Duty Free Inflight Shopping ....
You might be forgiven for asking what the point is of buying duty and tax free goods on an aeroplane, if you've just boarded from an airport offering a far wider choice of products.
Well, in reality, not a huge number of us do; but there are good reasons for buying onboard:
With traffic delays, car parking that often seems to be in the next county, and endless security checks, you can find yourself with only just enough time to get to the Gate. Forget shopping! Once onboard, you can browse the inflight catalogue at your leisure.
Even if you do have time, some of us prefer to eat and drink at the airport rather than shop. Or some of us just find it too worrying and stressful an experience. Onboard, there’s nowhere to go except the loo, so shopping is a lot easier to contemplate.
Some airlines (Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines and Korean Air for example) allow you to pre-order goods both online in advance of your flight and/or on your outward flight for delivery on your return leg. Online shopping can also enable you to purchase goods that are only available through pre-order, including gifts, cosmetics, toys, liquor, tobacco etc. This enables the airline to offer a much extended range of products without having to carry a lot of stock onboard. If you book your flight direct with an airline, check on the website to see whether this option is offered or not. If you can’t pre-order you can often find out what will be for sale onboard. On Thai Airways, for example, you can browse through the catalogue online, print out and fill in the order form and then present it to the cabin crew on the flight.
Indeed some airlines now allow you to buy selected goods from their websites even if you’re not travelling. BA’s Highlife shop does just that with goods delivered free if valued over £50 (for UK addresses only). Singapore Airline’s KrisShop also has a mail order program which does deliver overseas. Emirates offers over 400 products within its The Emirates High Street
programme. The collection can be viewed either through the catalogue on board all Emirates flights, or online at theemirateshighstreet.com enabling you to shop from • well anywhere • with purchases delivered to your doorstep. The airlines will often absorb the tax element, enabling you to enjoy savings off High Street prices, and often allowing you to buy items that are ‘travel retail exclusive’.
You can frequently find products onboard that are not available at airports or on the High Street and which may be exclusive to that particular airline. Virgin Atlantic, for example, has been offering Glenfiddich Virgin Atlantic Private Vintage, bottled by hand from a cask that has lain since 1978. Only 250 bottles are available, priced at £250 each. You won’t find Morgan & Oates beautiful range of cashmere and cashmere-merino mix wraps and scarves anywhere other than inflight and in a couple of airport shops. Other brands which are primarily found inflight or have exclusive versions for airlines include Pierre Cardin jewellery, Police watches and men’s jewellery; Carlo Gioielliere jewellery, Pilot Bears, Airline logoed models, Fun Planes and toys, Fitness First sunglasses, Passport holders and lots more.
Airlines will frequently offer price and joint promotions on products inflight, making prices very, very competitive • even compared to the airport. Brand choice maybe more limited, but no-one will sneer at two litre bottles of leading brand spirits for £16! Price promotions on fragrances are also popular with airlines such as Thomson Airways offering extra savings if you buy two bottles of a specific brand.
It has to be said that airlines vary tremendously on their approach to inflight duty and tax free sales • as does the attitude of flight crew. For some it is an extremely important part of their revenue, crew are well trained and incentivised in the art of selling (indeed there is an annual competition in London every January that rewards the Inflight Sales Person/Crew of the Year), the product selection is thoughtful, varied and changes regularly with special offers and promotions. On the ball airlines will use every opportunity to advertise items available onboard, via their websites, often at check in, through the inflight brochure and during the inflight entertainment programme. Others just don’t seem to be that bothered about it. Blink and the inflight trolley has been up the aisle and back again. We’ve all experienced that kind of service!
Korean Air is certainly one airline which does take inflight sales seriously. In fact it is the world’s leading airline retailer with sales in excess of US$200m and its Cyberskyshop (Read more
) has 260 products available. But there are some other really fantastic airline inflight retail operations out there and we’d love to hear which you rate as the best.