Air travellers will pay more to fly next month after Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Dragon Airlines (Dragonair) and other carriers were yesterday allowed to at least double their fuel surcharges on passenger fares. The raises, approved by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD), will see Cathay charge $250 per ticket for each leg on long-haul flights, a comparative 112 per cent increase on its present $118 levy. In all, 22 airlines were allowed to extend levies past the May 31 expiry date - 13 were granted outright increases - even though jet fuel prices have declined 17.6 per cent since the April 4 peak. 'The price of jet fuel remains high. The present surcharge levels were formulated in December [last year], when oil prices were considerably lower and did not rise even when the price of aviation fuel reached record levels,' a CAD spokesman said yesterday. 'This increase should now allow the airlines to recover at least part of their additional costs.' Cathay and Dragonair will raise their levies on short-haul flights 95 per cent to $86 per leg. Jet fuel traded in Singapore, the region's benchmark index, yesterday closed at US$62.85 a barrel after hitting a high of US$76.35 in early April. Airline executives and aviation analysts have been closely watching the market for any signs that higher fuel levies have had an impact on travel demand. Most felt the impact would not become apparent until the surcharge hit 3 per cent to 4 per cent of ticket prices. Strong demand has kept airline revenues flowing this year. The International Air Transport Association (Iata) yesterday said the Asia-Pacific passenger market - measured in revenue-passenger kilometres - expanded a comparative 8.4 per cent in the first four months. But yesterday's increases looked set to test the depths of consumers' pockets. The long-haul levy from next month will add between 4 per cent and 5 per cent to the cost of most economy-class flights to Europe. Nevertheless, carriers have consistently said the surcharges do not fully recover the additional operating expenses incurred by the higher cost of fuel. Giovanni Bisignani, Iata's secretary-general, said last month that surcharge levels before this round of rises recovered 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the industry's additional fuel costs. Cathay last year paid US$334 million more for fuel than in 2003.