How free frequent-flier tickets aren't free

Airlines  have become much more likely in recent years to recover their rising cost for fuel by passing it on to customers in the form of fuel surcharges. Other transportation services, including truckers and railroads, have been doing the same for years, with surcharge clauses routinely written into pricing contracts.

But what about that "free" ticket you've been awarded by an airline for being a loyal customer? As this New York Times Business Travel page feature notes, foreign carriers are much more likely than U.S. airlines these days to tack on a hefty fuel surcharge to a "free" award ticket. Free, of course, was always a misleading term -- an award ticket often amounts to no more than a 1 percent rebate on money you already spent for tickets.

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