14 Best Ways To Redeem Points & Miles With Low Taxes, Fees & Surcharges

Emirates First, A380 (1)
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If you’ve ever used points and miles, chances are you’ve seen interesting variations in the “taxes and fees” you have to pay. After all, if you’re redeeming points, why should you have to pay extra?

This makes sense in theory, but it still doesn’t explain the several hundreds of dollars you’ll see on the booking screen that you’ll be on the hook for.

In this guide, we’ll show you some of the best ways you can keep your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible when booking the world’s most luxurious business and first class flights.

Low taxes and fees, here we come!

What Are Fuel Surcharges?

We’ve written a complete guide about fuel surcharges, so we won’t go deep into the details in this section.

However, fuel surcharges are a portion of your plane ticket’s total taxes and fees attributed to the fluctuations in fuel prices — at least in theory.

Over the years, airlines have manipulated fuel surcharges in their favor to eke out extra revenue without a clear correlation to real fuel prices.

While fuel surcharges are built into a ticket when paying with cash, they are not built into a ticket when redeeming points and miles, at least when we talk about using transfer partners and frequent flyer programs (American Express Travel and the Chase travel portal don’t fall under this).

So when you are trying to book an award ticket and see something like “50,000 miles plus $400 in taxes and fees,” you can bet that a big portion of those $400 in taxes and fees is fuel surcharges.

Sure, there are usually airport departure taxes and other fees, but these are usually a tiny percentage of the overall amount.

The 14 Best Ways To Redeem Points & Miles With Low Taxes, Fees & Surcharges

Fuel surcharges are most common with premium cabin tickets — think business and first class flights. So in this next section, we’ll show you our best ways to redeem points and miles with low taxes, fees, and surcharges.

In general, there are a few big-picture strategies to avoid large taxes and fees (for international flights):

  1. Book flights using a different frequent flyer program
  2. Book flights on a different airline
  3. Book flights from a different departure city

Fuel surcharges are typically levied by the operating airline and passed on by the frequent flyer program issuing the award ticket.

Some frequent flyer programs do not pass on fuel surcharges to the customer, even if the operating airline does levy fuel surcharges.

For example, Avianca LifeMiles will not pass on fuel surcharges on a Lufthansa business class flight, even though Lufthansa levies fuel surcharges.

Some airlines choose not to levy fuel surcharges at all, such as Air New Zealand. So if you book with certain airlines, you can avoid fuel surcharges entirely.

Lastly, many countries restrict or prohibit fuel surcharges, so if you fly out of certain countries like Australia or Japan, you will see either reduced fuel surcharges or no fuel surcharges at all!

So let’s get into all the terrific ways you can use the 3 principles above to book business and first class flights without hefty surcharges!

1. Emirates First Class (Japan Airlines Mileage Bank)

Emirates Inaugural World's Shortest A380 First Class Window Suite Cherag Dubash
While Emirates levies $200+ in fuel surcharges one-way, Japan Airlines doesn’t currently pass these on to travelers! Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Emirates was notorious for levying massive fuel surcharges to the tune of $800 one-way, which really put a damper on its appeal (at least when booking with points).

But ever since the pandemic began, Emirates cut down its fuel surcharges to around $150 in each direction!

And although that’s incredible news, you can even book through Japan Airlines Mileage Bank to pay a whopping $7 in total taxes and fees for these $10,000+ plane tickets!

Emirates is discontinuing Emirates first class bookings using Japan Airlines miles effective September 1, 2021, so be sure to get your reservations booked before then!

Here are some phenomenal redemptions you can make:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) one-way in Emirates first class for 135,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$7 in taxes and fees (190,000 miles round-trip)
  • New York (JFK) – Dubai (DXB) one-way in Emirates first class for 120,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$7 in taxes and fees (165,000 miles round-trip)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Dubai (DXB) one-way in Emirates first class for 135,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$7 in taxes and fees (190,000 miles round-trip)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Dubai (DXB) one-way in Emirates first class for 120,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$7 in taxes and fees (165,000 miles round-trip)

Hot Tip: Japan Airlines miles are some of the hardest miles to earn, but if you have Marriott Bonvoy points, you can transfer them to Japan Airlines for a glorious redemption!

2. Lufthansa First Class (Avianca LifeMiles)

Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Seat 1A - Cherag Dubash
Lufthansa first class usually comes with huge surcharges upwards of $1,000 one-way! Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Lufthansa’s heavenly first class product is a marvel to behold — with superb service, designer luxury amenities, and comfort that exceeds that of most private jets, you’ll certainly want to put this at the top of your bucket list.

Just 1 problem, though: Lufthansa levies an eye-popping $800 in fuel surcharges for a one-way first class flight!

But if you’re clever, you can avoid these fuel surcharges and lock in an attractive points rate by redeeming Avianca LifeMiles.

Here are some fantastic routes you can book:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Frankfurt (FRA) one-way in Lufthansa first class for 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Houston (IAH) – Frankfurt (FRA) one-way in Lufthansa first class for 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Frankfurt (FRA) one-way in Lufthansa first class for 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Frankfurt (FRA) one-way in Lufthansa first class for 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Frankfurt (FRA) one-way in Lufthansa first class for 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees

3. ANA First Class (Virgin Atlantic Flying Club)

ANA First Class
ANA’s glorious new first class can be booked with superb redemption rates and mild taxes and fees! Image Credit: ANA

ANA has an amazing first class product and an excellent business class product. And even though its first class ticket prices rival those of lavish airlines like Emirates, ANA levies fuel surcharges of less than $100 one-way, even on first class flights!

That’s incredible news because ANA first class also happens to be bookable with arguably the best sweet spot in all of points and miles via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.

For just 55,000 Virgin Points, you can book a one-way ticket between the U.S. West Coast and Tokyo in ANA first class (U.S. East Coast costs 60,000 Virgin Points):

  • Chicago (ORD) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in ANA first class for 60,000 Virgin Points + ~$80 in taxes and fees
  • Houston (IAH) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in ANA first class for 60,000 Virgin Points + ~$80 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in ANA first class for 55,000 Virgin Points + ~$80 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in ANA first class for 60,000 Virgin Virgin Points + ~$80 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in ANA first class for 55,000 Virgin Points + ~$80 in taxes and fees

4. Etihad First Class (Air Canada Aeroplan)

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9 First Class Seat
Etihad Airways first class offers superb luxury and can be booked without fuel surcharges! Image Credit: Greg Stone

Etihad Airways is a leading airline with a swanky first class product — and even though its A380s with First Class Apartments are likely to be retired, the 787 and 777 first class product offers a tremendous suite with sliding doors, a large lie-flat bed, and plenty of comfort.

And while Etihad Airways levies hefty fuel surcharges, it’s possible to avoid them by redeeming either American Airlines AAdvantage miles or Air Canada Aeroplan points.

At Upgraded Points, we are big fans of the latter because of how easy it is to earn Aeroplan points, thanks to transfer partnerships with American Express, Chase Ultimate RewardsCapital One, and Marriott Bonvoy.

At the moment, the only first class-equipped flights touching the U.S. are the following:

  • New York (JFK) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) one-way in Etihad first class for 120,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) one-way in Etihad first class for 120,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points + ~$38 in taxes and fees

5. Japan Airlines First Class (Japan Airlines Mileage Plan)

Japan Airlines Boeing 777 300ER First Class JAL Suite 2A
Japan Airlines 777-300ER first class is an incredible first class seat. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Japan Airlines, in a similar fashion to ANA, does not levy large fuel surcharges. Also, its first class product is an unforgettable experience.

In short, it’s easy to understand why this airline charges upwards of $15,000 for a one-way first class ticket!

Plus, booking made through Japan Airlines Mileage Bank will allow you to access additional award availability, which can be otherwise difficult to find.

Here are a few flights you can book:

  • Chicago (ORD) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in Japan Airlines first class for 70,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$75 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in Japan Airlines first class for 70,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$75 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in Japan Airlines first class for 70,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$75 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) one-way in Japan Airlines first class for 70,000 Japan Airlines miles + ~$75 in taxes and fees

6. Singapore Airlines First and Business Class (Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer)

Greg Stone - Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 First Class - Side On
Singapore Airlines’s 777-300ER first class is an absolute dream to book. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Despite being one of the world’s most aspirational first and business class airlines, Singapore Airlines doesn’t levy fuel surcharges at all for its own flights!

And while Singapore Airlines does pass on fuel surcharges on partner-operated flights like Lufthansa and SWISS, you won’t need to worry about fuel surcharges aboard those dreamy Singapore Airlines first and business class flights.

It gets better because you can add a stopover in any intermediate city with a Saver award ticket — simply make your booking over the phone and pay an additional $100 per ticket!

Here are a few U.S. routes you can book using KrisFlyer points:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) one-way in Singapore Airlines first class for 107,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 92,000 KrisFlyer miles
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Singapore (SIN) one-way in Singapore Airlines first class for 130,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 95,000 KrisFlyer miles
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Singapore (SIN) nonstop one-way in Singapore Airlines business class for 95,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Frankfurt (FRA) one-way in Singapore Airlines first class for 86,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 72,000 KrisFlyer miles
  • New York (JFK) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Singapore (SIN) one-way in Singapore Airlines first class for 132,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 99,000 KrisFlyer miles
  • New York (JFK) – Singapore (SIN) nonstop one-way in Singapore Airlines business class for 99,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG) one-way in Singapore Airlines first class for 104,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 89,000 KrisFlyer miles
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Singapore (SIN) one-way in Singapore Airlines first class for 130,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 95,000 KrisFlyer miles
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Singapore (SIN) nonstop one-way in Singapore Airlines business class for 95,000 KrisFlyer miles + ~$6 in taxes and fees

7. Cathay Pacific First and Business Class (Asia Miles)

Cathay Pacific 777 first class seat
Cathay Pacific 777 first class offers the widest seats, an astonishing 36 inches! Image Credit: Stephen Au

Cathay Pacific first class offers some of the biggest and exclusive seats in the world, while business class offers excellent award availability for the entire family!

And if you book using points, you’ll be pleased to find that fuel surcharges are very mild. Here are a few redemption ideas:

  • Boston (BOS) – Hong Kong (HKG) one-way in Cathay Pacific first class for 125,000 Asia Miles + ~$87 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 85,000 Asia Miles
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Hong Kong (HKG) one-way in Cathay Pacific first class for 110,000 Asia Miles + ~$87 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 70,000 Asia Miles
  • New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG) one-way in Cathay Pacific first class for 125,000 Asia Miles + ~$87 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 85,000 Asia Miles
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG) one-way in Cathay Pacific first class for 110,000 Asia Miles + ~$87 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 70,000 Asia Miles

8. Qantas First and Business Class (Asia Miles)

Qantas first class
Qantas first class is ridiculously spacious. Image Credit: Qantas

If you’re looking for some serious award redemption unicorns (or if you want to just fly nonstop from the U.S. to Australia on a non-U.S. airline), then Qantas has likely caught your eye at some point.

Qantas doesn’t ordinarily levy huge fuel surcharges, which means that one of the best ways to redeem points for premium cabin Qantas flights is by using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.

Here are some example redemptions you can make:

  • Dallas (DFW) – Sydney (SYD) one-way in Qantas first class for 135,000 Asia Miles + ~$84 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 90,000 Asia Miles
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Brisbane (BNE) one-way in Qantas business class for 70,000 Asia Miles + ~$84 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Melbourne (MEL) one-way in Qantas first class for 120,000 Asia Miles + ~$84 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 70,000 Asia Miles
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Sydney (SYD) one-way in Qantas first class for 120,000 Asia Miles + ~$84 in taxes and fees
    • Business class is available for 75,000 Asia Miles
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Sydney (SYD) one-way in Qantas business class for 70,000 Asia Miles + ~$84 in taxes and fees

9. British Airways First and Business Class Via a Non-U.S. Airport (Asia Miles)

British Airways First Class
British Airways first class. Image Credit: British Airways

British Airways is infamous for downright outrageous fuel surcharges on flights between the U.S. and Europe.

Although these are passed on by virtually every partner frequent flyer program, there does exist a way to fly British Airways business and first class without thousands of dollars in fuel surcharges, and that’s by booking a flight out of a different departure city.

Specific countries and territories regulate and restrict fuel surcharges — here are a few example redemptions you can make:

  • Hong Kong (HKG) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in British Airways first class for 110,000 Asia Miles + ~$46 in taxes and fees
  • Singapore (SIN) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in British Airways first class for 110,000 Asia Miles + ~$273 in taxes and fees
  • Sydney (SYD) – Singapore (SIN) one-way in British Airways first class for 87,000 Asia Miles + ~$173 in taxes and fees
  • Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT)- London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in British Airways first class for 110,000 Asia Miles + ~$103 in taxes and fees

10. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (Delta SkyMiles)

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 Upper Class Seat During the Morning
Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class seat. Image Credit: Greg Stone

Trying to book an award flight in business class to Europe is a tall order — virtually all airlines levy fuel surcharges, and it’s increasingly difficult to book SkyTeam award tickets at a good price.

But one of the hidden gems of Delta SkyMiles is that for flights departing from the U.S. and flying to Europe, fuel surcharges are not passed on.

To extrapolate, if you redeem SkyMiles for a partner flight like Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from the U.S. to Europe, you won’t be on the hook for any fuel surcharges at all, keeping your out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.

Sure, you’ll end up redeeming more points, but it’s almost certainly worth it to save up to $800 in one-way taxes and fees!

Here are a few redemption ideas for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flights using Delta SkyMiles:

  • Las Vegas (LAS) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Orlando (MCO) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Seattle (SEA) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – London-Heathrow (LHR) one-way in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees

11. Qatar Airways QSuites (American Airlines AAdvantage)

Qatar QSuites, A350 1E & 1J with Partition Dropped
Qatar Airways QSuites. Image Credit: Alex Miller

Although Qatar Airways QSuites are one of the best redemptions you can make using points and miles, going through the wrong frequent flyer program will leave you with up to $700 in one-way taxes and fees per person.

Avoid this by redeeming American Airlines AAdvantage miles! Here are a few redemptions you can make:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Doha (DOH) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles + ~$15 in taxes and fees
  • Boston (BOS) – Doha (DOH) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles + ~$15 in taxes and fees
  • Dallas (DFW) – Doha (DOH) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles + ~$15 in taxes and fees
  • Houston (IAH) – Doha (DOH) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles + ~$15 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Doha (DOH) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles + ~$15 in taxes and fees
  • Philadelphia (PHL) – Doha (DOH) one-way in Qatar Airways QSuites for 70,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles + ~$15 in taxes and fees

12. Star Alliance Business Class to and From Europe (Avianca LifeMiles)

Swiss Air business seat view
SWISS oozes classic luxury in business class. Image Credit: SWISS

Star Alliance has a huge footprint in Europe. With member airlines like Lufthansa and SWISS, some of the best ways to fly to Europe in business or first class are through the Star Alliance.

Normally, almost all of these Star Alliance airlines levy gigantic fuel surcharges of $700+ one-way, so clever travelers will use a frequent flyer program like Avianca LifeMiles to book these tickets.

Here are some examples of business class flights aboard airlines that levy high fuel surcharges you can book using LifeMiles:

  • Boston (BOS) – Munich (MUC) one-way in Lufthansa business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Chicago (ORD) – Stockholm (ARN) one-way in SAS business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Chicago (ORD) – Zurich (ZRH) one-way in Swiss Air business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Denver (DEN) – Munich (MUC) one-way in Lufthansa business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Copenhagen (CPH) one-way in SAS Air business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Munich (MUC) one-way in Lufthansa business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Oslo (OSL) one-way in SAS business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Zurich (ZRH) one-way in Swiss Air business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Vienna (VIE) one-way in Austrian Airlines business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Zurich (ZRH) one-way in Swiss Air business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Vienna (VIE) one-way in Austrian Airlines business class for 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + ~$38 in taxes and fees

13. SkyTeam Business Class to Europe (Delta SkyMiles)

Air France business class
Air France business class. Image Credit: Air France

We touched on Delta SkyMiles above in the context of Virgin Atlantic, which is a non-SkyTeam Delta SkyMiles partner. But what about other SkyTeam airlines? Well, the same principle applies — for U.S.-originating flights to Europe, Delta SkyMiles will not pass on any fuel surcharges.

Apply this tidbit of knowledge on various SkyTeam airlines (and Delta-operated flights, if you can find availability)!

Here are some example redemptions you can make with Delta SkyMiles:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Barcelona (BCN) one-way in Delta One business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Boston (BOS) – Amsterdam (AMS) one-way in KLM business class for Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Chicago (ORD) – Paris (CDG) one-way in Air France business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Detroit (DTW) – Paris (CDG) one-way in Air France business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Amsterdam (AMS) one-way in KLM business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Madrid (MAD) one-way in Air Europa business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Miami (MIA) – Moscow (SVO) one-way in Air Europa business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Moscow (SVO) one-way in Air Europa business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Venice (VCE) one-way in Delta One business class for 110,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees
  • Salt Lake City (SLC) – Paris (CDG) one-way in Delta One business class for 120,000 Delta SkyMiles + ~$6 in taxes and fees

14. Star Alliance Round-the-World Awards on Selected Airlines (ANA Mileage Club)

Turkish Airlines Boeing 787 9 Business Class Middle Aisle Seats
Turkish Airlines business class comes with low fuel surcharges that you can use to start your ANA round-the-world award trip! Image Credit: Greg Stone

The very last redemption is a biggie — Star Alliance Round the World (RTW) award tickets are very challenging to book while avoiding fuel surcharges.

That’s because almost all of the European Star Alliance carriers levy huge fuel surcharges of $700+. Plus, both United and Air Canada levy huge fuel surcharges in the same realm, too.

When you’re using ANA miles to book a RTW award ticket, all fuel surcharges will be passed on, which makes these tickets difficult to pull off without thousands of dollars of taxes and fees.

In general, you should be avoiding Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, SWISS, TAP Portugal, and United.

But if you’re first traveling to Europe, you can minimize fuel surcharges by flying your first segment on Turkish Airlines, LOT Polish, or Avianca (originating in South America). You’ll probably still have to be a few hundred dollars per person, but it’s a lot better than almost $1,000 per person!

Here’s a great example of a RTW award ticket that reduces those pesky fuel surcharges:

  • Houston (IAH) – Istanbul (IST) in Turkish Airlines business class
  • Istanbul (IST) – Cairo (CAI) in Egyptair business class
  • Cairo (CAI) – Addis Ababa (ADD) in Ethiopian Airlines business class
  • Addis Ababa (ADD) – Bangkok (BKK) in Ethiopian Airlines business class
  • Bangkok (BKK) – Taipei (TPE) in EVA Air business class
  • Taipei (TPE) – Brisbane (BNE) in EVA Air business class
  • Sydney (SYD) – Tokyo-Haneda/Narita (HND/NRT) – Houston (IAH) in ANA business class

You’d redeem a total of 200,000 ANA miles, plus around $900 in taxes and fees, which comes out to around $110 per segment! Remember, a chunk of these taxes and fees are unavoidable, like airport taxes and immigration fees.

Hot Tip: Not sure how to start planning the trip of a lifetime? See how to plan an around the world trip (using points and miles) and the credit cards to use to book around the world award flights in business and first class.

Final Thoughts

Overall, part of strategically using points to book business and first class airfare is doing so with minimal out-of-pocket costs.

Unfortunately, fuel surcharges are a necessary evil when redeeming points — the good news is that by using different frequent flyer programs, airlines, and routings, you can minimize these extra costs, saving you thousands of dollars in the long run.

In this guide, we walked you through how to book the world’s most aspirational itineraries without fuel surcharges, so the next step is to book that travel you’ve been thinking about!


Frequently asked questions

How do I avoid British Airways fuel surcharges?

The only way to avoid British Airways fuel surcharges while still flying on British Airways is to change your routing to fly out of a city that restricts or prohibits fuel surcharges. This includes cities like Hong Kong, Sydney, and more.

Which countries regulate fuel surcharges?

Here is a list of countries that regulate fuel surcharges (note: this does not necessarily mean fuel surcharges are banned in these countries):

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Maldives
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Saudi Arabia
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam

Are fuel surcharges legal?

Yes, in almost all countries, fuel surcharges are legal. However, some countries regulate how much an airline can levy in fuel surcharges.

How do you avoid taxes on flights?

You can avoid taxes on flights through 1 of 3 methods:

  1. Book flights using a different frequent flyer program
  2. Book flights on a different airline
  3. Book flights from a different departure city

How do I avoid Lufthansa fuel surcharges?

You can avoid Lufthansa fuel surcharges by booking using Avianca LifeMiles or United MileagePlus miles. You can also book a ticket that departs from a city like Tokyo, Hong Kong, or Mexico City.

What is a YQ surcharge?

A YQ surcharge is the technical term for premium cabin fuel surcharges (business or first class). So, if someone says that there’s $300 in YQ, then that means that are $300 in fuel surcharges on that given flight.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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7 comments

  1. Anil Singh Bhati July 9, 2021

    How do you check for Asia miles when the required points are not there?

    Reply

  2. I use Qantas to search for Cathay Pacific award availability. I’m not sure if that is what you were asking.

    Reply

  3. Are there any companies/individuals for a fee that will help move points from 5 airline programs to the 2 that will allow travel to Asia and the Middle East?

    Reply

    • Hi Lee,

      I am not aware of any such services. What points do you currently have? Depending on what they are, you may be able to redeem those points for travel with one of those programs partner airlines for tickets to Asia and the Middle East.

      Reply

  4. Please correct me if I’m wrong but I thought they discontinued Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Hong Kong (HKG)?

    Reply

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