Fly From These Countries to Avoid Carrier Surcharges on Award Flights

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Avoid Carrier Surcharges in these Countries

Avoid Carrier Surcharges on Award Flights by Flying From These Countries

“How do I avoid carrier surcharges on award flights?” It’s a common question. You’ve saved up your points and are dreaming of an elaborate flight, something like Emirates. You go to their website, look up the flights you want, and you get sticker shock. $843 for a “free” flight?! And that’s just 1 person, one-way. Where you fly from matters. You can avoid carrier surcharges not just by using the right airline program (ex: Avianca) but also by where you fly from. Here are some top countries for avoiding carrier surcharges on award flights.

Countries Which Restrict Carrier Surcharges

Admittedly, these are not total bans. This doesn’t mean your taxes & fees on that award ticket will be completely $0. There are still other fees and taxes to pay for. What we’re trying to avoid here are the “carrier-imposed surcharges” that many airlines and award programs tack on. Let’s look at an example from Emirates, one of the most exorbitant adders of fees.

Emirates one-way carrier surcharges
$843 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, JFK to DXB

This kills the value of your points. Avoiding these surcharges and fees maximizes your savings and leaves you money to spend on the trip, not the award flights. So, where can you fly from, if getting there makes sense? Great question.


Let’s start with my home. I hadn’t realized until recently how good we have it living here. Here’s the Emirates flight to Dubai, starting from São Paulo GRU airport.

Reduce carrier surcharges on flights from Brazil
$303 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, GRU to DXB

That’s not free, sure, but it’s a huge difference. You knocked $500 off the fees, and that’s just one-way. Saving $1,000 on a round-trip award ticket is huge. It can get even higher if we change this business class flight to first class. For comparison, here’s the same flight if booked in reverse as a one-way starting in Dubai and ending at GRU.

Carrier surcharges on Emirates award flights
$504 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, DXB to GRU


Reduce carrier surcharges on flights from Australia
$321 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, SYD to DXB

Australia also has some limits on carrier surcharges being added to award tickets. You’ll pay $321 in taxes and fees for this booking to Dubai DXB airport. Still not free, but still much better than flights starting in Dubai (home airport of Emirates) or starting in the US.


Avoid carrier surcharges by flying from Vietnam
$275 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, SYD to DXB

I have heard 0 people ever mention this in a conversation. Vietnam limits carrier surcharges on award tickets, and we’re saving even more money. $275 in taxes and fees on our flight to Dubai in business class.


Emirates surcharges and fees on flights from Thailand
$244 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, BKK to DXB

Thailand also imposes limits on surcharges for flight bookings. We’re down under $250 at this point. This is below 1/3 of the taxes on the New York JFK flight. Consider Thailand as a destination for avoiding carrier surcharges on award flights.

New Zealand

Avoid carrier surcharges on flights from New Zealand
$218 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, AKL to DXB

New Zealand also has regulations on surcharges. Yes, you’re going to need a lot more points. The distance is much greater. However, it’s something to think about in our list of countries that limit carrier surcharges on award tickets. $218 in fees for that flight to Dubai.

Hong Kong

Avoid carrier surcharges by starting in Hong Kong
$161 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, HKG to DXB

This is the most famous of destinations for routing to avoid carrier surcharges on award flights. Positioning to Hong Kong to reduce the extra fees on a premium cabin booking gets a lot of attention. At $161 in taxes and fees, this is a pretty big difference from our JFK flight. However, it’s not the lowest.


Award surcharges are lowest from Japan
$106 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, AKL to DXB

Surprised that Japan has the lowest taxes and fees for this Emirates award booking? I was. Japan severely limits what fees and charges airlines can add to flights. That includes award bookings out of Japan. This flight to Dubai has under $106 in taxes and fees.

Note that there’s little to no effect on flights TO Japan regarding the fees. The same flight in reverse has $476 in fees. Crazy enough, for just $202 in taxes and fees, you could go the wrong way around the world from Tokyo to Dubai to New York (if you have enough miles!).

Special note: China (for domestic flights only)

There’s also something to be said about China in this discussion. China really limits carrier surcharges on its domestic flights, but that doesn’t apply to international flights leaving China. Air France is another carrier that tacks on some hefty carrier surcharges that we want to avoid, so here’s what their site shows me for flights out of Beijing.

Avoid surcharges with domestic flights in China
$7 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, PEK to CTU

Beijing to Chengdu flights on China Eastern in business class have $7 in taxes and fees. When I tried to book the flights showing $14 in fees, it went down on the actual booking screen. I always got $7.

Higher surcharges on international flights from China
$130 in taxes and fees for 1 person, one-way in business class, PEK to VVO

Vladivostok, Russia is actually closer to Beijing than Chengdu is. However, with an international flight, the surcharges are now added on. Points haven’t gone up, but taxes and fees jumped from $7 to $130. China allows surcharges to be added on international flights.

Final thoughts on avoiding carrier surcharges by country

Some countries prohibit while others reduce the surcharges that airlines can add onto tickets. This helps defray the cash cost of your award bookings. It’s not $0, but it makes a big difference. If you need to book with an airline that adds these fees to your tickets, changing the country of origin can make a big difference. For some of them, it affects only departures and not the return. It’s worth playing around with your itinerary to see how this affects your individual plan.

Does it make sense to completely change your travel plans? Should you re-route to another country before flying to your vacation spot? Every situation is different, and you might spend more when trying to save. However, it helps to know these things when considering your award flights and how to book them. It can result in big savings.

Have you repositioned to avoid carrier surcharges before? Is there another sweet spot I missed? I’d love to learn about more of these.

Ryan S
Travel hacker in 2-player mode, intent on visiting every country in the world, and can say "hello" or "how much does this cost?" in a bunch of different languages.

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  1. A wonderful list. Thank you. Any idea if fuel surcharges would apply on a RTW trip that begins in any of these countries? Otherwise the best most of us can do is break up a round trip ticket into two one ways.

    • Christian – let me look into this and see what happens. I’ve never tried to book a RTW ticket, so let me do some homework and get back to you.

    • Christian – this is in no way very scientific, since no RTW tickets can be booked online, but I just priced out on Emirates going from Hong Kong to Dubai, wait 5 days, to Rio, wait 5 days, to Buenos Aires (a 5th freedom route on Emirates). Priced as a multi-city and priced as a bunch of 1-way bookings. Just doing it in economy has a difference of over $400 in fees. So it should hold true…in theory.


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