Award ticket surcharge arbitrage: Aussie style

Want to save hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges on Qantas award flights between Australia and Europe? Turns out it is a trivial task.

Photo from the Qantas/Emirates flyover of Sydney Harbour courtesy of Qantas

Thanks to the recent partnership between Qantas and Emirates has created a number of interesting arbitrage opportunities for members of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program. Included in that is a sizable gap in the fuel surcharge the two carriers levy for similar trips:

Travellers wanting to fly economy from Australia to London return have been able to escape paying $610 in fuel surcharges by redeeming their frequent-flyer points on an Emirates flight rather than Qantas.

A passenger flying one-way in economy or business on Qantas from Australia to Europe has to pay $380 in fuel surcharges, while on a flight to the US it is $340 and to Asia $175.

In contrast, Emirates charges $75 in fuel surcharges for a one-way economy ticket to Europe, and $30 to Asia. For business class, the surcharge for Europe is $230 and for Asia $165.

And the part where Qantas made searching for Emirates award seats incredibly easy by integrating such into their online award booking engine isn’t hurting the situation either.

The bad news for customers is that the two carriers are set to meet in the coming weeks to discuss this issue, among other things. Apparently they recognize the issues they’ve created for themselves.

Of course, this is not the only place where similar routes can attract widely varying fuel surcharges depending on the operating carrier of the routes. American Airlines will pass on the YQ from British Airways when redeeming AAdvantage points on BA metal while a similar flight on AA metal has no surcharge. ANA’s Mileage Club or Aeroplan have similar variations for partner flights. Certainly not a fuel dump in the traditional sense of the term, but the net savings apply in roughly the same manner.

If anything is unique about the Qantas/Emirates situation it is that they are apparently trying to address it rather than just hoping for the best.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. SQ has some hefty fuel surcharges for Suites, but at least that’s really worth it

    BA redemptions is a horrible value (no matter how classy you think BA is). And that’s on top of the UK departure tax that makes it MUCH MUCH worse

  2. Its all up the bilateral interline agreement they signed. I can’t fathom why it didn’t come up back when they were negotiating a tie up? If EK retains any YQ collected on awards it wouldn’t matter to QF is any YQ was collected.

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