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Why Is Airport Food So Expensive?

Why Is Airport Food So Expensive?

BY ELIAS STEENKISTE Published on June 21, 2024 0 COMMENTS
Here's where you can get the best airport coffee in the United States - The  Points Guy
Photo: The Points Guy


Many people who travel or fly are shocked by the airport menu. The cost of food and drinks within the airport terminals often surprises consumers and prompts questions about the reasons behind these high prices. If you look deeper into airport economics, there may be an explanation.


A quick navigation


An important factor behind the high cost of food is the high rent airports charge. Unlike regular shopping areas where businesses can negotiate directly with property owners, airport vendors must pass a complicated process. 


This involves Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and lease agreements with hefty fees. Take Portland International Airport, for example. Businesses there face a minimum annual fee of $80 per square foot or a 10-18% commission on sales. 




Photo: AeroXplorer | Airline-Food-and-In-flight-Catering-Market-Research.jpg


These rates are way higher than those in the city’s commercial districts. Because of these high rents and strict leasing terms, businesses end up charging an extra cost to their consumers.


Airport vs. Regular Retail


Think about the cost of everyday food items within airport terminals compared to their price in a regular retail outlet. A quick comparison will already show plenty of differences. Airport prices often exceed the prices charged in a regular shop by significant amounts. 


Take, for example, a simple bottle of water. Your local grocery store will charge around $2.00, while at the airport, they will charge you around $4.00. 




Here's What Food You Should Never Buy at an Airport | Money
Photo: Money


Similarly, a cup of coffee priced around $3.00 in your local bar may cost you around $6.00 at the airport. This may seem weird initially, but it isn’t that wild if you delve deeper into it.




Inflation adds further pressure on airport prices. In recent years, the rise in operating costs has led to increased prices across airport shops and food stands. Factors such as labour expenses, supply chain problems, and changing commodity prices play an important role. 


For example, the cost of getting food and supplies has increased by an average of 15% over the past two years, forcing businesses to raise their prices. 




Best U.S. Airports for Food 2023
Photo: Food & Wine


Next to the consumer buying power, this rising cost trend has created a challenging environment for airport vendors. Next to that, they also have to balance profitability and affordability.


The Costliest and Most Affordable Airports


Here is a short analysis of dining costs that offers valuable insights for those who want to understand the price differences across different airports. According to recent data, LaGuardia Airport in New York is one of the most expensive airports for dining. 


Average prices for food and beverages exceed national averages by 30% or more. Similarly, airports such as San Francisco International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport have premium dining options prices, reflecting their status as essential airports. 




New York's LaGuardia Airport Like You've Never Seen It Before
 Photo: Forbes


If you look closer at airports in smaller cities or regions with lower operating costs, they offer more affordable dining options. Indianapolis International Airport and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport have prices below national averages.


Strategies and Tips


Savvy travelers are assuming strategies to lessen the impact of high airport prices on their wallets. Bringing your snacks and beverages from home can help you avoid buying expensive airport food. 


This allows you, or any traveler, to enjoy treats without spending too much on them. So, you will explore some benefits if you look at your expenses or money spent during your trip. 




5 Best Restaurants at San Francisco Airport
 Photo: TimeOut


Next, you could save some money on your transportation costs if you, for example, choose off-site parking. If you combine all these tips, you could have some more breathing room to spend your budget on more essential expenses.


This puzzle of high airport food prices shows you how complex things that have to do with the economy in airports can be. You may avoid obstacles during your holiday by understanding how everything works and preventing facing some challenges.

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Elias Steenkiste
Hi, I'm Elias Steenkiste, a 16-year-old writer from Belgium. Currently, I'm working with four different companies and providing all of them with high-quality services.

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