Avoiding Qantas Fuel Surcharges on Reward Flights

Avoiding Qantas Fuel Surcharges on Reward Flights
Avoiding Qantas Fuel Surcharges on Reward Flights

If you’ve ever tried to redeem your Qantas points for an international flight, you’ve probably noticed that Qantas carrier charges (commonly referred to as fuel surcharges) can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of your “free” ticket.

This is exactly what one member found when trying to book a reward flight from Melbourne to Vancouver using Qantas points. In addition to the points, the fees & taxes for an Economy ticket came to more than $500. Included in this amount is a Qantas-imposed “carrier charge” of $328. For a Business class award, the total fees & taxes payable are closer to $800!

My niece wants to go to Vancouver from MEL in jan/feb next year and I am looking to help her out. I have around 150,000 Qantas points and also around 103,000 velocity points. Ideally I’d like to shell out as little cash as possible, However of course a typical Mel-YVR round trip is looking at $800+ in surcharges and taxes.

So, how can you avoid paying excessive Qantas carrier charges when redeeming your points? Well, there are a few tricks.

One way is to fly on a Qantas partner airline that does not pass on fuel surcharges. When flying to North America, Qantas Frequent Flyer members can fly on American Airlines or Fiji Airways for exactly the same number of points as a Qantas flight. American Airlines flies daily from Sydney and Auckland to Los Angeles, and Fiji Airways operates to Los Angeles and San Francisco via its Nadi hub. When flying with either airline, the fees & taxes are generally under $200 for a round-trip award booking.

Qantas’ oneworld partners Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific also charge low fuel surcharges.

AA and CX generally have low taxes on awards so check out MEL-HKG-YVR on CX or… if you can find SYD-LAX-YVR on AA the taxes will be next to nothing so then tack on a MEL-SYD sector.

However, the points required for an award booking on Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific are higher than an equivalent Qantas booking. The travel times to North America are also longer because you’ll be flying via Asia.

Also note the points costs which might offset any tax savings. These are one way economy.
QF MEL-SYD-YVR is 45,000 points
QF/AA MEL-SYD-LAX-YVR is 55,000 points
CX or JL via HKG/NRT is 75,000 points

Booking award flights originating overseas can also impact the amount of fuel surcharges. For example, Qantas awards originating in the United States have very high carrier charges. But Qantas surcharges on award bookings originating in New Zealand may be lower. It’s also worth noting that any award booking originating in Hong Kong, the Philippines or Brazil will have low or no fuel surcharges due to local government regulations.

While our member was grateful for the community’s advice, they eventually redeemed Virgin Australia Velocity points for the trip to Vancouver. Virgin does not impose surcharges on most reward bookings.

Thanks everyone for your help. Ultimately I booked a return flight MEL-YVR using my Virgin points. The taxes only worked out at $275. My niece is really happy.

Share your experience HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]