The hits keep on coming for Aeroplan members. First, a devaluation of the award chart in June. That was followed by a recent decision to discontinue booking the domestic legs of business class tickets in first class. Now, arguably the biggest devaluation yet, Aeroplan has begun levying fuel surcharges on Star Alliance partner Lufthansa–and more carriers may be in the mix.
While this change came as a surprise to me, perhaps it should not have been–afterall, Aeroplan has been levying fuel surcharges on Air Canada flights for seven years. I suppose it was only a matter of time before they started doing it for partner airlines as well.
Here’s the official word from Air Canada:
Effective November 9th 2011 at 7pm, Aeroplan began applying, at Air Canada’s request, fuel surcharges to flight rewards on Lufthansa. Members making voluntary changes after the effective date to existing bookings with Lufthansa flight segments will also be subject to the fuel surcharges.
With the increasing cost of fuel, many airlines have started charging fuel surcharges on redemption tickets. All fuel surcharge amounts applied by Aeroplan are passed through to the ticketing carrier for settlement. Fuel surcharge amounts are based on the operating airline’s application of surcharges and may change from time to time. Aeroplan has applied fuel surcharges for flight rewards on Air Canada since 2004. The fuel surcharge amounts to be applied by Aeroplan for flights on Lufthansa will be the same as those applied by Lufthansa within its own frequent flyer program. Other Star Alliance member airlines will be added as applicable.
Thanks for the notice. And note that the ticketing carrier is Air Canada, not Lufthansa, meaning Aeroplan is cleverly admitting that Air Canada is just pocketing the money.
When the change happened last night, flyers were seeing fuel surcharges on Austrian, Asiana, ANA, and Thai as well, though the fuel surcharges on those carriers have been pulled back today and Aeroplan claims it was a technical glitch. The fuel surcharge, at least for now, will only apply to Lufthansa and Air Canada flights.
Naturally, I am disgusted by this news. Aeroplan has gone from undoubtedly the most valuable frequent flyer program to one that is mediocre at best. The program changes solidify United Mileage Plus as the best Star Alliance frequent flyer program available to passengers. United does not charge fuel surcharges on awards, has competitive award charts including one-way awards at half the round-trip price, and has generous routing rules. Combine that with United and Continental’s partners outside Star Alliance like EVA, Qatar, and Virgin Atlantic and you have a very attractive program.
But with other carriers “passing on” fuel surcharges to passengers, it would not surprise me to see United/Continental join the club next year. But let’s think good thoughts about that.
All I can advise is to avoid Lufthansa when redeeming Aeroplan miles. With Lufthans’s robust route map in North America and generous award inventory in all three classes of service worldwide, this will be no easy task when trying to build an award trip. But at least for now, there are still a number of choices in the 27-member Star Alliance to get you to your destination without having to shell out an extra $400 for “fuel” costs.
While it’s certainly possible that AC is pocketing the money, the sentence you bolded actually suggests otherwise to me. Why are the words “for settlement” there? If AC was keeping the money, the sentence could have just stopped at “passed through to the ticketing carrier”. The “for settlement” implies that AC is doing something with the proceeds, i.e. passing it on to LH. Even if the money goes to LH, there is a benefit to AC in levelling the playing field so that Aeroplan award redeemers don’t avoid AC (as all the travel blogs have been recommending for a while — maybe the issue became too widely publicized for AC’s liking). Pure speculation on my part, but another way of looking at it.