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Do airlines make a significant amount of money from inflight duty-free sales?



[My original answer].

It all depends on the airlines and their attitude towards inflight sales. For instance, airlines (and DF operators in the airport) in Korea thrive on DF sales. They are very aggressive in their pricing (their margin is the smallest in the business, which doesn’t mean it’s small, about 50% vs 60-70% average). Their staff are trained to push sales, they have preorder service (order on the way out, get your purchases on the way back home), and Korean travellers are very savvy when it comes to picking the best deal.

Cathay is also quite aggressive with sales, but quite less so in pricing. On the other end of the scale, companies like Air France seem to pay only lip service to inflight sales (as any extra work for Air France employees is anathema!). I was ridiculed once by a steward for having a look at the catalog. “Whyever would you want to buy duty free products for?” Yes indeed…

Another interesting model is Bangkok Airways, which has a couple of duty free shops (Koh Samui, U-Tapao, Luang Prabang), and building more, instead of selling inflight. They also have aggressive pricing.



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