If anyone doubts that the airlines are making money on fuel surcharges, take a gander at an article on international travel in the October 3 issue of USA Today's Money section.
The article quotes aviation consultant Michael Boyd, who says at $94 a barrel, about $80,000 of fuel is consumed on a one-way flight on a Boeing 777 from Newark to Shanghai. Now, given that a 777 can carry around 400 passengers, a $200 per passenger fee would completely cover the cost of filling up. So how can a carrier possibly justify a fee upwards of $200? And why should passengers cover the entire "tankful", anyway? After all, fuel surcharges were designed to have passengers cover the extra cost of fuel, given recent price increases. So, in reality, the fee shouldn't cover the entire fuel bill--just the additional expense created during this last year of price increases.
Fuel surcharges vary (randomly) by destination. FareCompare.com has compiled a chart of average international fuel surcharges based on data from nearly 620,000 round-trip airfares between the USA and foreign cities.
According to FareCompare.com, the highest average round-trip fuel charge from the U.S. to an international destination is $500 to Tel Aviv, Israel. Next on the list is Tokyo ($474), Hong Kong ($465), Sydney ($448), Dubai ($440) and Beijing ($409). Fuel surcharges for most European destinations fall within the $330 to $360 range.
Given the discrepancies in fuel surcharges among international carriers (American's fuel surcharges vary on each route depending on flight length and competition, while Air France has a standard $165 fee and Lufthansa has a standard $105 fee on one-way flights to the U.S.), it's important to consider more than the base fee when comparing the cost of international tickets.