Qantas and Emirates are aligning their fuel surcharges on frequent flyer award tickets, closing a loophole which let savvy travellers avoid hundreds of dollars in Qantas fuel surcharges by using their points to book a codeshare flight on Emirates, which has a much lower surcharge.
Adopting a 'meet in the middle' approach, from Qantas will lower its fuel surcharges on the joint Qantas-Emirates network, while Emirates will raise theirs. The changes apply to tickets issued from 1 July 2013.
Fuel surcharges represent an added cost to what is nominally a 'free' ticket booked using frequent flyer points.
Qantas economy fuel surcharges down by 30%
Under the revised structure, Qantas says the fuel surcharge applied to a frequent flyer ticket in economy will fall by an average of 30 percent across the joint Qantas-Emirates network.
For example, the Qantas fuel surcharge for one-way economy tickets from Australia to Europe will drop to $230, a saving of $150 on current rates.
Economy reward tickets from Australia to London return have been $610 cheaper when booked on an Emirates flight using Qantas Frequent Flyer points, due to the Qantas fuel surcharge of $760 being substantially higher than Emirates' $150 tariff.
As part of the alignment, Qantas will also introduce onto the Emirates network a new tiered system of fuel surcharges for frequent flyer tickets, mirroring the structure already used by Emirates and already employed by Qantas outside of Australia.
Redeeming points for an economy seat will attract a lower fuel surcharge than in premium cabins, although the number of points needed for each ticket will remain the same.
However, some business and first class redemption fares on Qantas will rise, including frequent flyer tickets from Australia to Singapore and Africa.
The new system will apply only on flights on the Qantas-Emirates network. Qantas stresses there will be no changes to the fuel surcharge for paid tickets, with the move impacting only frequent flyer award travel.
Emirates surcharges soar
The downside in this deal will hit Emirates, which is increasing its fuel surcharges across the board.
The fuel surcharge component of an Emirates frequent flyer ticket from Sydney to London – redeemed using either Qantas Frequent Flyer or Emirates Skywards points – will increase by $310, from the current $150 to $460.
Emirates will reduce the base fare accordingly, from $1,872 to $1,562 in that example, so that commercial ticket prices "will remain relatively unchanged", according to an Emirates spokesperson.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.