When Is A Free Ticket Not Free? When There Is A $350 Fuel Surcharge

Even though it’s become increasingly easy to amass rewards travel points on most major airlines, it’s not only gotten more difficult to cash in those points for free tickets, those “free” tickets could end up costing you hundreds in taxes and fuel surcharges.

Many domestic airlines already charge taxes on rewards travel, but most don’t pass on the fuel surcharge to these travelers — or at least not yet. Unfortunately, the New York Times reports that a growing number of international carriers are adding this surcharge, regardless of whether or not you’re carrying a frequent flier voucher.

The Times writes about one couple who racked up 100,000 miles — enough for two round-trip tickets to Europe — with their Chase/British Airways Visa card, only to be hit with a $350/ticket fuel surcharge. Along with other taxes and fees, that brought their total to $530 per passenger.

“We’d be out of business if we didn’t do it,” a rep for British Airways tells the Times about its universal application of the fuel surcharge. “When the cost of fuel escalates we have to pass it on.”

If you’re stuck with points/miles on a foreign airline and still feel like getting a free-ish flight somewhere, Rick Ingersoll of FrugalTravelGuy.com suggests using them domestically on a partner airline: “I used my 100,000 British Airways miles for four domestic round-trip tickets on American Airlines at 25,000 miles each.”

Where ‘Free’ Costs a Lot [NY Times]