Airfare analyst Rick Seaney, asked about the return of airline fuel surcharges for domestic travel, said, “I do think it is a distinct possibility, especially when or if the price of oil runs up to $120 per barrel.” As of this writing, the price of oil is nearing the $110 per barrel mark.
Fuel Surcharges Last Seen in 2008
The last time U.S. flyers saw domestic fuel surcharges was back in 2008. That was the year when oil prices spiked to a record $140-plus per barrel in July. However, by the end of that year prices plummeted and fuel surcharges on domestic flights were discontinued in November 2008.
Currently, there are a handful of full-price tickets (the walk-up prices usually paid by business travelers) and first-class fares that do include a fuel surcharge of up to $50 per ticket – and there have been (and still are) some miscellaneous surcharges for popular holiday flights and summer departures of up to $30 each-way – but fuel surcharges have been unknown on the cheapest fares for more than three years.
Price of Oil and Airfare: On the Rise
But as oil prices continue to rise – which is happening – the return of fuel surcharges, as Seaney noted, are a possibility because as the price at the pump rises, so do airfares.
In fact, there have already been four separate airfare hike attempts in 2012, two of which were successful – and more are expected.
By the way, at the moment airline miles program members do not pay a domestic fuel surcharge on awards tickets, although this was added by a couple of airlines back in the high priced oil era of 2007/2008.