Star Alliance Airline SAS: We’ve Always Been at War With Eastasia

SAS has renamed fuel surcharges “Domestic/International fees”.

A dozen years ago airlines introduced fuel surcharges but with fuel half off its high, and with governments regularly taking the position that a fuel surcharge must approximate the actual cost of fuel, airlines have simply renamed the fee.

Scandinavian has now taken this approach. Some airlines simply call fuel surcharges ‘carrier-imposed surcharges’ now. In either case, these words have no meaning. It’s a surcharge, instead of for fuel it’s not for anything in particular. Carrier-imposed describes who charges is. The airline does. In other words, it’s a part of the price.

Roughly speaking this doesn’t matter for paid airline tickets, since those are advertised in most contexts at full price (including the surcharge). You know the price up front.

But fuel surcharges are something many airlines use to scam their frequent flyers. Since the idea of some programs is that miles cover the base fare only, moving part of the fare out and calling it a surcharge lets them charge a high fee for the privilege of redeeming miles. Qantas eliminated fuel surcharges on flights originating in Australia, but continued to charge them on frequent flyer program members. They become an award redemption fee. And an expensive one that will vary by destination but that can reach $800 or $1000.

In renaming the fee, airlines have stripped words of all meaning.