Wherever South Floridians fly to Europe, however, they will pay dearly for passage. Fuel surcharges remain high, airlines are reducing capacity, and the uncertain economic outlook inhibits prospective travelers. All these factors work to keep air fares at high levels.
Still, fares traditionally drop in shoulder-season fall and low-season winter, so South Floridians now can fly to Europe for under $1,000 round-trip, said Tom Parsons, CEO of Bestfares.com (who recommends that passengers get lower fares by traveling Monday through Thursday). Some roundtrip Miami fares that Parsons found for early November departures: To Lisbon: $859, London: $789 (Oct. 30), Madrid: $879, Paris: $939, Rome: $929.
At those fares American passengers are paying almost twice as much for the fuel surcharge as for the base air fare — a big bone of contention with Parsons.
“If there’s [anything] that makes me hot under the collar, it is fuel surcharges to Europe,” he wrote in an article on his web site. “Boy oh boy are they on the rise and are we getting ripped off.”
Back in 2007, Parsons explained in an interview, the fuel surcharge for flights to Europe was $120-$150. “Today, fuel costs are only about 25 percent higher, but the fuel surcharges are four times more — $516 to about 95 percent of Europe.”
Parsons believes the U.S. Department of Transportation should challenge the airlines on the surcharges, citing also the fact that the surcharge on flights to Hong Kong — twice as distant — is only $249.
Victoria Day of Airlines for America, the airline industry association, says Parson’s comments are based on a flawed assumption, that the fuel surcharges in 2007 were sufficient to cover costs.
“Airline expenses have risen 9 percent, led by a 13 percent increase in fuel expenses (exceeding $25 billion) from the first half of 2012 compared to the first half of 2011, and the price of fuel is now running higher than the 2011 record,” she said. “This has resulted in the 10 largest U.S. airlines posting a combined $1.1 billion loss in the first half of this year. When airlines’ costs rise, the only options are to seek ways to increase revenue and/or decrease expenses.”