New Fuel Surcharges for AAdvantage Awards? Not!

This week, the travel blogosphere was abuzz with news that American had—overnight and with no advance notice—begun collecting fuel surcharges for AAdvantage award tickets issued for travel on other airlines. And indeed, there were screenshots of AAdvantage award bookings showing fuel surcharges where none had previously existed.

Here's American's official statement on the matter:

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Last night, in a routine effort to better align American to industry standards with other global carriers, American began collecting carrier-imposed surcharges on tickets for travel on other carriers' metal. This change was intended for revenue tickets only, but the surcharge was erroneously added to AAdvantage award redemptions on other airlines as well. Except in the cases of British Airways and Iberia, where American currently collects these surcharges, no carrier-imposed surcharges will be applied when redeeming AAdvantage miles for award travel on other carriers. Any customers who encountered this fee in error will be fully refunded. We apologize for the inconvenience.

So AAdvantage members can breathe a collective sigh of relief. It was all a big mistake. And a scary one.

Fuel surcharges are among the reasons that the airline industry enjoys such low esteem among consumers.

What other industries add an extra charge for something that can't be separated from the core product? It's as though Ford charged $20,000 for a new Escape, and added a $1,000 surcharge for the steering wheel. And oh, by the way, you can't buy an Escape unless you also purchase the steering wheel.

Fuel surcharges are fundamentally dishonest.

And they're especially egregious when imposed on frequent-flyer award tickets. The value of coach awards in particular is undermined when the cost of the fuel surcharge rises, as it often does, to almost half the price of a comparable paid ticket.

Unfortunately, fuel surcharges have become a standard feature of the travel landscape, especially among foreign carriers.

Reader Reality Check

What's your take on fuel surcharges?

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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