Frequent Flyer Programs & Airlines that Waive Fuel Surcharges for Award Flights

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When it comes to redeeming the award miles we have collected, they are inevitable: surcharges, the most prominent one being the fuel surcharge. Many frequent flyer programs not only charge a lot of miles but the surcharges often amounting to several hundred euros also cause stomach aches. And that, even though the actual taxes and fees are usually not very high.

But that need not be! We’ll show you at which mileage programs you don’t have to pay any of the surcharges, which can cost up to many hundreds of euros, as well as ways to avoid them with many other programs, airlines or with departures in certain countries.

Background

Although the surcharges that the airlines include in the total price are often referred to as fuel surcharges, they don’t have much to do with it (anymore). For the airlines, it has simply become an additional source of income, so you can set the flight price nice and low (sometimes only €1 for economy flights).

The surcharges are then aggregated with actual government taxes and airport fees. Most of the time, these surcharges are no longer shown as a fuel surcharge, but instead, e.g. as an international surcharge. That way, they don’t have to justify themselves when kerosene prices fall, and they don’t reduce the surcharge.

Mileage Programs Without Surcharges

Unfortunately, the number of frequent flyer programs that do not levy a surcharge on award bookings is rather low. But there are well-known mileage programs with which quite a lot can be done.

Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada’s frequent flyer program, Aeroplan, does not levy fuel surcharges on award tickets on partner airlines. Accordingly, these are also not applicable to Star Alliance partners such as Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Swiss, which in turn charge high surcharges for mileage tickets via Miles&More.

However, Aeroplan still charges a partner booking fee of CA$39 (~€27) when booking award flights on airlines other than Air Canada.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines’ frequent flyer program, Mileage Plan, doesn’t charge surcharges on award travel bookings with many popular partners, including airlines such as Cathay Pacific and JAL. Significant surcharges are levied on award flights with British Airways.

Avianca LifeMiles

With LifeMiles, Avianca maintains a very popular miles program that repeatedly draws attention to itself with high bonuses. What is most attractive about LifeMiles, however, is that the program does not charge a fuel surcharge on award flight bookings. Lufthansa’s first class is particularly popular. However, like Air Canada’s Aeroplan, LifeMiles also charges a fee of $25 for award bookings with partner airlines.

United Airlines MileagePlus

If you want to save the surcharges completely when booking an award flight, you should also keep an eye on United Airlines’ miles program MileagePlus. Here, no surcharges are levied on any award flights, including Star Alliance partners as well as non-alliance airlines. Only the actual taxes and fees are due in addition to the miles.

When departing from the USA, they charge less than €6 – even in business class:

77,000 miles + €6 for a business class flight from St. Louis to Frankfurt with Lufthansa

SAS EuroBonus

With Scandinavian Airlines’ EuroBonus there is also a frequent flyer program that is particularly popular with status hunters in Europe. But EuroBonus can also be worth a look when redeeming miles if you want to avoid the surcharges. In principle, SAS EuroBonus does not charge any.

There are also no fuel surcharges at SAS EuroBonus

Other Airlines

In addition, there are other candidates in the USA with the frequent flyer programs of JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines, which do not levy any surcharges on award flights. From a European point of view, however, these are rather uninteresting.

These Airlines Do not Charge Any Surcharges

But not only a look at the various mileage programs is worthwhile when it comes to surcharges for award flights. The airlines themselves – as has already been mentioned in some of the sections above – can also waive fuel surcharges independently of the mileage program. The respective alliances include the following airlines:

Star Alliance:

  • Singapore Airlines
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • United Airlines (excluding transatlantic flights)

Oneworld:

  • American Airlines (excluding transatlantic flights)
  • Finnair
  • Qantas (excluding departures from Europe)

SkyTeam:

  • Air Europa
  • Aeromexico
  • Delta Air Lines (only on domestic routes)

These Airlines Charge Small Surcharges

In addition to the airlines that waive the unpopular additional fees entirely, there are also airlines that only charge (very) low fees for award flights.

Star Alliance:

  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Asiana
  • SAS
  • ANA
  • EVA Air
  • Air New Zealand
  • Air Canada

Oneworld:

  • Cathay Pacific
  • Japan Airlines

SkyTeam

  • China Airlines

These Countries Prohibit Fuel Surcharges

And there is another “trick” with which the surcharges can be avoided, especially with one-way bookings. According to forbes.com, there are some countries that prohibit or at least regulate the charging of fuel surcharges:

  • Australia
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • China (on domestic routes)
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Maldives
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Philippines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam

Conclusion

Surcharges are a nuisance for many miles collectors, as they can sometimes reduce the redemption value of the miles that have been painstakingly collected. But as you have now learned, there are quite a few airlines and frequent flyer programs that either do not charge any fuel surcharges at all or only partially.

Of course, each one of those programs is very different, and you don’t always have the flexibility to simply switch between the programs. Especially since you have to consider that the programs sometimes differ greatly when it comes to the most important factor of required miles and points. Either way, it is always worth taking a look at the various mileage programs before booking an award flight.

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