Heathrow ‘worst for tax-free discounts’

Travellers who have become accustomed to low prices at airport duty-free stores could be in for a shock when they next visit their local hub, after a survey by online retailer, Kelkoo, revealed that the average price of goods at European airports was just 6% lower than on the high street.

Kelkoo’s survey also found that the public’s perception of airport prices was wildly incorrect, with 59% (or almost 6 in 10) of interviewees expecting to find bargains of up to 20% at airport duty-frees.

Heathrow, arguably the busiest airport in the world, claimed the wooden spoon, offering the ‘worst tax-free discounts’ in Europe, with a rate of just 3.1%. To put that figure into perspective, a bottle of water that costs 75p on the high street would cost around 72p at the London airport – hardly a steal.

Berlin-Schönefeld Airport offers a discount of 4.6%, whilst Lyon St. Exupery and Charles de Gaulle in France knock 11.9% and 11.5% off their prices, respectively. The two French airports topped Kelkoo’s survey, with the best duty free prices in Europe. Gatwick Airport, on the other hand, offers a meagre 5% off a bag of jelly babies or a hairdryer.

Strangely, the value of goods fluctuates enormously between airports, especially with regard to luxury goods, such as handbags and perfume, and electronics. At Heathrow, for example, a designer Dolce and Gabanna handbag will set you back £1,020, whereas the same bag at Rome Airport costs £696, around a third less.

Kelkoo boss, Bruce Fair, noted that airport stores could no longer compete with online shops, which routinely offer discounts of around 12% – “higher overheads, decreased competition, and less choice mean that ‘tax free’ shops are not always the best place to find bargains.”

The survey highlights an ongoing trend of poor deals at UK airports; just a few weeks ago, the Post Office discovered that passengers were being fleeced out of their holiday money by airport bureaux de change, losing £16 for every £286 converted from sterling to Euros.

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