One of the most closely guarded travel hacks is Fuel Dumping. It is the practice of manipulating airfare and reducing the cost of your ticket. This is not a post explaining how to do it, but is meant to be informative as to what the practice is and the basics behind it.
I’ve mentioned the ITA Software Matrix before as a great way to find flights, but it also shows you exactly what makes up the price of your plane ticket. If you have never really investigated the price of airfare, it might surprise you that often, only 50% of the price of flying is the “Base Fare.” There are various taxes and surcharges that get added to the price of your ticket that makes up the ultimate price of flying. The idea behind fuel dumping, is to eliminate these extra charges to reduce the cost of traveling.
Base Fare – This is the underlying cost of the plane ticket. Base Fares are often different for each airline even if the overall price of the routing is similar and dictate where you can fly. A recent search from Chicago – London yielded a base fare on Air Canada of $232.00 to London and $232.00 for the return. If there were not taxes and fees this ticket would only cost $464.00, but the total cost of the flight was $973.88!
YQ (Fuel Surcharge) – This is exactly what people who hack airfare are trying to eliminate. For the above mentioned fare to London, YQ totaled $320.00! Through various tricks, airfare hackers are trying to eliminate as much, if not all of this surcharge.
There are other taxes and fees, but YQ is generally the largest surcharge to eliminate. Some airlines charge higher fuel surcharges than others and chose the right base fare to try to “manipulate” is an important part of the process. Flying from Chicago to London on British Airways is more expensive than Air Canada at face value, but the base fare on British Airways is much lower. This means if someone was able to successfully “dump” the fuel surcharge, they could fly round trip for less than $400. Other airlines have chosen to eliminate surcharges and simply increase the base fare. These tickets are not worth trying to manipulate as they will still be very expensive.
Fuel Dumping generally involves adding flights, before/after/in between (nested) the flight you are trying to trick. Several years ago, when the Flyertalk thread on Fuel Dumping began, it was as simple as taking a transatlantic flight from the US to Europe and booking a 3rd flight from the US to Canada in order for the airlines computer system to “forget” to add the fuel surcharge to the ticket. Today, tricks do not last quite as long and the airlines have figured out how to close loopholes quicker.
Flying on a tricked ticket is against the conditions of carriage and should not be used as a legitimate form of travel, unless you know what you are doing. Tricking airfare is quite difficult and often you will find that the flight you must take in order to get the price of your target ticket reduced is not possible or cost effective, but it is still a fun puzzle that is constantly changing. This past year, I was frequently finding “flyable” transatlantic flights for under $400.00, but the airlines quickly realized the loophole and now the trick does not work, but I am still looking for another trick to reduce prices!