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How Can I Avoid Fuel Surcharges on Award Flights to Europe?

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TPG reader Ashkan sent me a message on Facebook to ask about Transatlantic award travel:

“I earned 75,000 AAdvantage miles from the Citi Executive card. Now that I have them, how do I get to Europe without paying the high surcharges on British Airways?”

Fuel surcharges are a chronic nuisance to award travelers, as they can quickly diminish the value of your points and miles by turning a “free” flight into a costly one. When it comes to tacking on surcharges, British Airways is one of the most egregious offenders, which can be problematic for Transatlantic flyers looking to redeem AAdvantage miles. Fortunately, several Oneworld carriers offer good alternatives.

Air Berlin serves eight US cities, and while the flight experience is nothing to write home about, you won’t have to cough up extra cash for fuel surcharges. Iberia adds some fuel surcharges, but they tend to be much lower than what you’ll find on British Airways. The American Airlines website shows Air Berlin award availability, but doesn’t always find space on Iberia, so you may have to search elsewhere. Aer Lingus should be another good option with no fuel surcharges once it rejoins the Oneworld alliance.

Of course, American Airlines offers nonstop service to a variety of European destinations and doesn’t add fuel surcharges to awards on its own metal. If you can plan your travel well in advance, you have a decent shot at finding availability.

However, even if you only see availability on British Airways, you can take advantage of American’s flexible award change policy, which allows you to change dates and routing so long as the origin and destination remain the same. In a pinch, you could book an award with surcharges and then change flights later when more space opens up. You should be able to get a refund for fees that no longer apply to your itinerary.

Use AAdvantage miles to book awards on Air Berlin and avoid fuel surcharges on flights to Europe.

Fuel surcharges aren’t the only expense that gets added to award flights: You’ll also need to watch out for add-ons like taxes and airport fees. Those charges should be similar across different airlines, but flights to (or through) the UK get hit harder than most, especially for itineraries more than 2,000 miles (including all flights to the US). That’s yet another reason to avoid British Airways when booking Oneworld awards.

For more information about fuel surcharges and booking awards with AAdvantage miles, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

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