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Fuel Dumping for Dummies

Why are international flights so expensive?! That was the question I asked myself 3 years ago as I searched for a flight from New Jersey to New Delhi. Little did I know, that this small question would lead me down such a deep rabbit hole that when I came out the other side I was never the same again… In this blog post I plan to share just a small fraction of the incredible SNAFU that is the modern day airline industry.

This complexity isn’t without its perks, however. Airlines have so many “fires” to put out on a daily basis that savvy fliers can take advantage of certain loopholes that airlines don’t have the manpower to manage. What loopholes, you ask? Fuel dumping! A tactic that expert fliers all over the world have capitalized on (read: used to save hundreds of dollars on each international flight) for years, fuel dumping is a method of combining flights to eliminate certain fees within plane ticket costs.

BUT FIRST, THE BASICS:

The first thing to understand is what charges comprise the cost of a plane ticket. If you don’t already know, ITA Matrix is an awesome tool for this.

ITA Matrix (matrix.itasoftware.com) screenshot of a EWR to DEL roundtrip itinerary. ITA Matrix is one of the only travel search engines to show such a detailed price breakdown

ITA Matrix (matrix.itasoftware.com) screenshot of a EWR to DEL roundtrip itinerary. ITA Matrix is one of the only travel search engines to show such a detailed price breakdown

Some line items to note are:

  1. Base Fare: The price of your flight without other taxes and fees ($242 each way in the example above)
  2. YR (sometimes called YQ): This is the fuel surcharge. Although airlines would have fliers believe that this charge covers the cost of fuel and that rising fuel surcharges reflect fluctuating fuel prices, this isn’t always the case. The fuel surcharge, some speculate, is a way for airlines to change the prices of flights on a whim.
  3. Other Taxes and Fees: These are pretty self-explanatory charges imposed by respective countries and their governments/airports. Since they’re insignificant in comparison to the base fare and YR/YQ, it isn’t really worth the trouble contesting the charges.

With this price breakdown in mind, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just do away with the pesky (and expensive!) fuel surcharge? With fuel dumping, you can!

FUEL DUMPING

There are three components of a fuel dump:

  1. Base fare

  2. YR (aka YQ)

  3. 3X

We’ve already discussed what the base fare and YR are, but what is this 3X?

A 3X, or third strike, is a flight that you tack onto the end of your itinerary that you don’t actually fly. The 3X eliminates the YR/YQ (by some airline oversight), so if you find a 3X cheaper than the YR/YQ, you save the difference between the two. Score!

While the 3X does need to be cheaper than the YR/YQ you’re looking to dump, the 3X doesn’t necessarily have to originate from your actual destination. That is, if you were flying from Newark to New Delhi roundtrip, your 3X would not have to originate from Newark to work. Your 3X could be from Seoul to Bangkok. Admittedly, it’s a little suspicious to have such an itinerary, but it’s up to you to come up with a reason for the gap in your travel plans (your company might be taking care of your flight to Seoul, for instance).

LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS (and ruin fuel dumping for everyone!)

Clever as you might feel after finding your first fuel dump, don’t make a big fuss about it! There’s a reason why FlyerTalk forums are reserved for the people who have paid their due diligence in researching and finding 3Xs. While a publicly accessible fuel dump 3X route would bring the benefits of fuel dumping to more people, it places the fuel dump in jeopardy. If hundreds of people start purchasing tickets for a flight that typically carries 50 passengers, airlines might realize their mistake, close that loophole and ruin the fuel dump. In short, we have a real problem with the guy who spills the beans about a fuel dump to the rest of the world. Don’t be that guy!!

Hopefully by now you have a clearer understanding of what airlines charge you for when you purchase a plane ticket and how you can circumvent some of those charges!

STAY TUNED to learn how to find your own 3X!