How Not To Pay Delta’s Surcharge On An International Award Trip

by joeheg

There’s so much you need to keep in mind when booking travel using points and miles. You know some of them by heart because you use the information all the time, like which airlines fly from your home airport to your favorite travel destination and what the best points are to book those flights. There’s also a bunch more information that you’ll read and bookmark because you think you’ll need it later.

But there’s one more category of information that you’ll come across – the things that you remember you read about, but only AFTER you find out about them again by accident. For me, this trick, or a way to use an airline’s rule to your advantage, saved us $300 on our last trip to London, back in 2019. The prices you’ll see below will be “off,” but I’ll show at the end of this piece that this trick still works.

I was doing searches, trying to find award space between the U.S. and London. To save time, I look at individual flight segments, as we’re willing to fly one airline to a location and a different one home. And frankly, with award flights, this might be the only way to make a trip. Anyway, I quickly realized that our choices were limited. You can book flights on British Airways with Avios or with American miles but they both add the fees British Airways charges to award tickets so it would cost several hundred dollars for each ticket on top of the miles required. So I had one choice: Delta.


Fortunately for us, you can book travel on Virgin Atlantic with Delta SkyMiles when there’s available award space. Virgin Atlantic is also one of the airlines that flies directly between Orlando to London so this is a great option for us. We decided to book seats in Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy cabin, which cost 55,000 SkyMiles each direction. I found a flight with award space from Orlando to London and the price was 55,000 miles plus $5.60 in taxes.

a screenshot of a website

I did a quick search for the non-stop from London to Orlando and amazingly there were two award seats available the day we needed. The price for the flight was 55,000 SkyMiles and £297.06. I did the conversion and found that it turned out to be $391.27 in fees per ticket. Ouch. I’m well aware of the Air Passenger Duty fee that the United Kingdom imposes on almost all of the flights leaving the country but that should’ve only been £150 and wouldn’t have accounted for the higher price.

a screenshot of a flight

Since both of the flights were going to be on Virgin Atlantic using SkyMiles, I went back in and entered the information on so I could have both flights on one booking. When I did, something amazing happened. The number of miles was correct at 110,000 but the taxes on the ticket dropped to $241.83. That’s $155 less than if I booked the flights separately. Why did booking a round trip cost me less than two single flights? I remembered reading about this scenario a while ago but we don’t fly to London often, so it went into my brain and right out again.

a screenshot of a flight ticket

When making a booking with SkyMiles on Virgin Atlantic, Delta does NOT charge the fuel carrier surcharge if the flight is originating from the United States but they DO charge the surcharge for flights originating from outside the United States. That was the difference I was seeing in the price. Since my flight was now a round trip starting in the U.S., I was saving the £100 Carrier Surcharge that I’d have to pay if I booked a one-way from London to Orlando. Upon doing some more research, this also is the way Delta prices their own flights between the United Kingdom and Europe.

Notice all the fees in the blue box on the right? Those are all the taxes, fees and surcharges normally added to a Virgin Atlantic ticket. The box on the left is the fees I paid on my Delta award ticket. All of the numbers from the UK fees aren’t exact matches because of exchange rates but it’s easy to see that Delta doesn’t charge the Carrier Imposed Surcharge, the US International Departure Tax, US Passenger Facility Charge, and the United Kingdom Passenger Service Charge Departures on award tickets originating in the United States.


For my upcoming trip to London, I found flights from Orlando with Virgin Atlantic using Flying Blue. When looking for flights home, I noticed Delta charges an International Surcharge on award tickets originating outside of the US.

a white background with black dots

However, if I booked a round-trip ticket originating in the US, there was no surcharge.

a white background with blue textBeware that if you’re going to book an international award ticket with Delta SkyMiles. it might be significantly less expensive to book a round trip instead of two one-way tickets.

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