Many travelers want to know the true airfare price of their airline tickets, however many airlines have carrier-imposed surcharges or airline fuel surcharges. YQ/YR surcharges were labeled as fuel surcharges and imposed by airlines when the price of oil spiked. When the itemized price of an airline ticket includes a charge with the code "YR," that usually indicates a fuel surcharge -- an extra amount added to the price to account for the cost of jet fuel.
The "YR" in the surcharge is a code assigned by the Airline Tariff Publishing Company, or ATPCO. This firm collects and distributes detailed fare data from more than 460 airlines worldwide. Nearly all airline fares quoted in the U.S. come through the company, so they will show "ATPCO" codes for the elements that make up the final ticket price, including base fare, baggage charges, meal costs, taxes and fees. The ATPCO code system includes two codes that airlines themselves can define: YR and YQ. These are usually surcharges, although they may also be used for insurance or international fees.
Playing With the Numbers
A YR fuel surcharge doesn't necessarily represent actual fuel costs. "USA Today" has reported that some airlines tinker with their pricing structures to make it look as if the base fare is lower than it really is, thus blaming fuel costs for higher ticket prices. It doesn't really matter, as you don't have a choice. You have to pay both the fare and the surcharge.
Airlines With High Surchargers
These high surcharges are based on airlines business class one-way tickets mostly from New York to Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna, Brussels, and London.
- Lufthansa: $750 in taxes/fees
- SWISS Airlines: $750 in taxes/fees
- Australia Airlines: $750 in taxes/fees
- Brussels Airlines: $750 in taxes/fees
- Virgin Atlantic: $750 in taxes/fees
- British Airways: $729 in taxes/fees
For some airlines (Air New Zealand, Avianca, SAS, Singapore Airlines, United) there are no carrier-imposed surcharges on certain partner airlines.
Airlines With Reasonable Surcharges
These taxes and fees are applied to one-way trips, not round trips.
- Japan Airlines: $133 taxes/fees Los Angeles to Tokyo
- Cathay Pacific: $100 taxes/fees Los Angeles to Hong Kong
- Emirates: $181 taxes/fees Los Angeles to Dubai
- Iberia: $122 taxes/fees Boston to Madrid
There are so many reward programs offered by different airlines that make booking a ticket with your credit card less of a headache. Capital One or American Express will often have travel rewards when you sign up for their card so you have the potential to get award flights through your credit card.
For many U.S. travelers, United airlines and their United MileagePlus program offers the best rewards. Delta Airlines has Delta Skymiles that offer good rewards and if you book with skymiles or Flying Blue you won’t see a big fuel surcharge.
Delta Airlines will occasionally pass surcharges when: itineraries originating in Europe on Delta, Air France/KLM, and Virgin Atlantic or you’re traveling on aeroloft, Aeromexico, Air Europa, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Air Tahiti Nui, Saudia, and TAROM.
The Air Canada Aeroplan mileage program also eliminated fuel surcharges on all awards. You can also use Aeroplan when booking awards on Star Alliance airlines. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has a better award program compared to American Airlines AAdvantage; make sure to look carefully into the surcharges when different award programs are applied.
If you really want to avoid paying fuel surcharges, booking award flights is the best way to go. Finding the best program that won’t charge you extra is where you will need to do some research. Award flights also open the door for you to fly first class.
Having a travel agent to help you book your ticket would be helpful in navigating the travel fares and award tickets. As well, when traveling internationally, pay close attention to fees and taxes as most of them are un USD. Make sure to pay attention to codeshare partnerships as this may affect fuel surcharges to your flight.