Want to receive stories like this every day? Subscribe to our free Deal Alert newsletter!
It's no secret that fuel prices are driving fares upward. Case in point: News that JetBlue has tacked a $35 to $45 fuel surcharge onto its Caribbean flights.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the airline "recently added a $35 fuel surcharge for flights in or out of Puerto Rico and $45 for Caribbean destinations." This is in addition to raising fares 4 percent in the fourth quarter. JetBlue, like all airlines, is expecting a much heftier fuel bill in 2011.
Travelers may not notice the surcharge, however. I did a few sample searches and nowhere was there any mention of the extra $35 or $45 fee—not in the itemized total fare breakdown, or in any of the "more detail" windows. I put in a call to JetBlue to get some more clarity on the implementation of the fee, and will update the story when I hear back.
Here in the U.S., airlines typically pass along the cost of fuel through fare hikes, and fuel surcharges are somewhat less common than they are in, say, Europe. That said, JetBlue's approach may become more common if fuel costs continue to climb. On the one hand, fuel surcharges are preferable to broad fare hikes, because airlines are being honest about what they're doing and why they're doing it. Surcharges also carry a sense of impermanence. The surcharge is tied to a specific circumstance, so obviously the airline will roll back the surcharge when circumstances change. Right?
Either way, this is definitely something for travelers to monitor. As I wrote last week, the steady, upward climb of fuel costs is probably the number one factor that will influence the cost of air travel this year. The higher fuel prices go, the tighter airlines will squeeze your wallets.
**Update: After multiple phone calls, JetBlue sent me the following statement: "Due to the high fuel environment, JetBlue has implemented a one-way fuel surcharge on select Puerto Rico and Caribbean markets."
Well, at least we know the surcharges are one-way.
I'll try to get more information on whether or not the surcharges are included in the base fare. Based on my test searches, I'd say they are.
**Update, part two: JetBlue confirms the surcharge is part of the base fare.