British Airways slashed its fuel surcharges by up to a third in response to the falling oil price yesterday, in a move followed just hours later by a similar announcement from rival Virgin Atlantic.
BA's reductions, which come into force today, will see the levy on economy class passengers drop by £30 to £66 on journeys of more than nine hours, and by £15 to £53 on shorter trips. Business customers will see a £30 drop to £85 on nine hour-plus flights, and a £20 cut to £63 for shorter long-haul journeys.
Under the new regime, which the company says reflects both the falling oil price and the carrier's fuel hedging policy for 2009/10 – surcharges will also drop from £16 to £12 on short-haul flights in economy class and from £20 to £15 in business.
Virgin Atlantic's reductions are of a similar order. Economy travellers will pay £15 less on short-haul flights and £30 less on longer journeys, leaving totals of £53 and £66 respectively. Business-class passengers will pay £20 less on short haul and £29.50 less on longer flights, leaving £63 and £85.
Gert Zonnefeld, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: "The airlines have got used to the revenue from fuel surcharges and are loath to let them go. But with the oil price coming down as far and fast as it has, they are being forced to give up some of the levy."
The two carriers have already cut fuel surcharges once, last month, after BA in particular came in for criticism from the Air Transport Users Council for keeping its levies in place when a string of competitors, including Cathay Pacific and AirFrance-KLM, had brought theirs down. On that occasion, BA's announcement came hot on the heels of Virgin's.