Ultimate Guide to Booking American Airline Awards: Part 3 – Taxes and fees and How to Book Awards (online vs. phone)

Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

American Airlines has some of the best award options for flights around the world. With the American Airline AAdvantage award program, you can fly practically anywhere in the world using miles that you earn from credit card bonuses and flying on American Airline flights. By learning some basics about the program you will be a pro at booking your next award flight. In a series of posts, we’ll discuss the different ways American Airlines points can be used to maximize your awards.

Part 1 – Introduction to Using American Airlines Miles and the Partner Airlines
Part 2 – Comparing American Airline’s 3 Award Charts
Part 3 – Taxes and fees and How to Book Awards (online vs. phone)
Part 4 – Stopovers and Open Jaw tickets American Airlines
Part 5 – How to Maximize American Airlines Explorer, oneworld and Other Airline Award Charts
Part 6 – How to Maximize AA MileSAAver Awards (includes off-peak)
Part 7 – Planning an International Award
Part 8 – Maximizing AA Miles to South America
Part 9 – Maximizing AA Miles to Asia
Part 10 – Maximizing AA Miles to Europe
Part 11 – Maximizing AA Miles to Africa
Part 12 – Maximizing AA Miles to Middle East
Part 13 – Maximizing AA Miles in the US and Hawaii


American Airlines is part of oneworld alliance and and has some of the best partners for booking award flights. With over 12 oneworld alliances and 13 additional partners American Airlines  miles offer a huge variety of destinations and you get to fly on the airline you prefer.

When you’re planning your award the variety of airline partners gives you the flexibility to choose the airline and carrier you want. Aside from different routes and the quality of service, you can save money and maximize your award by choosing the airline with the lowest taxes and fees.

You might be thinking “but I thought an award ticket meant I fly for free?” This was true until some airlines decided to charge you fuel surcharges and other fees. Depending on the airline these taxes and fees may be as low as $5 or as high as $1,000+.

Now, you also may be thinking “but I’m booking with American Airlines miles, why do I have to pay the other airline’s taxes and fees?”

There are different reasons behind why an award ticket has several taxes and fees--such as airport and airline maintenance or security. Most of these cost factors are a fixed amount. Depending on the airline program you are booking on and the flights you choose, some of these fees may be passed on to your award price.

Breakdown of a basic award ticket taxes and fees:

Domestic Travel

Base fare
Carrier-imposed fees
7.5% U.S. government excise tax
September 11th Security Fee of $2.50 per U.S. enplanement
Airport passenger facility charges (PFCs) of up to $18 round trip
U.S. government excise tax* of $3.90 on each domestic flight segment (defined as one takeoff and one landing)
For Hawaii/Alaska, U.S. government excise tax of $8.20

International Travel (including Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands)

Base fare
Carrier-imposed fees
September 11th Security Fee of $2.50 per U.S. enplanement
Airport passenger facility charges (PFCs) of up to $18 round trip
Other government taxes and fees (including U.S. excise tax* and foreign taxes** based on itinerary or billing address) of up to $240 may apply; total may vary slightly based upon currency exchange rate at time of purchase.

Some taxes and fees are mandatory and government imposed, but others are completely avoidable with a little planning.

Fuel surcharges are the largest fee that certain airlines tack on to your award ticket for flying on their planes. They are the most expensive cost that airlines will tack onto a an award ticket--and can range anywhere from $100 to $800+ depending on the airline.

Carrier-imposed fees are basically any fees that is not a government  imposed tax. You can consider these fees an optional fee that airlines charge their passengers to bring in more revenue.

The bottom line is: a little planning saves a lot of money!

List of All oneworld and Partner Airlines:

oneworld Partners

  • airberlin
  • British Airways (affiliate airlines: Cityflyer, Comair, Sun-Air of Scandinavia)
  • Cathay Pacific (affiliate airlines: Dragonair)
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Qantas (affiliate airlines: QantasLink & Jetconnect)
  • Japan Airlines (affiliate airlines: JAL Express, J-Air, Japan Transocean Air)
  • LAN (affiliate airlines: LAN Argentina, LAN Ecuador, LAN Express, LAN Peru)
  • Mexicana (suspended indefinitely)
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 (affiliate airlines: Globus)

Other Partners

  • Air Tahiti
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • El Al
  • Etihad Airways
  • Fiji Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Jet Airways
  • Jet Blue
  • Seaborne
  • TAM Airlines
  • WestJet

oneworld airlines that have carrier imposed fuel surcharges:

American Airlines
British Airways

Iberia and British Airways are the only airlines that pass on their fuel surcharges to American Airline ticketed flights and if it’s not one of the two airlines, then American Airline fuel surcharges for international flights are imposed.

American Airlines flights only include fuel surcharges on international flights outside North America, South America and the Caribbean.

When booking a flight with American Airline miles online, the website is vague about what fees or taxes you are paying. You can use ITA Matrix Software to help you break down your fare including a detailed list of the taxes and fees.

ITA Matrix Software’s breakdown for a domestic round trip award on American Airlines from Los Angeles to New York:

ITA Matrix Software’s breakdown of British Airways taxes and fees for a flight from Los Angeles to Paris:

It’s obvious that the $500 fuel surcharge that British Airways imposes is the most expensive fee. Even though you are booking using your American Airline miles, you will have to pay $516 as a fuel surcharge.

Example Round Trip Taxes and Fees on American Airline Awards

Los Angeles to France via American Airlines $659

Los Angeles to Rome via American Airlines $723

Miami to Mexico City via Alaska Airlines $123

Portland to Buenos Aires via $84

Los Angeles to Sydney via American Airlines/Hawaiian Airlines/Qantas $121.50

Los Angeles to Cape Town via American Airlines/British Airways $728 in economy & $1,730.40 in business class

Example One Way Taxes and Fees on American Airline Awards

Houston to Rio De Janeiro via American Airlines $5 in economy and $5 in business class

New York to Istanbul via Air Berlin $282 in economy and $455 in business Class

Washington DC to Sao Paulo via LAN $31 in economy and in business class.

So much for a free flight, right? Your best bet to saving money would be to book with a oneworld partner that has low or no fuel surcharges. The only time that there are no fuel surcharges is if you’re traveling within North America, South America and the Caribbean on any partner unless you're on a  British Airways or Iberia carrier.

Other Taxes and Fees

Fuel surcharges are not the only the fees that can turn your award flight into a costly trip. Depending on departure and arrival city you will also have to pay departure and arrival taxes that the government requires.

If you plan on upgrading your cabin to a first or business class seat, you can also expect to pay more in taxes and fees. Be aware that these can sometimes almost be double what they are in economy.

Booking Awards Over the Phone

If you are booking an American Airline award for an alliance or partner airline, you have to do it over the phone. You can book awards online through the American Airline website on American Airline’s affiliates, which are American Connection, Eagle and Alaska.

You can also book British Airways flights online, but to avoid paying high taxes and fees it’s best to try to avoid flying on British Airways. Unfortunately booking over the phone comes with an unavoidable $25 fee for booking with an agent.

Close-in Booking Fees

Anytime that you are booking within 21 days of your intended flight, American Airlines will charge you a Close-in Booking Fee of $75. You can always try to get this fee waived at the representatives discretion, but most likely it's a cost you’re going to have to pay if you don’t reserve far in enough in advance.

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