Watch: Sneaky ways airports get you to spend money
- Airports are purposely laid-out to lead passengers through money-making areas, from the moment people park their cars to the time they reach their gate.
- On average, travellers will spend anywhere from R160 to R2,000 per airport visit.
- In 2017, airport spending hit R612 billion dollars.
- Retail prices are often inflated to offset the cut airports take, so you could pay a 200% markup for a bottle of water in some airports.
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On average, travellers will spend anywhere from R160 to R2,000 per airport visit. But all that spending is not entirely your fault…airports are purposely laid out to lead passengers through moneymaking areas. Spending in airports hit R612 billion in 2017 and they've come up with some innovative ways to make you part with your hard earned cash.
It starts with parking, which in 2018 costs an average of R1,500 a week in airports across the world.
London Heathrow and the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates had the most expensive lots, charging $249 and $235, respectively, for seven days.
On average passengers will arrive 2 hours and 17 minutes before takeoff – to get through check in and security.
By speeding up check-in and security with digital kiosks, TSA Precheck, Global Entry, and baggage scanners, airports can get travellers to spend more time in the profitable zones air side.
The first thing you see after security is duty-free, and they’re designed to catch your eye
In some airports, London Heathrow for example, walking paths in duty-free veer to the left. This leaves more space for retail on the right of the path. According to the consulting firm Intervistas, that leads to profits because the majority of people are right-handed and will spend more time looking to the right.
While duty-free means foreign taxes on goods are removed, this doesn't necessarily mean they're cheaper.
Duty-free can be a great savings if you buy something like alcohol or cigarettes, which are usually highly taxed. In terms of other things, toys or electronics or even some foods, those aren't really taxed as highly, so even though there's no taxes, there's a higher overall retail price.
Globally, duty-free is a huge industry valued at over $67 billion in 2018, according to a report from Coherent Market Insights.
The main shopping area is surrounded by even more dining and spending options where you'll likely be forced to hang out.
Airports like London Heathrow and Gatwick don't announce gates until 25 to 90 minutes before the flight, compelling passengers to stay in the central shopping part of the terminal,
Studies show if passengers are 1% more satisfied, airport sales go up by 1.5%.
Which is why you see strategically placed signs that indicate walking times to gates and gate locations in order to keep you stress-free and satisfied. Not to mention massage chairs, spas, ponds, and atriums. Anything designed to keep you relaxed. Even the restaurants are designed with big windows, relaxing music, and outlets to keep you satisfied and in the spending mood.
At Los Angeles International, there's an 18% markup on food.
While there are some airports, like Seattle-Tacoma, that require food prices to reflect costs you'd find outside the airport. You should fully expect to end up spending more because you think you're paying less.
The steep prices are partly because restaurants pay high rents to airports, generally a monthly based rent and up to a 15% cut of gross revenues. For Checkers restaurants, rent in American airports is 50% more expensive than in their traditional brick-and-mortar locations. To offset high rents, airport restaurants have gotten more elaborate.
Which is why the restaurants need to be higher end steakhouses and closer to fine-dining-type places, oyster bars, cocktail bars.
In Portland International in Oregon, there's a distillery making whiskey on-site and offering tastings. In Tokyo's Narita airport, Sushi Kyotatsu restaurant changes the menu daily based on fresh fish coming in from Tsukiji Market. Places like these can easily charge a few extra bucks for the experience.
You can pay as much as 200% markup for a bottle of water in some airports.
You've got your overpriced snack and magazine, but if you're traveling to another country, you'll need to exchange money. There's always a currency-exchange booth at the airport, but, generally, it's best to wait until you're outside, because those airport booths charge between 10% and 26% higher exchange rates, and that's not including service fees.
Finally, you board your plane, maybe a little frustrated at the airport for your lavish spending.
But consider this: Airports are not laughing their way to the bank on all these markups. Airports are expensive to run. Of Europe's airports, 47% lost money in 2018. But let's face it. Some airports make you spend more because they can, because you are a captive audience.
Complied by Jay Caboz
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