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On September 22nd, 2018 Hong Kong made quite an impact on “the points and miles game”. For many years, Hong Kong remained one of the few major international cities to ban fuel surcharges, which allow airlines to add substantial cash cost to “free flights” using points. In essence, these surcharges allow airlines to say “your points are no longer enough, we’d like actual cash too”. In the September announcement, governing bodies paved the way for airlines to reintroduce fuel surcharges, and a recent report suggests more than 50% have already added them…

The Story

Fuel surcharges suck. These lazy surcharges are added to all paid airline tickets, but only levied by some airlines when you use points and miles. Surcharges vary from $20 to $750 one way. Yes, even when you use miles, some airlines actually charge $750 to fly. That’s just nuts. Hong Kong and Rio De Janeiro have historically been two great cities for using points, since these unfriendly surcharges, which by all weights and measures don’t actually have anything to do with fuel were banned. According to the South China Morning Post, 50% of airlines flying out of Hong Kong have reinstated these fuel charges, which can effect all airline tickets

The Change

In short, if you’re a flyer of Lufthansa, British Airways or another loyalty program who’s been accustomed to paying over $300+ one way for a long haul ticket when cashing in points, these cities represented options where you could fly for your points and about $25 instead. Yep – leave Frankfurt in First Class, pay €300, but originate from Hong Kong, and you pay a mere fraction of the cost. Since September, it’s reported that roughly 50% of airlines flying out of Hong Kong have reintroduced these fuel surcharges including Garuda Indonesia, Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. British Airways, nor Qantas have reintroduced fuel surcharges, yet.

The Advice

What does all this mean? If your preferred loyalty program has not yet reintroduced silly fuel surcharges, try to book sooner than later. Many experts would agree opting not to charge these additional fees is a competitive advantage, especially in loyalty, but it’s hard to imagine an airline actually staying that way. Using cash or points to reach Hong Kong and start a new reservation from Hong Kong is one of the shrewdest ways to typically use points, so if you can book a great flight without the added cash expense, get to it – like now…

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