meanwhile, Star Alliance programs which don’t add fuel surcharges — like United Mileage Plus, Continental Onepass, US Airways Dividend Miles, SAS EuroBonus — do not add then onto any partner awards.

On the other hand, it doesn’t even seem to explain the decision here — sure, it would be why there’s no fuel surcharges on US Airways flights, United flights, Continental flights, and Scandinavian flights. But it doesn’t explain why Singapore and Swiss are missing from the list, since their associated programs do add fuel surcharges onto award redemptions. Perhaps just an oversight?

Star Alliance carriers also not on the list include Air New Zealand, Air China, Brussels Airlines, EgyptAir, Spanair, and Turkish. Again, it seems like some are simply missing, and could be added later or have simply been left off the list and are being added, there’s no way to know until those surcharges go into effect.

Still, I suppose we can be grateful that they are committing not to add fuel surcharges to travel on airlines whose own frequent flyer programs do not impose them. It isn’t much, it’s just a handful of airlines that allow Aeroplan redemptions without fuel surcharges, but it’s something.

Coming on the heels of Aeroplan’s massive award chart devaluation in July (some of their better awards going up by as much as 46%!), this is a massive blow to the value of the Aeroplan program. They’re quick to point out that the program isn’t keeping the fuel surcharges, they’re passed onto “the ticketing carrier” (rather than naming Air Canada so presumably it’s an attempt to make some people think that that operating carrier requires this or keeps the money which isn’t correct). But the cost to redeem awards — in both miles and money — has gone up substantially. Making Aeroplan uncompetitive with other North American programs.

Taken together, these changes suggest to me that other than actually flying Air Canada for those who will also earn status with the airline, it probably doesn’t make sense to credit any mileage activity to the program that could alternatively be credited to another program.

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. I decided to cancel my Aeroplan Visa and my Aeroplan Amex, and switch to Alaska Airlines Mastercard. As a Canadian, that is my only choice now but it is still better than Aeroplan which is no good anymore as a result of this onslaught.

  2. Just this year I finished my Amex transfers to CO and my SPG to lifetime on AA. I was finally free to move all my spend to Amex and Aeroplan for the fantastic awards you wrote about last year!

  3. I believe there would be a legal challenge if a US carrier did this as it is not a mandatory fee, you cannot claim free tickets and then charge amounts that are generic in nature. These are part of the cost of flying, they rarely vary and certainly don’t go downwards when jet fuel went down… Jet fuel cost less this year than when oil hit $140+ yet YQ was lower then.

    It really does amount to fraud since they are not giving “free” tickets anymore.

  4. @Scot,

    To your point, it would seem that these days Air Canada’s tickets are “freer” than Aeroplan’s…At least with Air Canada, they sometimes offer tickets that consist of $100 fare, for example, and $300 in other charges….Aeroplan’s on the other hand, costs thousands of miles + hundreds in charges…..

    I hope Aeroplan gets what it has coming to it somehow.

  5. @Scott

    Why only if a US carrier did this? In theory couldn’t someone file suit against Aeroplan regarding this matter

  6. I think all the ff program language these days says you’re earning an “award ticket” — not a “free ticket.”

    Of course, there would be “revolution” if a USA airline tried this. It would also kill the Golden Goose for the airlines: few people are going to get excited about collecting ff miles if an award ticket to Europe cost $600.

  7. “But it doesn’t explain why Singapore and Swiss are missing from the list, since their associated programs do add fuel surcharges onto award redemptions.”
    Oh, stop giving them ideas! 🙂

  8. @Scott American adds fuel surcharges to awards on British Airways. Delta adds fuel surcharges to many partners, e.g. V Australia, Malaysian, many ex-Europe departures.

  9. Gary,

    I think you’re right that these guys are trying to “trick” their customer base into thinking that the fuel surcharges are passed onto the *operating* carrier. Because, um, well, if they wanted to be clear, they would have just said “Air Canada.”

  10. But only Aeroplan has the nerve to add a fuel surcharge that can exceed the fuel cost per seat. Their fuel cost is 5c/seat/mile (check their financials 2011Q3), and on Halifax-London return, the fuel surcharge exceeds that

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