When an airline drops its high fuel surcharges, what happens to passengers with advance bookings? Do they get a refund?
That’s not an academic question for reader Simon Gornick, who bought a ticket on Virgin Atlantic in October from Los Angeles to London for Christmas. The price included a hefty $400 fuel surcharge.
Only a few days after making his reservation, Virgin Atlantic cut its fees.
That’s great for future bookings, but what about folks like Gornick? He phoned Virgin a few weeks later to check the price on the same flight, and found that the surcharge was gone.
That means that many people are paying the surcharge on the same flight, while others are not.
Putting aside the clear price gouging by the airlines represented by the use of the surcharge, it strikes me as grossly unfair to be penalized for an airline’s poor oil future purchases.
If any business should be well-informed about oil prices, it should be the airline industry. And with the volatility in that market, they should have paid more attention to the spot price.
Gornick contacted Virgin’s customer relations department by email, but heard nothing back.
I phoned Virgin Atlantic and asked a representative the same question. Could I get a refund if I bought the ticket in October, when the fuel surcharge was in effect?
“Unfortunately not,” I was told.
Virgin, and the other airlines that are lowering or eliminating their fuel surcharges, ought to offer a refund – or at least credit – to passengers who paid the fee. Better yet, they should eliminate fuel surcharges altogether and include the price of fuel in the fare.