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Tell airport shops that you'll pass

By Donald C McFetridge

Published 13/08/2015

If we are purchasing other merchandise, such as paperback novels, snack products or cosmetics, we are not legally bound to show our passes
If we are purchasing other merchandise, such as paperback novels, snack products or cosmetics, we are not legally bound to show our passes

After the hassle of removing our shoes, taking off our belts and surrendering all things electrical and liquid in order to pass through airport security, we have all been met by requests from sales staff to have a look at our boarding passes.

Up until recently consumers thought this was a legal requirement, when, in fact, that is anything but the case.

Sales assistants in airport shops normally insist on seeing (and supposedly screening) our boarding passes before completing the transaction, and some have been known to refuse to process the transaction if said boarding pass is withheld.

The only time when we are legally required to yield our boarding passes is when purchasing cigarettes or alcohol in a duty free airport shop, when proof is required that we are travelling outside the EU.

If we are travelling to EU destinations this procedure is not required and - in most cases - only adds to the consumer's already arduous task of passing through airport terminals throughout the country and abroad.

If we are purchasing other merchandise, such as paperback novels, snack products or cosmetics, we are not legally bound to show our passes.

And it's about time we stopped scrambling through hand luggage and handbags in order to meet a request that has nothing to do with legal or health and safety requirements.

Airport retailers have been accused of not passing on price savings to consumers and instead reclaiming the 20% VAT on merchandise sold to consumers travelling to certain destinations.

Consumers can, however, take some comfort in the fact that Treasury Minister David Gauke has publicly stated that: "VAT relief at airports was intended to reduce prices for travellers, not a windfall gain for shops."

However, it will take consumers to vote with their feet and resolutely refuse to surrender boarding passes when this request is not a legal requirement.

The revolt has already started, with large numbers of passengers at airports throughout the UK (recently alerted to the situation) refusing to co-operate with exasperated sales staff in duty free shops.

  • Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at the Ulster University Business School

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