This week I’m discussing the basics of fuel dumping. Remember, I’m not going to describe any particular dumps in detail (though I did post an example on Wednesday) so you can go out and book it yourself immediately after you finish reading this. I’m only trying to show you how to get started in the game so that, someday, you will be able to find such a deal with some effort of your own. There are lots of things I’m leaving out along the way, to post later if I decide I should, so you may think I’ve overlooked something. Feel free to email or comment if you think it should be added now.
- Part 1: Introduction to Fuel Dumping
- Part 2: Finding and Booking a 3X
- Part 3: Variations and advanced strategy
Fuel Dumps Don’t Have to Use a THIRD Strike
Originally, fuel dumping was designed around the 3X because that was easy and straightforward. You would fly your normal itinerary, book an extra flight that dropped the fuel, and then never fly it. It had to be at the end because if it were anywhere else then missing it would result in the rest of the itinerary being cancelled, too.
However, those were the good ol’ days. It used to be you could book simple domestic 3Xs that you might actually use and still get a 100% dump. In fact, that was just about the time I learned how to do this, so I’m very disappointed I could never take advantage because some were very convenient for me. Such is life.
Now if you want to get creative you have to move the 3X to the beginning of the itinerary. This is called a “1X” because it comes first instead of third. But unlike a 3X, you actually have to fly the 1X. The “X” has been preserved for consistency so that everyone knows what purpose the flight serves, but it doesn’t mean you should “strike” it like a 3X.
Searching for and booking a 1X is pretty much the same as it is for a 3X, but they generally work better and are more common. Not that common, but a noticeable improvement over a 3X. Because you NEED to fly a 1X, it helps if you’re the sort of person who can plan trips months in advance. A 1X is not necessarily going to be any more convenient than a 3X, which means you have to know that you’ll just happen to be in the Middle East and available to fly a one-way trip in order to dump the YQ on a trip to Asia two months later.
You Don’t Have to Dump the Fuel on Just ONE Trip
Remember how I told you that a 3X is often direction-specific? Well sometimes, but not always, X-Y can work as a 3X and Y-X can work as a 1X. That means you can book three trips at once!
- Itinerary A: (1) A-B, (2) B-A, (3) X-Y
- Itinerary B: (1) Y-X, (2) C-D, (3) D-C
If X-Y dumps the fuel as a 3X for itinerary A and Y-X dumps the fuel as a 1X for itinerary B, then you have two dumped trips as well as a more convenient way to use your 1X.
You can also book a 5X, which involves two round trips, A-B-A,C-D-C followed by the 5X at the end. Similar combinations and extensions of this strategy are out there, but it requires a bigger commitment up front.
Open Jaws Are Your Friend
If you need to fly a 1X, what better way to take advantage of it than to fill the gap in an open jaw? To remind you, an open jaw is an itinerary where you fly in or out of a different airport at either your origin or destination, e.g., (1) SFO-LHR, (2) FRA-SFO. A double open jaw is where you choose different airports at both ends, e.g., (1) SFO-LHR, (2) FRA-LAX.
Usually the rule is that the “jaw” portion of a trip must be shorter than either of the flown legs. This means they are likely to be short trips, and short trips make great 3Xs. (An open jaw is a great travel hacking strategy in general. For example, so you can fly into one European city, backpack through several countries, and then fly out of your eventual destination.)
Again, you need to plan several itineraries in advance, but if you know there is a 1X in South America, for example, you could book an open jaw itinerary to South America (and use a 3X to save some fuel) and fly that 1X while you’re there. The 1X can then be used to dump the fuel on a separate itinerary to Africa that doesn’t work well with any 3Xs.
Be Creative and Experiment with Fuel Dumps
Hopefully you’re starting to realize just how creative you can be with your fuel dumping strategy. A 3X doesn’t work because it’s the third flight. It works for other reasons governed by fare and ticketing rules. If you can put that 3X in a different position, whether first, or fifth, or in combination with a 4X, then you have many more options available to you.
I’ve only described some of the more common examples. If you aren’t able to dump your fare using a first approach, try some others and see if you have better luck. I’ve also left out some of the tips I’ve learned about fuel dumping, such as a few things to look for in the fare rules for a candidate fare and which airlines tend to be easier to dump. Remember, the more you learn to practice finding and booking dumped itineraries on your own, the easier this will become. Don’t let yourself become too focused on the examples I provide just because I happened to spell out a few of the common ones.
Fuel dumping involves some sharing and camaraderie in the online forums, but it is ultimately an individual challenge of you against the computer, trying to find that one flight that will save you hundreds of dollars.