Virgin Atlantic Inflight Duty Free Shopping
Virgin Atlantic has put a lot of time and thought into the development of its onboard Retail Therapy shopping programme. This airline understands what so many others don’t: passengers can and do shop in so many other places these days whether it’s in their local mall or on their smartphone and tablet computer.
As a result, Virgin Atlantic’s Retail Therapy magazine is fun, opinionated and informative. It’s definitely not just a dry, boring list of what’s for sale. Similarly, Virgin boasts one of the best pre-order websites at www.retailtherapyshopping.com offered by any airline.
The website is colourful, easy to navigate and packed full of information about current deals and competitions. There’s also information on Virgin’s Flying Club whose members can earn air miles with every purchase, as well as Virgin’s very own credit card.
What’s more, anyone who registers on the site is eligible for free monthly newsletters and the chance to win prizes worth £100. Most airlines only allow passengers to pre-order goods three days before their departure. However, Virgin allows customers the opportunity to pre-order products up to three months before they fly.
Like other airlines, Virgin Atlantic offers a home delivery shopping service to UK consumers. No flight ticket need be purchased! Many of the products on www.retailtherapy.com are available for home delivery. The main exceptions are duty-free liquor, tobacco, fragrances and cosmetics.
Let’s get back to the onboard offer. Many airlines are guilty of offering passengers little or no savings over airport duty-free prices. However, Virgin Atlantic is different. The airline boasts an ‘Airport price-match guarantee’, which states that any customer finding a Retail Therapy product cheaper at a UK airport will be refunded the difference.
Virgin’s onboard liquor offer is extensive by the standards of most other international airlines. The selection goes from the top of the price ladder with luxury lines such as the £1,500 L’Essence de Courvoisier Cognac and the Dom Perignon Vintage 2003 Champagne (£104) right down to everyday tipples such as Smirnoff Gold (£25) and Jack Daniel’s (£20).
The men’s and women’s fragrance collections feature all the top brands you’d expect. Take your pick from Gucci, Dior, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, Lady Gaga, Boss, Versace and Prada. New scents are clearly highlighted, as are price savings over the UK High Street.
If you are looking for something a little unusual check out Drambuie 15 (£31), a richer and smoother version of the famous Scotch whisky liqueur made with 15 year-old single-malts. Ardbeg 10 Year Old (£35) would be a perfect gift for anyone who loves big, powerful smoky whiskies, while the admittedly rather expensive £50 Gin Mare is a much sunnier proposition. This quirky Spanish gin is flavoured with typically Mediterranean botanicals such as olives, basil, rosemary and thyme.
Anyone heading for a sunny holiday destination that might have left their shades at home will be pleased to learn Virgin does stock some sunglasses. Choose from sporty men’s styles from Red Bull and Maui Jim to a more classic look for the ladies from Givenchy and Guess. Would-be pilots should check out the cool Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses at £165.
Headphones seem to be a real growth area for onboard shopping these days. Virgin stocks four brands: two for the serious hi-fi buff (Sennheiser and Bang & Oulfsen), and two names for the younger, more fashion-conscious listener (Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi). Other electronics stocked include everything from a crazily expensive Hair Removal System at £170 to a useful WorldSIM Travel Sim Card at £25.
Smokers looking for some duty-free bargains onboard Virgin Atlantic will find themselves in luck. The airline stocks a big range in 200 and 400-stick cartons. Brands available include Silk Cut, Lambert & Butler, Marlboro, Dunhill, Regal, Mayfair and Benson & Hedges. Prices range from £49 for a 400-stick carton of Marlboro Gold to just £20 for a 200-stick carton of Pall Mall. Sadly, cigars and cigarillos don’t feature in the onboard selection.
Last but not least we come to confectionery: a category some airlines can hardly be bothered with. However, Virgin stocks everything fine English Charbonnel Mini Champagne Truffles (£19) and Lemon Swirl Cupcakes (£8) to good old British sweetshop favourites such as Maltesers, Wine Gums, Revels and Minstrels (all £3).
In summary, Virgin Atlantic gets an “A+” for us for its Retail Therapy programme. For once, an airline has come up with a distinctive and attractive onboard shopping offer.
• Well-designed magazine and website
• Pre-order and home delivery available
• Excellent selection of fragrances, liquor and tobacco
• Not enough toys and products for children