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Delta imposes fuel surcharge for award tickets

With the recent proliferation of new and higher fees, travelers could be forgiven for thinking that the airlines had exhausted every opportunity to "enhance" revenue with fees for this, that, and ... well, for everything. But no!

Delta today announced yet another fee, in the process establishing a new category of fee altogether: fuel surcharges for frequent flyer award tickets.

Beginning on August 15, members of Delta's SkyMiles program will be assessed fuel surcharges of $25 for domestic award tickets (including Canada) and $50 for international tickets.

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Yet another airline gouge, disingenuously rationalized as an offset to sky-high fuel costs?

Quite the contrary. Whereas the recently imposed fees for checked bags and soft drinks and so on are effectively eternal—in other words, they will almost certainly persist even after fuel prices subside—the Delta surcharge really is keyed to the airline's fuel costs. And if Delta is true to its word, and to the spirit of a surcharge linked to a specific variable cost, consumers can expect that the fees will be reduced or eliminated if fuel prices ease.

As Jeff Robertson, managing director of SkyMiles, explained in an email, "It's intended to be temporary, intended to directly offset exactly what we are charging extra for (fuel cost increases), and we do really hope that fuel subsides and it goes away."

While no one relishes paying more, everyone understands that fuel prices have risen to historic highs, and that the pain of those higher costs ultimately must be borne by the traveling public. Fuel surcharges, assuming they are reasonable and temporary, are a straightforward and transparent way of responding to fuel spikes. It's the sort of honest, rational response consumers expect and deserve.

So far, only Delta has delivered.

Editor's note: Our sister site, Airfarewatchdog.com, is also covering the new fees for frequent flyer award redemptions, including some details on US Airways' program.

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