Qantas First Class Bed

YQ is not the name of the next great DJ, it’s the name of the annoying number standing in the way of your dream trip using points. Even on “free” flights, many airlines add “fuel surcharges” which are really just a disingenuous way of extracting some real cash out of passengers cashing in their points. Here’s how to figure out precisely how much damage you’ll be looking at, so you can enjoy the experience to the max.

a city skyline with many lightsNot All

The key tip here is that not all airlines or routes will add surcharges. Certain cities such as Hong Kong and Rio De Janeiro have banned surcharges, meaning you’ll only pay minimal taxes and fees when using points. Seoul, Tokyo and Australian cities are other great contenders. On the other hand, London is the worst offender – with the highest surcharges.

a bed in a planeFinding The Number

Long time readers will know that we adore the ITA Matrix, which can be experienced in a lighter version by using Google Flights. The ITA Matrix displays each and every fee airlines add to each ticket, allowing passengers to find something known as YQ. This annoying abbreviation refers to the fuel surcharge. In short: all you need to do is search the route you’d like to fly, selecting the correct cabin and then finding the YQ. Here’s a visual guide.

a screenshot of a search engineStep One

Point your browser to this website. Next, select “one way” and enter your ideal starting and arriving cities. Be sure to search for the correct cabin too! We’ll try Milan to New York, on Emirates.

a screenshot of a computerStep Two

Ignore the prices found. it doesn’t matter what the cash price is, because the YQ will always be the same, regardless of the ticket price. Click any date and find the airline you’d like to use points on. Oh, and it may take a while to search – it’s powerful stuff.

a screenshot of a computer screenStep Three

Now click the fare. With it pulled up, you’ll see a breakdown of each individual charge. For this particular fare, you’ll see a YQ of €195. In addition, you’ll pay all government taxes and fees listed. So figure on a number somewhere just over €200, in addition to your miles. This works for virtually all airlines, from all cities.

a building with palm treesStep Four

Play around. Sure, you many airlines will show you these figures up front, but others don’t. By playing around, you can find great tricks and select cities to reduce surcharges. For example, starting in Scandinavian cities can significantly reduce these surcharges as well. Use this as a great guide to how much you’ll fork out – in addition to the points.


Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation


  1. Interesting (slightly tangental) point: using your exact departure and arrival information, Milan (all airports) to New York City (all airports) for a one-way Business class seat for 16 January . . .BUT using USD as the currency of choice (simply because I’m an American), the top two results are the same as you picture above — Emirates (EK) and JetBlue (B6).

    EK and B6 codeshare, so it’s exactly the same flight on exactly the same metal, but the JetBlue flight is more money ($2,566 versus $2,573, or €2,871 versus €2,891). But in looking at the fare breakdown, EK’s base ticket price is $2,268.04 with a YQ of $229.80. IN contrast, B6 charges NO fuel surcharges, but the base ticket price goes up to $2,505.00. In this particular case, it’s worth it to me to pay $7 more (far less than €20!) and credit the points to JetBlue.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *