I guess I don’t understand the duty free business….

So I’m sitting here in the E concourse at TPA, which only has one or two Air Canada flights a day to YYZ (depending on the time of year), ranging anywhere from an E170 to an A320. There aren’t any other international flights. That’s an absolute maximum of 280 passengers a day, probably closer to 180 passengers on average (accounting for the time of year they have E170 service). So my question is simple enough — how the heck can a duty free shop even break even from one or two flights a day, especially when we’re not talking about 300 passenger planes? Are they counting on nonstop Ted service to Frankfurt, or what’s the deal? The rent costs must be high, and I can’t imagine that many people going to YYZ take advantage of these duty free “bargains.”

One of life’s many mysteries….

Filed Under: Travel
  1. I actually think you may be surprised. For one, never discount people’s taste for booze, but, on a more serious level, I was on an Air Canada Jazz flight once from IAD – YUL, and learned from my seatmate about just how damn expensive liquor is in Canada. She said that on any trip to the US she always tries to stock up before heading north. I’d imagine it might be a similar situation in TPA.

  2. Whenever I’m on an international mileage run, I will generally check out the duty free and will usually pick something up if the price is good enough. For example, LHR prices have been great with the weak pound, so every time I’ve been through LHR, I make it a point to grab something I would like to try out, such as a bottle of scotch that was about $35 instead of the $60 it would have cost in Chicago. Also, whenever I come back from Asia I grab a carton of cigarettes for friends which usually costs $15 and a bottle of some . In Chicago a carton of cigarettes is $80-$90.

    If you pay attention to your local prices, duty free can make sense on a variety of products depending on what airport you’re at. I really don’t care how any of the duty free businesses make money, I just like the opportunity to screw Chicago out of any possible tax revenue from my purchases.

    On a somewhat related note, I should mention that United FAs receive a commission on duty free purchases on the plane. I saw a receipt denoting commission payouts, and there were two employees listed with about $1.60 per FA.

  3. Ahhhh – so that’s why UA FAs bother the entire plane with so many duty free announcements on international flights. I had one recently that whined several times to the airplane about the importance of purchasing duty free for loved ones. What a freakin’ chump.

  4. Being Canadian, I can honestly say that a duty free purchase is well worthwhile when heading to Canada. On the note of the viability of the service, are many Duty Free shops not actually run by the airport, or they receive a big cut? For instance I read recently that many Canadian airports are trying to get the duty free laws changed (as is the case in some other parts of the world) so that incoming passengers can also purchase duty free rather than just out-going.

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