Budget Travel

Your membership includes:

  • Access to our exclusive booking platform with private rates.
  • Newsletters with weekend getaways, trip ideas, deals & tips.
  • Sweepstakes alerts and more...
  • Don’t have an account?Get a FREE trial membership today. No credit card needed. Sign up now.
  • FREE trial membership. No credit card needed. Limited time only. Already have an account? Log in here.
    By creating an account, you agree to our Terms of Service and have read and understood the Privacy Policy
Close banner

Study: Airlines Are Ripping Off Passengers with Inflated Fuel Surcharges

By Sean O'Neill
updated September 29, 2021
Courtesy <a href="http://ajungo.posterous.com/">Ajungo</a>

There should be an investigation. Airlines are covertly padding their revenues with fuel surcharges, according to a new study.

Since April 2011, US airlines have hiked fuel surcharges by 53 percent on average, says a study by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the corporate travel management firm. But the cost of jet fuel has only risen by 23 percent, having fallen from highs a year ago, as the LA Times' Hugo Martin was the first to report.

The surcharges can add hundreds of dollars to the price of a plane ticket for a long-distance trip.

No US airline has lowered its fuel surcharge this year, despite oil prices — which closely reflect jet fuel prices — having dropped 8 percent so far in 2012.

Let's assume for a minute that the airlines are being dishonest. What's in it for them? Since January, the US government has stopped airlines from advertising fares without including surcharges along with taxes.

One theory is that travel agents earn their commissions off the base fare, not the total ticket price. So airlines can cheat agents of a bit of cash by disguising some of their revenue in the fuel surcharge.

Another theory is that fuel surcharges are taxed at a different, lower rate than the base rate, benefiting the airlines.

If what the study suggests is true, then the airlines are probably breaking the law.

The airlines have broken the law before. Last year, federal prosecutors found that airlines have done it before. Between 2000 and 2006, 21 airlines engaged in price-fixing. They made up for lost profits by artificially inflating fuel surcharges, and they agreed to pay enormous fines as a result. No major US airlines were charged.

In April of this year, the British government said British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways engaged in price-fixing of passenger fuel surcharges and fined British airways millions.

Maybe it's time to launch a fresh investigation about what's happening now with fuel surcharges by US airlines. Hey, Feds!


What's Your Biggest Pet Peeve When You Fly? (50+ comments)

Court Ruling Gives Europeans Option to Re-Take Vacations If They Get Sick (14 comments)

Why Airlines Should Bring Back Delicious In-Flight Meals (12 comments)

Keep reading

Six Hotel Chains Now Allow Reward Point Gifts to Wounded Veterans

Today a new program launched that allows Americans to donate hotel rewards points to wounded U.S. veterans and their families. Six hotel chains have joined in the "Hotels for Heroes" program: AmericInn, Best Western, Choice Hotels (Comfort Inn, Sleep Inn, Rodeway, etc.), Marriott, Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, Four Points, Aloft, etc.), and Wyndham. For instance, a Best Western loyalty program member could donate 2,500 points by clicking the Best Western loyalty donation webpage. That donation would be worth a free night's stay at a Marriott hotel for military service members in need related to a medical condition.or a loved one visiting that person. The program, Hotels for Heroes, hopes to cut travel costs for wounded veterans receiving military health care and their visitors. It will be run by the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation, which has built 50 homes away from home for the relatives of veterans and military personnel who are wounded, injured or ailing and are being treated at regional medical facilities in the U.S. and Germany. Hotels for Heroes is the next step for Fisher House, which has long enabled American travelers to give frequent-flier miles to the families of service-members at a military or Veterans Affairs medical center with its Hero Miles program. SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL A Cool Small Town Comes Together After Flooding Budget Travel's 2012 Breakdown on Major Hotel and Airline Membership Programs Looking To Save Money On Books? Read And Return Them At The Airport


UNESCO Adds 8 New Spots to the World Heritage List

It's a feather in any location's cap to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so congratulations are in order to the eight new sites added for 2012. "New" might not be the best adjective, actually. The sites include Chengjiang Fossil Site in the Yunnan Province of China, where 196 species that help determine how today's animal groups have developed over the last 530 million years, and Catalhoyuk, a 34&ndash;acre Neolithic site in Turkey that was occupied as far back as 7,400 B.C. The other natural and man&ndash;made wonders include seven painted timber farmhouses in Halsingland, Sweden that date back to the 19th century, Rio de Janeiro's Carioca landscapes (including Corcovado Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer), and the Western Ghats mountain chain in India. The preserved Belgian mining community of Walonia was also designated, including a mine dating back to the end of the 17th century. The final two are natural wonders in Africa: the 18 Lakes of Ounianga in Chad and the Sangha Trinational, three contiguous national parks in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and the Congo that total more than 1.8 million acres. The members of the United Nations organization use some pretty lofty criteria for the designations: the sites must meet at least one of the 10 criteria, which include being "a masterpiece of human creative genius" and representing "major stages of earth's history." There are now 962 properties in 157 countries on the World Heritage List. In the U.S., the 20 UNESCO sites include Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and Yellowstone National Park. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 12 Oldest Places in America 15 Places Every Kid Should See Before 15 12 Most Colorful Towns in the World


Court Ruling Gives Europeans Option to Re-Take Vacations If They Get Sick

It happens to everyone at least once&mdash;you plan the perfect, relaxing vacation, but when the time finally comes you spend the week with a terrible cold or a nasty stomach flu. And you finally feel better just in time to go back to work. Well, if you lived in Europe, you would now be entitled to a vacation do&ndash;over. This new ruling, which stems from a suit brought by a group of department store employees in Spain, applies to workers in all 27 European Union countries. It allows workers who happen to get sick while taking vacation time to basically change that time off to sick leave and recoup the vacation days. Remember, the typical European gets four to six weeks of vacation, a perk that has long been the envy of Americans (who get an average of 14 days of paid vacation, and are less likely to actually use it). As reported in the New York Times, the Court Justice of the European Union said, “The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.” Exactly. What do you think of this new ruling? Have you ever wished you could get your vacation back? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 6 Foolproof Tricks for NOT Embarrassing Yourself in a Foreign Language New Wales Hiking Trail Lets You Walk The Entire Coast Find Your Roots in Ireland


Orbitz Shows Higher Hotel Prices to Mac Computer Users

Yesterday morning the Wall Street Journal announced that Orbitz shows higher hotel prices to Mac users than to PC users. Orbitz acknowledged this in a statement as well. Before you start drafting an angry letter to their CEO here's an important disclaimer: they're not showing the same hotel at different prices&mdash;they're showing different hotels at different prices. It's not a scam. They're doing it because they believe that Mac users want to see higher hotel prices. And they didn't come up with this idea after a three-martini brainstorming lunch either&mdash;they arrived at the concept after months of tracking user preferences. They found that Mac users are 40% more likely to book a 4 or 5 star hotel than a PC user. This is one of the drawbacks (or benefits, as you see it) of tracking behavior online. If you're looking for upscale hotels, you might be grateful not to have to sort through all of the bargain properties to find what you're looking for. On the other hand, if you're looking for a bargain, you're going to have take an extra step to find it on Orbitz (fortunately it's easy&mdash;just select the "sort by price" option on the screen and they'll list the properties by price). Nonetheless, all of this reminded me of how important it is to be smart about finding good deals&mdash;no matter what platform you're on. Here are some tips: 1. Shop around and keep your cache clean. Don't just visit one site and call it day. Compare prices in different places (Expedia, Travelocity, Cheapoair, Kayak). In between searches, clear your cache to keep sites from tracking your behavior. 2. Watch prices. Keep abreast of airfare prices via a site like FareCompare so you know how prices are trending and can recognize a deal when you see one. 3. Use new tools. Widen your net by searching with HotelSweep.com, a site that searches smaller, independent properties that aren't listed on major online travel agencies like Orbitz or Expedia. After you book, share your reservation with Backbid.com, a site that reaches out to nearby hotel competitors to see if any of them will extend you a better offer (or a nicer room for the same price). 4. Consider a vacation rental. Vacation rentals can be a great way to experience the local culture and save money at the same time. Two of my favorite rental sites are AirBnB and Roomorama. 5. Look for packages. Some resorts are still hurting and by bundling in airfare or car rentals, they can lower their prices while still preserving their brand integrity. If you do your research you can find some good deals. 6. Check out independent deal sites. Find great deals by using a site that will vouch for the savings for you. We do this in our Real Deals section where we find and vet deals for you. DealBase is another site that does this. 7. Be smart about when you book. Studies have found that airfares tend to drop midweek, so plan your booking between Tuesday and Thursday. If you can swing it, try to lock in airfare prices at least 8 weeks in advance. Hotels should be booked as soon as possible (tip: If you book on the site Tingo.com they will monitor the rate for you and automatically give you a refund if the rate drops). SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Watching Movies at the Airport Just Got Easier Tips on When to Book Summer Flights Amid Rising Fares 7 Questions to Ask Before You Book an All-Inclusive Vacation