How to Find the Fuel Surcharge Cost Using the ITA Matrix

Posted By Trav

lego Matrix

[bluebox] This is part 2 of the Defeating the Fuel Surcharge Series.  Other posts include:


In airline speak, a fuel surcharge is represented by the code YQ.  The easiest way to figure out the YQ is to use the ITA Matrix.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ITA Matrix, don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it.  It’s a really cool tool that you should get familiar with.

1.  Go to the ITA Matrix

2.  Put in cities and dates that you want.

3.  Pick a ticket that is to your liking.

When you do that, you’ll be given a screen that looks like this: (I did a simple New York to Tokyo search)

There are three things that you need to notice, all of which are highlighted.

Fuel Surcharge screenshot 2

#1 The Actual Fare

This is the cost before taxes and fees.  It is $280 from New York to Tokyo, and $250 from Tokyo to New York.  In total, it is $530.

If you use frequent flyer miles, you will never pay the fare.

#2 The Fuel Surcharge (YQ)

This is what we’ve been discussing already.  Obviously, you want to fly on airlines that don’t charge you this, which I’ll show you in Part 3.

On this ticket, the fuel surcharge is $580.

Depending on what frequent flyer miles you use and what airlines you fly, you may or may not pay this.

#3 The other taxes and fees

The other taxes and fees are everything that’s not the fare or the fuel surcharge.  In this case, the other taxes and fees come out to $83.70.

These “other taxes and fees” are things collected by the governments and completely unavoidable.  This is why an award ticket is never completely free.

You’ll always pay the taxes and fees when redeeming frequent flyer miles.

Cost Difference

If you were using an airline who doesn’t charge a fuel surcharge, your total cost would just be the “other taxes”, which would be $83.70


You’ve just got yourself a roundtrip ticket that would normally cost you $1,193 for less than 1/10th the price!.

However, if you were using an airline who DOES charge a fuel surcharge, your total cost would be the other taxes PLUS the fuel surcharge, which would be $663.70.


$663 for a “free” flight?  Ick!

It’s pretty easy to see which one you would prefer.

But knowing what a fuel surcharge is and how much it doesn’t help you at all if you don’t know which airlines to fly to avoid them.

To figure out which airlines you should be flying, check out Part 3: Which Airlines Charge Fuel Surcharges (with downloadable chart).

(photo courtesy of Brandon Griffith)


  1. Alon says:

    forgot a colon in your ITA matrix link

  2. Jerry Mandel says:

    ITA MATRIX link is broken. Can’t find server.

  3. Ralfinho says:

    Simply add the missing “:” after “http”.

  4. Joe says:

    250+280 is not $330, but $530

    1. Trav says:

      @Joe- Whoops. Thanks for pointing that out, I fixed it. Guess that’s why I’m writing and not being a mathematician.

  5. chop off the http and it works fine. should be matrix.itasoftware.com

    1. Trav says:

      @Alon @Jerry Mandel @Ralfinho @Lawrence Himelfarb- Fixed the link, should be working now. Thanks for the heads up!

  6. Ken says:

    I thought US Air/United don’t charge YQ on their metal.

    1. They don’t on awards (on any metal) if you’re redeeming their points but they do on revenue tickets.

      Also worth noting that the fuel surcharge can be represented by the YR fee code, not just YQ.

      1. Trav says:

        @Ken @Wandering Aramean- Yep, totally right. Thanks for the heads up Seth.

  7. Jerry Mandel says:

    Beware. Both YQ and YR are fuel surcharges.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jerry Mandel- Yep, both of those are used for fuel surcharges.

  8. Cindy says:

    Hello Trav. Thanks for your awesome information and analysis here.

    With ITA Matrix, we can find the actual YQ/YR for the airlines we chose to see. But, I’m curious if how to find out the YQ/YR charged by another airlines? For example, if I’m a AAdvantage member, I would like to know how much is the YQ/YR charged for taking British Airways? Can I find out this information with ITA Matrix?

    Thanks for your help!!!

    1. Trav says:

      @Cindy- Unfortunately, just seeing that the YQ is there does not tell you if the airline charges it on award flights. To figure that out, like the example you gave above, you can see post #3 in this series, which comes with a downloadable chart that is up to date as of today.

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