A fuel surcharge appears in the fine print of your ticket in a place you’ve probably never glanced at before, signified by the abbreviation YQ. If you travel internationally, there’s a tremendous chance that a very hefty portion, actually, let’s just say “most” of your ticket, is comprised of these “fuel surcharges” designated by the symbol YQ; and only a small portion is actually made up of the airfare. Sure, everyone should chip in for fuel, but that’s not what this is about, in fact, in actuality, they have absolutely nothing to do with fuel. For that reason they sneakily now call them “carrier imposed surcharges”, because even the airlines know they are borderline bogus…
Is the whole thing bogus? That’s debatable. Are the number inflated, given current fuel costs and increasingly full planes, definitely. This summer my sister took advantage of a great deal to Europe to attend my wedding. The trip ended up coinciding with a work function, and after purchasing the ticket, she wished to seek a refund. Minus the change fee, which by the way was a jaw dropping $500 she still had around $600 on the table from the $1,100 ticket. Naturally she was expecting around $600 back. After a quick call with the airline she was informed that she would be getting roughly $100 back. Why?
Many airlines, including British Airways, with whom the ticket was booked, do not refund fuel surcharges, only base fare. In my sisters case she had snagged a business deal where the ticket was $1,100 with roughly $500 being fuel surcharges and only $100 being the actual fare. So… when British Airways calculated her refund they took their $500 cancellation fee, the fuel surcharges of $500 and gave her a round $100 back. Wow. It gets worse! As many of you sadly know, quite a few airlines not only tag these questionable surcharges onto paid tickets, but they also rope them onto “free tickets” you earned from collecting hundreds of thousands of miles. So not only do you require more miles than ever with most airlines, you also will end up paying hundreds for that free seat. The best way to use miles is to avoid airline currencies and seats that incur egregious surcharges.
So by now the real questions are the HOW? Why? Can they get away with this? Unfortunately, yes. There is so much discretion given to the airlines to tabulate these charges, especially since many refer to them as mythical “carrier imposed surcharges”. One airline will argue they offset fuel costs, which by the way are at record lows, less than a quarter of the price of when the surcharges were created, others will say labor costs, air traffic control. At the end of the day it’s mostly all complete bollocks. Demand better.
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