Airport retail costs under fire

Travelers can pay a heavy price for purchasing retail items in airport terminals.
Travelers can pay a heavy price for purchasing retail items in airport terminals. Photo: Erin Jonasson

It would come as no surprise to seasoned travellers that retail products bought airside come with additional cost, but Brisbane Airport says the increased prices are justified.

A snapshot study by online publisher Travelzoo found Australian airports marked up products available elsewhere for as little as half the price.

The study, while hardly exhaustive, compared the prices of goods available at Australian airports, such as bottled water, parking and nappies, with those at other retail outlets, such as supermarket giant Coles.

While price differentials between a supermarket chain and smaller retailers were common place, the cost of airport visits are a regular gripe of seasoned travellers.

Travelzoo chief executive Brad Gurrie said the price of food, drinks and goods at airports should be regulated.

“In a lot of instances, half the airports’ revenues are coming from consumer-oriented products, so that means things like airport parking and retail,” he said.

“They’re doing these things to push their revenue up because, at the end of the day, they’re businesses that are listed on the ASX.

“The thing about the tourism industry is that it’s pretty flat. Airlines and hotels are going out with amazing deals, but when they turn up at the airport they’re getting milked.”

The study, conducted in the past month, included items such as coffee ($4.40 for a medium flat white at Brisbane Airport, compared to $3.80 at Hudsons in the Brisbane CBD) and sunscreen ($19.95 at the airport, $11.50 at Coles).

“It’s a really captured market and you don’t have any options,” Mr Gurrie said.

“The pricing needs to be looked at and consumers need to prepare before they get to the airport and find alternatives to being pushed into paying these enormous prices.”

Brisbane Airport spokeswoman Leonie Vandeven said Travelzoo’s data was flawed.

“Coles is not a comparable operator and would have vastly stronger buying power than smaller operators,” she said.

Ms Vandeven said Brisbane Airport conducted regular price checks of core items against other airports and shopping centres.

“We work closely with airport retailers to develop compelling, value-based offerings for passengers,” she said.

But a reason Ms Vandeven said airport retailers had higher labour costs than other operators.

That was due, she said, to the costs associated with staff security clearances, extensive trading hours of up to 20 hours a day, penalty rates on weekends and public holidays, having to offer a higher hourly rate to attract staff and the need for goods to be screened before being allowed in the secure terminal.

Licensed venues also faced higher fees for operating outside of core hours covered by liquor licensing, Ms Vendeven said.

Comments