Good news: Cathay Pacific gets rid of fuel surcharges for most regions

Apr 14, 2020

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The past month or so has been a rough one for travel — coronavirus has caused route cuts and border closures, and being frank: it just isn’t safe to travel right now. But today, we’re here with a bit of good news to share: Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific will stop adding fuel surcharges to most of its tickets.

Here’s a quick overview of what this means and — more importantly — how it affects you.

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Cathay Pacific eliminates fuel surcharges on most routes

As reported by One Mile at a Time, on April 14, 2020, Cathay Pacific released a statement on its website announcing that its discontinuing fuel charges on most of its routes effective May 1, 2020. This includes nearly all routes in the Cathay Pacific network, including flights to and from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and others.

Cathay Pacific Fuel Surcharge Changes Screen Shot

Previously, the airline charged $48.70 in fuel surcharges on tickets departing the U.S., 66.70 Canadian dollars ($44.75) from Canada, and up to 380 Hong Kong dollars ($49.02) when departing Hong Kong. While this isn’t much compared to the massive fuel surcharges imposed by British Airways (over $600 on many routes), it’s still money saved and a positive change for some travelers.

Related: How to avoid fuel surcharges on award travel

The only exception is flights departing from Japan

Cathay Pacific Japan Fuel Surcharges

Strangely enough, Cathay Pacific has opted to retain fuel surcharges on flights departing Japan. You can expect to pay 7,300 Japanese yen ($63.75) in fuel surcharges on these tickets, regardless of your class of service. While slightly annoying, I still think booking premium-class tickets on Cathay Pacific from Japan is a good deal even with the fuel surcharges attached.

The airline flies from its Hong Kong (HKG) hub and Taipei (TPE) focus city to various cities in Japan, including Tokyo (NRT/HND), Nagoya (NGO), Osaka (KIX) and others. A round-trip ticket between the two cities in business class costs $1,300 on Cathay Pacific, or you can use 50,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and pay under $100 in taxes and fuel surcharges. This gives you 2.4 cents per mile with fuel surcharges departing, making it an excellent value.

Related: Business as usual: A review of Cathay Pacific’s A350-900 in business class, Hong Kong to Newark

An overview of fuel surcharges

What are fuel surcharges, anyway? Simply put, it’s a surcharge imposed by airlines to cover the cost of buying fuel to fly the plane. These are usually imposed when fuel prices are high, but it’s rare to see airlines actually remove them when the price of fuel drops (like it is now).

Fuel Surcharges on ITA Matrix for British Airways Ticket Screen Shot

Airlines that impose fuel surcharges will label these as “YQ” on the ticket price breakdown. As mentioned earlier, Cathay Pacific never charged significant fuel surcharges, but airlines like British Airways often add high fuel surcharges that are built in to the overall ticket price for both cash and award tickets. You can view this fee breakdown using a flight search tool like ITA Matrix.

These charges don’t fluctuate when fuel price drops, essentially making the fees another way for airlines to make money. Certain award programs — like British Airways Executive Club — pass on these fuel surcharges to consumers for award tickets too, making it more expensive to redeem points and miles.

Related: Finally, a way to combat high fuel surcharges: British Airways Visa Signature credit card review

What does this mean for me?

We doubt that the overall price of Cathay Pacific tickets will fall with the discontinuation of fuel surcharges. More likely, the airline will compensate for this loss by bumping up the base fare of these tickets, giving revenue flyers no real benefit.

Things change when it comes to booking award tickets, though. Like mentioned earlier, some loyalty programs pass on these fuel surcharges when booking award tickets. In the case of Cathay Pacific tickets, loyalty programs like the airline’s own Asia Miles program and British Airways Executive Club pass these fees on to consumers, meaning you’d pay the fuel surcharge on top of the miles and any applicable taxes.

While Cathay Pacific hasn’t spoken on award tickets specifically, it’s safe to assume that fuel surcharges will also be removed from these tickets due to the following note on Cathay Pacific’s website:

“A fuel surcharge is included on all Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon tickets. The surcharge is on a per flight sector basis irrespective of fare type. It is included in the fare quoted on all our direct channels.”

Since this statement notes that “all Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon tickets” are included “irrespective of fare type,” we’d assume that this includes award tickets too. But since these fuel surcharges aren’t being removed until May 1, we can’t be 100% sure if fuel surcharges will be removed for award tickets too.

If this turns out to be the case, you’ll only have to pay the mileage cost and any applicable taxes and fees when booking Cathay Pacific tickets through Asia Miles and British Airways Executive Club after May 1. In practice, this means you’ll save roughly up to $49.02 when booking most Cathay Pacific award tickets through these programs.

It is worth noting, however, that American Airlines AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan — two other Cathay Pacific partners — never passed on Cathay Pacific fuel surcharges to their respective members, so nothing will change when redeeming these miles for Cathay Pacific tickets.

Related: The 6 best award chart sweet spots

Bottom line

All in all, this is good news for Cathay Pacific enthusiasts who book award tickets through Asia Miles and British Airways Executive Club. For everyone else though, this isn’t a huge development — ticket prices will likely stay the same, and those booking through other major Oneworld mileage programs won’t see a price difference as they didn’t pass these fees to their members in the first place.

Regardless, it’s good to see Cathay Pacific make consumer-friendly changes in a time of uncertainty in the market. We’re hopeful that other airlines will eventually follow suit.

Featured photo by JIMMOYHT/Shutterstock.

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