British Airways Massively Increases “Fuel Surcharges” For US Flights

British Airways is known for their pesky “carrier imposed surcharges,” often referred to as fuel surcharges.

When it comes to revenue tickets there aren’t many implications to these. In some cases a majority of the cost of a ticket will be carrier imposed surcharges, but that shouldn’t impact the final price, since they’d charge what they’re going to charge either way.

The biggest impact of these surcharges is on award tickets. That’s because regardless of what frequent flyer program you book through, travel on British Airways will be subjected to the same carrier imposed surcharges that British Airways will charge on a revenue ticket.

In late September, Tiffany wrote about how Lufthansa quietly increased carrier imposed surcharges. Carrier imposed surcharges on a roundtrip Lufthansa first or business class ticket between the US and Europe increased from around $800 to around $1,300. Ouch!

Now British Airways has increased surcharges from the US

In the past week or so, British Airways has increased carrier imposed surcharges for travel originating in the US, and these changes are rough.

Note that there are several factors that impact carrier imposed surcharges:

  • What country/city you’re originating travel in
  • What cabin you’re traveling in
  • What your final destination is (surcharges are different if traveling to London vs. other points in Europe, for example)

Historically, British Airways has charged around $800 in carrier imposed surcharges for roundtrip first and business class award tickets from the US to Europe. That’s an estimate as it did vary, but as a general rule of thumb the surcharges were the same if traveling first or business class.

Note that this doesn’t include the UK Air Passenger Duty, which applies if you have any travel originating in the UK (rather than just connecting there).

It looks like British Airways has greatly increased these fees.

For example, in the past a roundtrip business or first class ticket from the US to UK would cost you around $1,200-1,300 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges.

In business class those surcharges have increased by about $150 roundtrip, as a roundtrip business class ticket from Boston to London will now cost you $1,433.42 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges.

Even worse is that surcharges have been increased for first class, and they’re no longer the same as in business class. Want to book the same route in first class? That will set you back an outrageous $1,833.42.

What’s going on here? It appears that the carrier imposed surcharges for a roundtrip business class ticket from the US to London are now $1,106.

Meanwhile for first class they come out to $1,506, which is an extra $400 roundtrip.

One workaround to avoiding some of these surcharges

It looks like these changes only apply to travel originating in the US, or more accurately, don’t apply to travel originating in the UK (there may be other regions where they’ve increased them as well — I’m not sure). I guess British Airways doesn’t want to annoy UK-based flyers anymore, so this is a special treat for us. 😉

There is a way to save some money on these fees, at least. That’s by instead booking award tickets as one-ways, since you’ll pay half of the higher cost for the eastbound flight, and then you’ll pay the UK pricing on the westbound flight.

For example, take the same flight from Boston to London in first class. A one-way first class award will cost $781.40 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges.

Then the return will cost you “just” $528.31.

That’s a total of $1,309.71, which is over $500 less than the $1833.42 you’d pay if booking those flights as a roundtrip.

Not only are the surcharges generally lower if booking as two one-ways, but they still charge the same surcharges for business and first class when departing the UK, unlike when departing the US.

Bottom line

This is of course an awful development, and these surcharges are downright ridiculous. $1,800+ in fees for a short transatlantic flight in first class? That’s crazy.

The good news is that there are plenty of great ways to redeem Avios without paying big fees. And the truth is that those are my preferred ways to redeem Avios anyway. So I don’t consider this to be that huge of a deal personally, because I rarely redeem for British Airways transatlantic. However, I know others feel differently.

What do you make of these changes in British Airways surcharges?

(Tip of the hat to @saianel)

Comments

  1. They must have given to campaign coffers of Republican congressmen so they know Congress will not do anything to stop fleecing of Americans.

  2. @ Ben — So the Chase BA VISA travel together thing is now even more worthless. Scratchy rather than fluffy toilet paper now.

  3. Well, someone needs to pay for the 2×1. BAEC is not gonna pay for it, neither BA. Guess only us. The problem is though, as long as people are willing to pay these surcharges…

  4. Tried a a booking from London to New York return in Business and the charges are 745 USD, if I make the same booking from Gothenburg Sweden to New York with the same flights across the Atlantic the charges comes to 476 USD so seems UK fliers are still a bit worse off than some European origins.

    I guess the difference has to do with the UK departure tax

  5. just book via Iberia. SFO-LHR-FRA i just found for 164,- EUR taxes and 89000 iberia Avios. SFO-LHR in First! 🙂

  6. This is why JetBlue has an excellent opportunity on TATL if they do it right(provided they actually do it since the management team is insanely slow when it comes to actual growth)

  7. Honestly, my last few TATL flights I just paid for the ticket outright… all of them right around the $2k mark and you earn 15,000+ miles between Amex plat and the carrier, so that sorta takes the sting off the price. Very much looking forward to new A321LR’s arriving at JetBlue and La Compagnie. Lots more lie-flat competition coming BA, get that cash while you still can…

  8. Goddamnit, I’ve been too busy to book two reward flights to the US that I needed to make. Now I pretty much don’t want to.

  9. Avios remain useful, but not on BA metal, especially long haul.

    One of the premises of FF programs is that carriers unload only those seats they do not anticipate selling. With that in mind, when will the market just stop relieving BA of those unused seats, forcing BA to reconsider this madness?

  10. Once again, the worst thing about AA is it’s joint venture with BA. I’m oddly hoping that a “no deal” Brexit (and as March 29, 2019 approaches no deal is a possibility) occurs, ending the EU open skies arrangement with the U.K., grounding UK flights to EU countries. If BA can’t fly to EU countries, the they aren’t much good as a partner for AA. Not sure that would occur but I keep hearing rumors of such in Europe.

    Hoping @Lucky or @James or someone will provide insight on how this will sort out next year under the “no deal” Brexit scenario.

  11. I am glad I dumped all my ba miles for hotel stay. 15 day in hkt was worth it. not so trying to fly ba

  12. So do these fees not apply if booking BA with American miles or another program? I’m typically star alliance so not used to BA’s fuel surcharges.

    I can’t fathom who is paying $1500 after also using so many miles for business or first class. Makes United’s annoying fare class requirements to use GPU’s seem reasonable…

  13. This isn’t just about BA, Ben – AA will pass on the same fuel surcharges to booking BA metal with AAdvantage miles. And since AA releases so little space on their own metal, a lot of people with AA miles end up booking BA. I know I have

  14. This happened a while ago, at least for some. I booked BOS->CPT in August for Jul 2019, and paid $1500pp fees for First.

  15. $1,218 dollars round trip on BA booked through Alaska in First to LHR form Cali just last week
    including in that amount is 24 dollars in partner fees which Alaska charges 🙁

  16. I have a hard time justifying this $1800 surcharge while i can purchase a ton of Lifemiles during promotion and fly LH to Europe. And best of all, i don’t have to deal with the condescending tone from BA’s staff as well as their inedible food.

  17. Good. People who are so unintelligent as to waste miles on BA’s laughable First and Club World products should pay more!

  18. Lucky,

    I bought 250,000 AA miles when they had their best cent per mile offer and used the Amex Platinum… I needed some extra miles anyway, so it was a decent deal. The problem is that so much of AA’s European award availability is on BA. paying hundreds or thousands in cash to use AA miles on BA flights is just not worth it. I can get decent value with AA metal redemptions or to Asia, but the vast majority of my international travel is NYC to Europe…

    Looking back on it, I probably should not have bought those AA miles. Totally my fault. However, in the future, when you say buying miles is a deal, make sure you make it clear to readers that devaluations like this can really impact the value of miles, especially when you are spending cash on them (it’s a very different calculation if you are earning miles by flying or via credit card sign ups)

  19. They are just pushing people to pay for the seats and frankly a lot of us end up doing just that and their load factors are very very high.

    You can score BA club world return tickets on TA flights frequently for $2000 or less so paying $1500 in fees insane.

    @Donna it’s funny how OTT your hatred for BA is – get some perspective!

  20. Flights on BA with Avios are better thought of as a cash and miles program. They don’t really have “award” tickets like other airlines because their “free” tickets are hardly close to free.

  21. @Donna

    Oh you made me laugh! Can’t even make these things up!

    Moral of the story – if BA can get away with it, they will do it!

  22. As Frequent Flyer programs become less and less enticing, I wonder if the legacy airlines are starting to see their best customers become somewhat less loyal. What is the point of sticking to a single airline if their rewards are useless? Why not choose whatever flight on whatever airline is most appealing (cheapest/best timing or connections/most comfortable) at time of booking?

  23. It’s a good thing that Avios can be used on other airlines besides BA – I wouldn’t want to actually give them any business or anything, since they’ve made it clear that they’re not really interested in it.

  24. Only fools have been using BA miles for TATL flights.
    So who cares if the fees went up from $1k to $1.5k?
    I’ve used about 500k BA miles for AA domestic flights only.

  25. As others have noted, isn’t this another massive AA devaluation?

    BA makes DL’s FFP look positively generous.

  26. @ Sam — You are a s smart man. I just hope that great deal doesn’t end too soon, although rumor has it that its value will be destroyed in early 2019.

  27. So basically they are devaluing two for one companion tix. Or for the privilege of using two for one voucher, you have to pay additional $1k+ when taking F for two. Will have to rethink about keeping BA Chase… maybe better to reposition oneself to nyc and take Singapore airline to Milan instead… sad day indeed. I don’t mind paying $2300 for two F round trip tix from west coast to lhr plus 180k miles. But paying $3600 plus miles for award tix seem a bit absurd. They are clearly coming after people like me who redeem F tickets using companion voucher. Wonder who will keep BA Chase card after this devaluation?

  28. I’m so glad I stopped accumulating Avios 8 years ago. I can’t get rid of them fast enough.

  29. I looked at using Miles and More, AA and Avios for two trips to Europe next year, and the fees were absurd. Miles and More fees were $1200 per ticket in biz (JFK- ZUR) AA via BA and BA were about the same. Instead I’m using Lifemiles JFK – ZRH in the spring, and Singapore JFK – FRA in the fall. I couldn’t find any Iberia or other OW availability without stupid fees.

    My AA miles will be for Asian flights, Avios I guess I’ll try to use on Iberia to Europe, and MandM on other Star alliance carriers. I’ve also purchased Iceland air saga a couple of times straight up for about $1800. I really dont need lie flat from JFK to Europe, and I’ve had good luck so far on saga.

  30. Do what I do—Avoid them at all costs and fly AA (bad as they are) or any other Oneworld carrier instead.

  31. Do what I do—Avoid them at all costs and fly AA (bad as they are) or any other Oneworld carrier instead.

  32. Raising scam charges from $1200 to $1800 (or more) is no different than the prospect of eating one scoop of poo, or eating two.

    Makes no difference to me, as I wouldn’t eat the first.

  33. The reason both LH and BA have increased ex-US surcharges only is pretty obvious, miles are too easy to obtain in the US relative to other countries and it’s impacting the attractiveness of both of their loyalty programmes to German and UK residents, respectively, who actually pay for tickets rather than earn all of their miles by credit card sign up bonuses. Clearly that’s not something this blog will discuss given it makes a killing from miles being given out like candy in the US. The question is why CX doesn’t do something similar given the lack of availability to the US for its programme members is even more of a problem.

  34. Tom has hit the nail on the head, quite surprised you didn’t consider this angle, Lucky – miles are so drastically easier to earn in the US (both as sign up and ongoing) they have to redress the balance somehow. For comparison the UK last had an Amex MR transfer bonus about 8y ago, we usually only can earn about 1 mile per GBP, the 241 card requires £195 fee and £10k spend, etc.

  35. I have always booked my transatlantic flights using AA miles but flying on BA as one way. Mainly because I booked as soon as the seats were available (11 months in advance) and the return seats weren’t available yet. But I have always been charged the same for fuel surcharges, regardless if the flight originated in the US or EU. So flying LAX-LHR-FCO cost the same as FCO-LHR-LAX. Both were approx $450.

    So are you saying that they only increased the US-EU direction? If that’s the case, I’m sure the other direction will follow because they have been the same before.

  36. @Larry G – I’m sure the BA prices will continue to rise but my understanding is there’s been a differential for US vs EU origins for the flights for quite some time so suspect this will continue – as mentioned above probably to offset the relative availability of miles in each location.

  37. Lufthansa has also increased YQ ex US but doesn’t get any mention. They charge now the very same carrier surcharges as BA but only BA gets singled out as ‘greedy’…

  38. The really astonishing thing for me is just how miserable BA business class is, compared to nearly all their competitors. The seat is incredibly narrow and the two pieces feel so flimsy. The service is meh. I can’t think of any reason you’d ever, ever pay that much in miles+fees to fly that crap.

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