Sky-high prices at duty free

Is duty-free always cheaper?

Updated

Fact checked
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You have a bit of time to kill before boarding your flight to sunnier pastures and that battered old book sitting in your hand luggage isn’t quite going to cut it. What do you do? Have a gander at the duty-free goodies on offer, of course.

But are we actually saving when shopping at the airport, compared to retail prices on the high street or online?

Duty-free fans look away because we’ve crunched some numbers and found that airport shopping works out approximately 17% more expensive, with some products costing 150% more if you buy before you fly.

Percentage change from retail price to duty-free price

We analysed 48 products across the different retail categories found at duty-free shops to see how much more (or less!) they cost than the cheapest online price.

The majority of categories were more expensive, with chocolate and sweets costing 67% more on average than the price you can get them online. It wasn’t just the cheaper items that had higher prices, with sunglasses, suncare products and wines also costing significantly more than elsewhere.

Some bargains can be found though, with spirits and liqueurs costing 5% less than anywhere else on average and makeup also offering the best deals, costing on average 16% cheaper than online prices.

Item Percentage change from retail price to duty-free price
Fragrance -6%
Make-up -16%
Suncare & Tanning 37%
Sunglasses 29%
Watches -2%
Spirits & Liqueurs -5%
Whiskies 14%
Wines & Ports 9%
Chocolate & Sweets 67%
Tea, Biscuits & Foods 30%
Toys 33%

The worst offenders

Food and confectionary are the biggest culprits, costing a whopping 49% more at the likes of Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick than the supermarket.

Cadbury’s Oreo took home the title for the worst offender in this category with the airport version of a 300g bar setting you back £5. Check online and you’ll find the very same bar for just £2.

Fashion and luxury items were also found to cost more at the airport than their retail counterparts. You could save £32 by purchasing your next pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses for just £81 online, instead of forking out £113 at duty-free.

Product Title Differences
Ultrasun Aftersun 150ml Duty Free Price £16.30
Retail Price £9.99
Difference £6.31
Percentage change from retail 63.16%
Product Title Differences
Grey goose Vodka 1L Duty Free Price £45.69
Retail Price £31.90
Difference £13.79
Percentage change from retail 43.23%
Product Title Differences
Rayban RB3025 Duty Free Price £113.30
Retail Price £81.00
Difference £32.30
Percentage change from retail 39.88%
Product Title Differences
Cadbury Oreo 300g Duty Free Price £5.00
Retail Price £2.00
Difference £3.00
Percentage change from retail 150.00%

The best deals

Not everything is more expensive at the airport and you can actually find some good deals. You could save £23 on Dior perfume and 30% on a bottle of Absolute Vodka, but the cheapest confectionary we could find was still more expensive than online.

Sub Category Product Title Differences
Make-up Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Weightless Foundation SPF15 Duty Free Price £26.65
Retail Price £42.00
Difference -£15.35
Percentage change from retail -36.55%
Fragrance Dior Joy EDP 90ml Duty Free Price £89.05
Retail Price £112.00
Difference -£22.95
Percentage change from retail -20.49%
Product Title Differences
Absolute vodka 1L Duty Free Price £14.00
Retail Price £20.00
Difference -£6.00
Percentage change from retail -30.00%
Baileys orginal 1L Duty Free Price £14.00
Retail Price £20.00
Difference -£6.00
Percentage change from retail -30.00%
Product Title Differences
Tissot Classic Dream Duty Free Price £104.15
Retail Price £135.00
Difference -£30.85
Percentage change from retail -22.85%
“Our research found that the average price for an item bought in duty-free was 17% more than the cheapest available figures online, which included at least three products that were more than double that of the online price. Certain categories were worse than others, with every item we checked in the “Food, Sweets & Toys” section costing more at the airport.

“However, it is worth noting that duty-free can offer exclusives and products that aren’t readily available elsewhere, so the best thing to do is to research before you buy. Smartphones have made this easier than ever and a quick check before you hand over the cash could stop you overspending by as much as £31 for bigger ticket items like Ray-Ban sunglasses.”

– Jon Ostler, UK CEO at finder.com

Methodology

Retail prices used were the cheapest found online, meaning the prices here may not be the same at all retailers.

All prices as of 17/06/2019

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact

Matt Mckenna
Head of UK communications
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

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