There’s a fun trick that can help you save hundreds of dollars on your next long flight—but it’s a little complicated and requires a bit of work.
Bloggers get hate mail over sharing this tip (I’m not kidding), presumably because some people feel entitled to keep secrets to themselves. In my opinion, the only reason this loophole hasn’t been closed has nothing to do with its public knowledge but rather that it takes effort and attention to benefit from it.
Basically, “fuel dumping” is a ticketing strategy to help you strip the fuel surcharges from certain international airfares by adding on an extra, unused segment to the end of the trip.
This post from Scott is helpful in explaining some details. Here’s an excerpt:
What you should worry about is finding flights with low base fare and high fuel surcharge, generally designated as YQ (sometimes YR) in the fare construction that you can find through ITA or other fare search engines. Base fares between the U.S. and Europe may be $80 each way in winter and $120 in summer.
The reason the price you see is so high is that the fuel surcharge can be $500 plus an extra $100 in taxes. Dump the fuel and fares as low as $200 between New York and Europe are not unheard of. These low base fares are called “candidate fares” and are not all that difficult to find. Just look for low total fares and check the fare construction to see how much of it is YQ. If it’s just low because the base fare is $200 each way and there’s no fuel surcharge, then this fuel dumping technique isn’t going to help you at all.
For those of you interested in the black-hat side of travel hacking, fuel dumping may be worth your time. Everyone else, stick with basic strategy of earning miles and points. It’s much simpler and can help you travel for nearly-free.