Fuel Surcharges on Aeroplan Award Tickets

Aeroplan as many well know implemented fuel surcharges (YQ) a year or so back, which definitely catapulted them into one of the top programs to a mediocre ones. Their award chart is not necessarily stellar either, so it simply sucks the happiness out of your redemption, when you redeem for a RTW only to find $800 in fuel surcharges. Loyalty Lobby has a very good post on why airlines love YQ and basically one of the reasons is that they can make more money from award tickets. Aeroplan’s YQ is supposedly, they are collected “on behalf of the ticketing carrier,” which essentially means it’s going to Air Canada. And of course, it doesn’t convince me (and I’m pretty sure) that in the accounting of all the revenues the money doesn’t actually pay for fuel. That’s of course why the community calls them scamcharges.

I) Fuel-Surcharge Free Airlines

Of course, the best thing you can do with an award is to avoid carriers that avoid fuel surcharges. The following carriers have NO fuel surcharge, listed by class of service (roughly). I have omitted airlines that do not release award space in certain classes (e.g. SQ F). I find this organization for planning awards easier rather than listing by airline because then when you’re planning a trip it’s much easier to see what airlines you need to get to not have YQ. None of the airlines here that consistently release award space (in premium classes) are particularly outstanding (if you compare to ANA, Asiana, Lufthansa, or even Thai). In addition to the list I’ve summarized how I feel about the airlines.

Entered Star Alliance after the two rounds of surcharges that Aeroplan put. I have this theory that Aeroplan will not put surcharges on new airlines until there are lots of bookings. Oh, and I have no justification at all but EVA and Shenzhen Airlines’ entry into Star Alliance would suggest so.

Service to Central and South America – generally not recommended as seats are domestic recliner style, which can get very tough on longer flights to Montevideo, Buenos Aires etc.

EVA joined Star Alliance on June 18th 2013. Aeroplan has yet to put fuel surcharges on EVA and hopefully there won’t be a change!

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I think these are the two airlines that release First, Business, and Economy class seats. Obviously, neither of the two airlines have a great in-flight product (Air China is trying), but it’s not bad. United has most business class seats as fully-flat, and Air China releases very good amounts of space on some routes (such as Beijing to/from Los Angeles or Houston). The new Air China first aren’t half bad either.

Intra-Asia only – flights to/from Shenzhen and other Chinese domestic cities. Useful for the route network but nothing special. Seats are domestic first style, but having said that are probably nicer than average for a 737.

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These airlines basically do not release long-haul premium class space. Singapore basically release only economy for long-haul and intra-Asia business/economy. Good option if you’re set on flying economy as they are one of the top airlines of Star Alliance. Swiss only releases business class on North American routes around one week out it is pretty hard to get, but availability is better on Asian routes. Air New Zealand has good herringbone business class but they release next to no business class space (given that NZ Airpoints are fixed-mile redemption based) on North American flights. Air New Zealand availability on Auckland to/from Shanghai is good, to/from Tokyo-Narita is decent but award space to Hong Kong is scarce.

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Turkish has rather poor service, amazing business lounge in Istanbul-Ataturk, generally good food onboard. They are getting the leased Jet Airways 777-300ER’s and selling the closed suites as business class on the London-Heathrow to Istanbul route so if you can get that that is the best business class seat in the world. I have never seen a long-haul SK trip report so I can’t comment on their in-flight product although their lounges have very IKEA-like decor.

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Intra-Europe only – they are a good deal if you are looking to redeem Aeroplan within Europe to Greece or Croatia, but otherwise Swiss, Scandinavian, Brussels or Turkish have far superior networks for connecting itineraries.

Also another transatlantic option on the Brussels to/from New York-JFK and Washington-Dulles routes which have the new staggered business class fully flat seats.

Aeroplan is actually supposed to charge YQ on South African but because they doesn’t have fuel surcharges on some fares, then it doesn’t show up (for example Johannesburg to London-Heathrow). Shhhh!

787 Operator!

Rather crappy product soft and hard product. Dry airline.

So would I recommend booking tickets to avoid YQ? In most cases. definitely. Obviously if you are trying to keep costs as low as possible then, you would book with non-YQ Airlines. If you’re booking either economy class or business class tickets, then most likely you’re not missing out on that much if you book with one of the airlines mentioned above. You’re saving a lot of money. The biggest issue I find is that people don’t like going through the US to avoid YQ, but again it’s saving a few hundred dollars for connecting in the US. Definitely depends on how much you value the hassle.

With first class tickets, however, it becomes more complex. Obviously you need to decide yourself but here is what I would do.I would say that if you’re willing to redeem for first class, you should be willing to fork over a few hundred dollars to experience for example the new Asiana First Class Suite over United Global First if both airlines have availability on your dates.

Asiana First Class Suites (on JFK-ICN starting July)

Generally, for international awards, Aeroplan will almost always price YQ based on the a paid fare, so you can usually find the YQ of an award even if you don’t have enough miles. You can check this out from ITA Matrix in the fare breakdown, which will generally equal the YQ that Aeroplan puts on. For example, you can see that a sample one-way business class itinerary (which is a not-so-good value here, but just for reference purposes) from LAX-NRT on NH is 84,000 Aeroplan Miles and 303.80 in YQ, and $333 CAD in total Airport Taxes and Fees (inclusive of YQ). This matches exactly with the fare breakdown on ITA Matrix (YQ highlighted in red box)

Aeroplan Award

Aeroplan Award Taxes

 

Paid Fare Taxes

II) Reducing Fuel Surcharges

This is important in two ways. That means a paid fare with a small YQ will equal a ticket with a small YQ.The first, is that airlines that charge lower YQ will have lower fuel surcharges on award tickets. For instance, that means taking LOT instead of Lufthansa will result in a smaller surcharge (if of course the airlines with no YQ don’t have space). The aeroplan award engine will tend to show options that have YQ on the top, so you should check all the options before you book. If we look at the award results for October 21st,

Award Results (Low YQ highlighted in RED)

LOT has a much lower surcharge than Lufthansa, so even though you are dinged, it isn’t very high. There is a $400 difference between flying LOT and Lufthansa!

LOT 787

LH 747

 

The other interesting thing to keep in mind is if your destinations aren’t fixed, cities/countries that regulate fuel surcharge, that means those cities will be cheaper. The most obvious example is flights departing GRU which have no YQ at all, because the Brazilian government prevents excess fees on top of the base fare. That might be useful to keep in mind, but most people aren’t going to book a trip just to save the fuel surcharges from GRU (although I might if I was flying BA F or SQ F, but that’s another story). Some more “realistic” would be choosing Hong Kong instead of Tokyo, because Hong Kong regulates fuel surcharges.

YQ ~$300

If you price out online on the award engine, a simple one-way business class ticket on NH will incur $306.80 in surcharges. However, as I just mentioned, ending in Hong Kong will cause the surcharge to be reduced even though you’re adding in an additional segment simply because of government regulations! Of course you generally should not be redeeming one-ways on Aeroplan, I just used them because the YQ numbers are much simpler (versus dividing by two to find out each segment, etc.). Thus, the LAX-HKG (connecting in NRT) on the exact same flight with an additional segment to HKG will incur lower surcharges.

~$140 YQ

This award prices with only $141.20 of YQ. Strange, isn’t it?As I’ve said fuel surcharges are generally not really used for fuel but rather a surcharge to earn more money with the award programs when you’re booking an award ticket.

Here are the key points to take away from this post: first, try to find as much as possible airlines that Aeroplan (currently does not collect fuel surcharge on! If there isn’t space on your preferred dates, then you (as your flexibility will permit) to fly to destinations or choose airlines that have lower fuel surcharges. Of course, redemptions aren’t always about saving those few hundred bucks in fuel surcharges, but it’s very important to remember that you can redeem Aeroplan tickets without getting those ugly three digit figures of YQ.

Tomorrow  morning I will be talking about how to construct a mini-RTW, so stay tuned for that!

Pingbacks

  1. […] A round trip redemption from Singapore to Christchurch in business class costs 90,000 Aeroplan miles, which of course is combinable with a Singapore Airlines intra-Asia flight. Singapore Airlines also release award seats on their long-haul business class seats to Hong Kong, as well as their new regional business class to Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan. As with all Singapore Airlines redemptions, there are no fuel surcharges when booking with Aeroplan. […]

Comments

  1. Great post! I have lots of AP miles but I’ve been burning my USAirways account since they don’t impose fuel surcharges. Then I recently bought some Lifemiles so even though, I won’t be using AP miles for awhile yet it’s good to stay in the loop.

    Looking forward to your mini-RTW post 🙂

  2. Are you sure about LX only releasing F seats one week out? I’m looking to go YUL-ZRH Monday Oct. 14 and I can find availability on Aeroplan’s website, let alone trying the ANA tool…Am I missing something here because it’s not the first time I’ve read this…thanks.

      • My bad. I meant to say J space…they have it released many months in advance for YUL – ZRH via Aeroplan. Are we saying the same thing? I don’t think we are…

        • I was able to book J on Swiss using Aeroplan (YUL-ZRH) about 330 days out a year ago. Very limited availability.

  3. Hi,

    Can you please tell me how you search the ANA flight to Hong Kong? I tried to put that on the aeroplan website from YYZ-HKG but it onlu has UA and AC flights. Also from YUL-ZRH and YYZ-SIN. Thanks in advance.

      • Thanks Jeff, were you able to search YUL-ZRH on Swiss and YYZ-SIN on SQ in UA.com? It seems like Aeroplan wants their customer to pay YQ, so they only offer flights like AC, LH to Europe.

  4. > “Swiss only releases business class around one week out it is pretty hard to get.”

    FYI I ticketed 2 Swiss business class tickets 3-4 weeks out this year with UA. There was actually a lot of availability.

  5. Hey there! I understand this is sort of off-topic however I needed to ask.

    Does running a well-established blog like yours require a massive amount work?
    I’m completely new to operating a blog but
    I do write in my journal on a daily basis. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my experience
    and views online. Please let me know if you have any suggestions
    or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Thankyou!

  6. Hey, I just wanted to thank you for this article. With your help I managed to book a 155,000 AP redemption + $350 taxes to SE Asia all business class for a total of 3 stop overs, and one open jaw. I priced out my trip immediately when booking (June 1st,2014) and the total price of the trip all business class was $15, 653. I think this is unbelievable value!! 🙂

  7. Hi Jeff,

    Just Redeemed 75k all J class from YYZ-HKG via NRT&TPE and the YQ was about $190, not the best but much better than $450.

  8. Great post. Since using the list of Star Alliance partners that don’t impose fuel surcharges on their own members for reward travel, my Aeroplan redemptions have been more successful. This month I booked three separate trips in 2015 to Taiwan, Turkey and Spain for a total of $435.38 in taxes, fees and surcharges. My Aeroplan account isn’t rich enough yet to venture beyond economy class. I’ve written up my experience, along with some tips discovered along the way:
    http://packinglighttravel.com/travel-tips/minimizing-aeroplan-taxes-fees-surcharges/

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