The beginning of the end for inflight duty free sales?

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  • Mark Caswell

    What do posters think – will inflight duty free sales be missed or have they had their day?

    KLM to stop all inflight duty free sales


    Duty free, within EU?

    Stopping sales is a good move. All that stuff transported around, taking up space, burning extra fuel, extra fire hazard. Get rid of it.

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    Personally, I can’t remember the last time I made a purchase from duty free on board. When browsing the catalogue I’ve often thought how expensive the items are in comparison to online retailers, as well as, why would you buy that when on a plane?

    When flying LH I often loved looking at the hot tub spas created from old A320 engines and the items from old catering trollies etc. However, these were obviously not available on the plane itself!

    If they want their own piece of the duty free market perhaps the likes of KLM could have a store at AMS where you could pre-order on board and collect in the airport?


    The writing has been on the wall for onboard duty free for some time as airlines struggle to compete against the monopolies in the airport. Plus with the introduction of real duty free on arrival (not just an arrivals shop currently found in the UK) in a number of “key” markets this was always going to happen. Some airlines have moved with the times an now have online ordering for delivery to your seat but this is mainly gifts and perfume rather than tobacco and booze. There were rumours that a well known airline group and travel retailer were going to launch and at seat partnership to order in the air through IFE and collect at the gate, but the tax implications were iffy to say the least.


    have never bought anything in flight DF but browse the book on decent with those airlines that turn off the IFE early…yes BA i am looking at you! never found anything remotley worth calling duty free in its pricing. It will not be missed. I am surprised airlines have not expanded more on thier own branded products. I have several caps, bags, T shirts and other items from friends that are not easily available to joe public and often get asked if i can get one. BA could be doing a good range of branded products for its centernary, maybe they are?

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    [quote quote=922391]What do posters think – will inflight duty free sales be missed or have they had their day? [/quote]

    I know that inflight duty free sales are dropping, but if they are important to airlines (and I suspect that they are), my take on the question is that they should stay. But in my opinion stevescoots (above) is right – airlines could do it in a much better way.

    In past years (though not recently) I have several times bought some really good stuff from inflight duty free, and I appreciated the opportunity.


    It looks from the robust size of the CX Duty Free catalogue that sales are brisk and increasing.
    I came back from Bangkok last Friday early evening and good business was being done.
    The number of offerings has definitely increased over the past few years.
    Booze has never been a mainstay of the Cathay offering as of course no tax or duty in HK. Good cognac though at less than HK street prices and I replenish the bar with a bottle about once a year.
    The mainstay looks to be luxury new and exclusive offerings of mind wateringly costly cosmetics. Jewelry and watches are strongly featured as are a lot of goods that can be home delivered in HK. Some I find interesting.
    Occasionally I buy cologne for myself but more often perfume for Mrs C.
    After perhaps a couple too many glasses of Champagne I once bought a golf watch but could never figure out how the dam thing worked!


    The only onboard purchase I make is the 0.5 litre (plastic) bottle of Jameson Whiskey sold on Aer Lingus priced at 10 Euro (when travelling Non EU). This is a massive saving on the High St price and a significant saving on the airport duty free price.


    Nowadays, most airports have a great shopping area to enjoy

    I find the KLM decision very clever


    Like many others I can’t recall the last time I purchased Duty Free on -board.

    As for Duty Free in general, depending on what and where I’m buying will I decide whether it’s worth the hassle. Normally cigarettes for my puffing pals back in blighty!!

    I suspect as long as the madness of buying whiskey being cheaper 10.000 miles away from Scotland continues , then Duty Free shops catering for our thirst for a bargain will thrive.

    In flight, airlines should focus they’re sales opportunities on exclusivity of they’re own brand. CX’s Betsy beer being a fine example !


    When traveling for work, sometimes one simply doesn’t have the time to go conventional shopping, whether at the destination or at the airport, or for that matter at home! Especially on the straight from the office-last minute dash to the airport-run to the plane-straight to a meeting-back to the airport-onto the plane running-arriving home late at night or early in the morning trips. At such times, I have found the ability to indulge in mid-air shopping heaven sent and used it with thanks. Admittedly, most of the time such shopping has been far from ‘duty free’ being more expensive than at the average shopping mall. Other than this niche market, I doubt whether on-board shopping has a future.


    Some routes with BA, very little is sold. Others like Nigeria or Japan are big sales areas. On a Nigeria flight, the duty free sales are almost constant throughout the whole flight. BA cannot carry enough stock.


    [quote quote=922391]What do posters think – will inflight duty free sales be missed or have they had their day?

    KLM to stop all inflight duty free sales

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    Flew BA LAS to LGW last October and asked for a litre of Gordons gin. Was told by CSM that the duty free had been stopped on that flight and an extra 3 seats placed where the DF stocks used to be. That shows how little sales there had been on what I would consider a “tourist” route, where I would have expected customers to stock up.


    It’s interesting that no airline is willing to publish what the cost/benefit of inflight DF is, even if they know.

    Historically, inflight DF was copied from the cruise liner industry when aviation was considered as a ‘luxury liner in the sky’.

    When you look at the logistics of supplying the aircraft, the back room admin, space taken up in galleys and the thousands of tonnes of IFR (In Flight Retail) ‘freight trollies’ carried all over the world, someone must be happy with the profits or companies would have done a KLM by now. Certainly when I fly I see very little being sold other than the routes Handbag has mentioned.

    One obvious solution is online pre-ordering and have the goods delivered to you on board. I know BA/Tourvest offer this service but with a minimal take-up it wold have to be more widely promoted. I’m not sure they have the capability to do this effectively.


    I’ve noticed a number of airlines no longer have the once routine DF trolley pass through the aisles. They now ask you to activate the cabin attendant call if you want anything.

    On the last easyJet flight I took, they were offering up to 40% discount on some items. I didn’t notice the crew being killed in the rush to get the bargains.

    Last kicks of a dying horse?

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