BA's passengers face £8 jet fuel surcharge

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Passengers flying with British Airways will be forced to pay a surcharge of up to £8 on long-haul flights to help pay the airline's soaring fuel bill.

The charge is expected to take effect on Wednesday and will hit passengers buying tickets to destinations outside Europe.

Customers are already paying a £2.50 charge on long and short-haul flights, introduced in May. But the soaring world oil price, which reached a 14-year high on Friday, has forced BA chief executive Rod Eddington into making a second price hike on long-haul tickets.

The exact amount has yet to be finalised but BA executives will meet today to discuss a surcharge of between £6 and £8 for each flight.

Virgin Atlantic, which also introduced a £2.50 ticket surcharge in May, is expected to follow with its own price increase. A spokesman confirmed that its surcharge was "under review".

The Association of British Travel Agents said other airlines are likely to follow suit.

Airlines are heavily exposed to the rise in oil prices as jet fuel is their second largest cost after wages. BA refused to comment, but the company is tomorrow expected to reveal that - based on the current oil price - its fuel bill this year will be around £1.12bn, £200m higher than it was last year.

BA could come in for criticism for the increase as the company will also report strong profits. City analysts predict that in the first quarter of the year BA made pre-tax profits of about £100m compared to a £45m loss for the same period last year.

Critics will argue that the increase in the fuel bill should come out of the company's profits instead of customers' pockets. But BA will say that this would damage its fragile recovery, having been battered since 9/11 by security fears and the downturn in the global economy.

Sean Tipton of the Association of British Travel Agents warned that BA's decision was just a sign of things to come in the aviation industry.

"The reason BA has done this and others haven't is that the majority of companies bought their fuel for the year in advance - a practice called 'hedging', which is common in the industry'" said Mr Tipton.