Airline alcohol prices

By | Category: Travel rumblings

If I am in the mood for a G&T or another alcoholic drink when I am flying my enthusiasm dulls when I see the prices that airlines charge for the drinks they serve.

If I fancy a tea then the prices are not dissimilar to those charged by one of the international coffee shop chains or by the train companies but alcohol prices are substantial.

Or are they?

The cost of a miniature on a plane is roughly a fiver be it a whisky or a gin. It doesn’t matter whether the gin is a Gordon’s a Beefeater or a Bombay you pay the same. It is only in this gin bonanza that we are currently in that you pay more for one of the scarcer gins that airlines like to carry to show they are aware of dink fads.

For this miniature, you get five centilitres (5cl) of alcohol. Twenty of these small bottles make a litre being the amount that you would normally but in a supermarket, off-licence (sorry; that shows my age. A wine shop is what I should have written) or supermarket. Twenty miniatures on a flight cost £100. A litre of Gordon’s or Beefeater costs about £20 in a supermarket or duty free shop give or take a pound so I am paying about five times as much as if I had bought the drink elsewhere. I am actually paying more because the alcohol sold on planes is not taxed. Alcohol is not only Vat rated but there is a spirit duty as well that UK based bricks and mortar companies pay and which I do as a purchaser.

The airlines would argue that I am not comparing like with like. I should compare it with prices charged in restaurants. There a G&T would cost between about £4 and £7 depending on which part of the country you were in. the same on a plane would be about £6.80-£7. (Unless you were travelling long-haul where some airlines still provide free drinks.) Maybe I am being unfair.

But then so are the airlines. Train companies allow you to drink alcohol that you have taken on board so why should airlines adopt the same policy? They do allow you to eat food and drink soft drinks that you have brought along with you so why not alcohol? The answer is clearly that they are seeing some of the ancillary revenue they would make go out the window. They would probably argue that if they control the use of alcohol on board, fares might have to rise.  They might even argue that by controlling the number of drinks on a flight encourages responsible drinking because, they might argue, the cabin crew can refuse to sell to anyone who might have had, in their opinion, too much to drink.

I have yet to see any cabin crew member refuse to sell alcohol to a passenger. I am sure it has happened. I have just never witnessed it but I have been warned not to drink my own alcohol on a flight. I once flew with a sales person from Jägermeister who was showing me the range of drinks that he was carrying. (This was before the 100ml liquids ban) With four or five miniature bottles in front of us, a member of the cabin crew warned us that we could not drink it on board and that it should be packed away.

But until I can carry on and drink my own purchases I think that I shall remain teetotal on flights. The cabin crew may not like it but my wallet will!

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