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Emirates raised its fuel surcharges again — will other airlines follow suit?

June 21, 2022
6 min read
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Just a few months ago, Emirates offered some of our favorite sweet spots in the award travel game. They’ve since squeezed a handful of lemons into the batter.

See, for a long time Emirates was one of those airlines that charged frustratingly high fuel surcharges for award flights. They largely fixed that problem in 2020, making the Emirates Skywards program an appealing destination for flexible rewards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points.

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Emirates has recently decided to reverse these positive changes. Fuel surcharges are once again sky-high. It’s not the first airline to raise these taxes in 2022. So what does this trend mean for you?

Emirates has award travelers over an (oil) barrel

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

You may find fuel surcharges, occasionally known as “carrier-imposed surcharges,” tacked onto the price of your award flight at checkout when booking select airlines. Some fuel surcharges are so unreasonable that they can discourage travelers from even booking the award flight.

In late February 2022, Emirates increased its fuel surcharges by up to 140% — resulting in a price hike of over $250 per person. Then, less than a month later, Emirates increased fuel surcharges again by $180.

Now, expect to pay over $200 more in fuel surcharges when traveling in business or first class. Let’s take a look at the current prices for premium award seats.

Related: How to avoid fuel surcharges on award travel

Below is a nonstop flight from Miami to Dubai in first class (and not the game-changer first class, mind you). You’ll pay 136,250 Emirates miles and $817 in taxes and fees. Yes, this seat easily sells for $10,000 or more, making the price you’ll pay for an award flight a virtual steal, but many of us are in the points and miles hobby to avoid paying several hundred dollars for flights.

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(Screenshot from emirates.com)

Things get worse if you’re traveling beyond Dubai. Here’s the price for first-class seats on the same date from Miami to Bangkok via Dubai: 178,750 Emirates miles and an offensive $1,233 in taxes and fees.

(Screenshot from emirates.com)

Fuel surcharges appear to be equally exorbitant whether you’re booking business or first class. For example, Chicago to Dubai in business class costs 115,000 miles and $817 in taxes and fees.

(Screenshot from emirates.com)

Houston to Singapore via Dubai in business class costs 167,500 miles and $1,231 in taxes and fees.

(Screenshot from emirates.com)

Seattle to Male, Maldives, via Dubai in business class costs 142,500 miles and $1,050 in taxes and fees.

(Screenshot from emirates.com)

Related: Everything you need to know about Emirates Skywards

Interestingly, Emirates’ two popular fifth-freedom routes (Newark to Athens, Greece, and New York to Milan) still have reasonable fees. Below is a first-class flight from Newark to Athens in first class for 85,000 Emirates miles and $84.

(Screenshot from emirates.com)

The upcharge in fees seems currently to only apply to flights that involve Emirates’ hub airport. If you’re booking a premium Emirates seat to or from Dubai, prepare to pay up.

Will other airlines follow suit?

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Not only might other airlines follow suit, but other airlines have preceded these changes from Emirates — and likely emboldened them to make these changes in the first place.

Earlier this year, ANA dramatically increased its fuel surcharges, in some cases charging $500 in fees for an award ticket that previously incurred just $50.

Soon after, British Airways’ fuel surcharges skyrocketed on long-haul routes, disincentivizing prudent award travelers from using Avios for popular routes such as the West Coast to Europe.

In truth, fuel surcharges aren’t always directly proportional to the cost of fuel. But sometimes they are. With the nauseating price of oil at present, it wouldn’t be shocking to see other airlines increase taxes and fees to offset their expenses.

If there’s an award flight you want to book, do it as soon as possible. There’s no telling what can happen overnight in the world of award travel.

Related: These are the 3 award redemptions TPG staffers regret not booking

For example, if you’ve been eyeing the Emirates fifth-freedom routes in business or first class (again, essentially untouched by this latest fee hike), lock them down now.

Other popular ways to book Emirates premium cabins include Qantas and Japan Airlines. Qantas is the only Emirates partner to have access to first-class award seats on Emirates (aside from Korean Air, but it’s a pain to book). The problems with these partners are:

  • Japan Airlines miles are exceptionally difficult to earn (its only valuable transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy).
  • Emirates flights still incur high fuel surcharges when booked with these airlines.

Related: The best programs for booking Emirates awards

Bottom line

Emirates has reinstated its draconian fuel surcharges for the vast majority of its flights.

If you plan to book business- or first-class award seats with Emirates, just know that it’ll be an investment. You could pay more than $1,200 per person one-way.

Emirates’ fifth-freedom routes are still a great deal — but most every other premium route is tough to swallow. With oil prices soaring, let’s hope this move by Emirates doesn’t activate a lightbulb above the heads of other airlines.

Regardless, this is a good reminder to book award tickets before it's too late. Otherwise, you could be left paying hundreds of dollars (or thousands of points) more than in the past.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees