[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.

#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)

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