American and United Add $10 Surcharge For Peak Holiday Travel

It looks like United and American have decided that you don’t pay enough to travel on the peak holiday travel days, so they’ve added a $10 surcharge. Is this a new fee? Nah, I think it’s just the lazy man’s fare increase.

You’re always used to paying more to travel on the holidays, right? Usually, this happens because airlines use inventory controls to make you pay a higher fare. So that $99 one way fare just won’t be available (well, ok, maybe on Virgin America). But now American has decided that still aren’t paying enough on certain days, and United has followed. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving and both the Saturday and Sunday after New Year’s, they’ve added a $10 surcharge to nearly all fares.

I’ve already seen some people wondering if this is a new fee that the airlines are starting to add, but really, I don’t see it that way. It’s simply a fare increase but instead of adding blackout dates to the existing fares and filing new fares at a higher level (which is kind of a pain), they just added a blanket surcharge to make things easier for them. Might as well do it this way – you get the same result for the most part.

The most important thing here is that you won’t see anything different as a traveler. When you price out your ticket, that surcharge will already be included, so it’s not a nickel-and-diming type of strategy here.

Airlines have used peak pricing for years. Remember the traditional Southwest $99 sales? Those were only good on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. The rest of the week was $119. The difference here is that it’s just much more specific, and they’ve used a different method for increasing the fare.

One extra benefit for the airlines is that surcharges normally get added on after discounts are taken, though I can’t imagine too many people are traveling on corporate discounts or anything like that on the peak holiday travel days. I really think it was just the easiest way to do a narrow fare increase.

I suppose the news here is that technically, this is a different way of doing things, but ultimately, it’s just a fare increase. Flights on those days are always packed, so they’re just going to try to squeeze some more revenue out while they can. I imagine we’ll see more of this in the future.

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11 Comments on "American and United Add $10 Surcharge For Peak Holiday Travel"

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David SF eastbay
With all the checked bag fees, I’m thinking more people will mail holiday packages this year instead of packing empty suitcases with presents to take to family and friends. Could be a boom for the USPS, Fedex, and UPS this holiday season. I’m sick of fees and surcharges, just raise the fare and pay your bills like other businesses do. If you have to pay the extra $10 for certain travel dates then raise the fare. It’s just another way of tricking the public as the airline lets you think your fare is $99.00 but everything else that adds up… Read more »

What if you have tickets for those dates that were already purchased months ago?


Wow what a lazy solution to yield management. I wonder if perhaps in 3-5 years we’ll see a swing back to all inclusive fares…will people get so annoyed at the false economy of many discount fares that they’ll begin to crave value again?

David SF eastbay
CF wrote: David SFeastbay wrote: David – that’s not what’s happening here. Surcharges are included in the base fare whenever they’re advertised and they’ll be shown in the final price that you’ll see on any website. Not really, if you look in an airline computer either via AA reservations or a travel agent the price in the fare display does not show surcharges. You would have to look up to see what they are. At least for this blog it’s only $9.30 plus tax, but surcharges on international fares can really shock people. A (example) LAX-CDG-LAX on AA in business… Read more »
David SF eastbay
CF wrote: If you’re talking about an actual fare display which really only a travel agent would see, then yes, it is excluded. But any consumer-facing site includes the amount. Yes a real actual fare display that the airlines themselves use as well as any travel agency and onsite corporate travel department. Using a consumer-facing site a traveler would never really know the full breakdown of the base fare so wouldn’t know what the real fare is and how much the airline adds on for surcharges without telling you. Not that you have a choice on paying the surcharge, but… Read more »
becky grant

There are so many fees for this and that. I would rather just see one price and be done with it. I’m so tired of $5 for this and $10 for that. Just tell me what it’s going to cost and I’ll decide if it’s worth it. lol


On a related note, has anyone noticed in the past few days that United has changed its fare search results? They used to post as everything included; now one has to click through to get the total tab. The all-in results were one of the few plusses (to me) that had and now it’s as frustrating as the others in this regard.

Fresh Airfare

The consensus amongst travelers is that fees offend them. Airlines need to recognize this and start including fees into the fare on one line item.

Would the average flier be happier paying a $300 fee-less fare, or a $250 fare that is all fees? It is something the airlines should study. But, nevertheless, heavy fees seem to work for RyanAir’s pricing model.