Friday, June 27, 2008

Delta To Add Fuel Service Charge To "Free" Award Tickets

Redeeming frequent flyer miles for a "free" ticket
on Delta Airlines will soon cost you

In yet another setback for consumers, Delta airlines announced this morning they will begin charging customers a fuel surcharge fee when redeeming Delta SkyMiles for an otherwise "free" flight. In a press release, Delta stated effective August 15th, a $25 fee will be charged for flights within the United States and Canada, and $50 elsewhere in the world. The fuel surcharge will not impact existing itineraries or tickets purchased before August 15th.

This is the first known U.S-based airline to institute a fuel surcharge to customers redeeming banked frequent flyer miles. In the press release, managing director of Delta's SkyMiles program said, “This was a difficult but essential decision in the face of record-high fuel costs. We hope this is temporary, and should fuel prices subside from current levels, we will reevaluate this surcharge."

With the cost of oil exceeding $140 a barrel, airlines are struggling for ways to recoup operating losses. The fuel surcharge on award travel is surely seen as one possible solution. But already, consumers are crying foul, as the once advertised "earn a free trip" when redeeming 25,000 miles no longer applies. With the added fuel surcharge, it will soon become impossible to obtain a free trip with Delta.

Earlier this month, and with less uproar from the traveling community, American Airlines quietly announced they would add a $5 charge for all award tickets redeemed on their website effective June 21st. Without a huge public backlash - yet, in effect, American's move may have helped pave the way for Delta to institute the fuel surcharge announced today.