Airlines’ fuel surcharges far outpacing fuel prices

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Fuel surcharges — those fees that airlines say they add to ticket prices to compensate for higher fuel costs — have increased twice as fast as fuel prices in the last year, according to a new study.

What’s more, most airlines have not reduced fuel surcharges since 2009, despite drops in fuel prices over that time, according to the study by corporate travel management company Carson Wagonlit Travel.

Fuel surcharges can represent an increase of as much as 50% on ticket prices, depending on the airline and the destination. The highest fuel surcharges are typically added to international flights, with surcharges on European flights ranging from $104 to $372, according to the study.


Since April 2011, fuel surcharges by U.S. airlines have risen 53%, while fuel prices have increased 24%, according to the study.

In the past, fuel surcharges represented a marketing advantage because airlines could raise those fees but continue to advertise low base fares.

But a new law that requires U.S.-based airlines to advertise the full fare, including fees and taxes, has eliminated a key rationale for the surcharge, said Rick Seaney, chief executive of travel review site FareCompare.

Still, airlines continue to charge hefty fuel surcharges on international flights, he said, partly because carriers pay travel agents a commission only on the base fare, not on the surcharges or taxes.

Seaney said some airlines also lower fuel surcharges in markets where they face stiff competition from other carriers.

“To call it a fuel surcharge suggests it has to do with fuel prices when it really has to do with competition,” he said.


A spokesman for Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation’s largest airlines, said he couldn’t comment on the pricing strategies of individual airlines. But he noted that fuel prices this year are $3.05 a gallon, slightly higher than the record high average of $3 for 2011.

Most Americans willing to change vacation plans to save money

Given the unsteady economy, a vast majority of Americans are willing to change their summer vacation plans at the last minute if it means saving a few bucks, according to a new survey.

The poll of more than 2,000 Americans taken online by travel website Travel-Ticker found that 83% of those with vacation plans could be swayed to change plans if presented with a better deal.

Among other findings in the survey, 72% of those polled said they were planning to be more flexible on dates and destinations this summer to save money.

The survey did not ask how much of a savings would prompt a change in travel plans, but it found that 79% believed they could save money by booking a trip on a whim.


“Our annual survey has surfaced a growing trend of consumers willing to get up and go when a great deal strikes,” said L. Jasmine Kim, general manager of Travel-Ticker.

Korean Air offering special-occasion cake service

Let them eat cake, Korean Air says.

The Seoul-based airline hopes to sweeten the flying experience by offering free cake and cupcakes to passengers who are celebrating a wedding, a honeymoon, a birthday or some other special occasion during a flight.

The cake service has been offered for months to passengers in Asian markets, but Korean Air only recently began promoting the complimentary pastries to U.S. passengers.

To get the onboard goodies, passengers must call a reservations agent at the Korean Air call center, at (800) 438-5000, at least 24 hours before departure. A Korean Air flight attendant will present the cake or cupcake during the in-flight meal.

Passengers cannot request special flavors or messages in frosting on the cakes. The flavors and decorations change based on the airport bakery.