Navigating airport food prices


Right after passing through the security line at an airport and making my way to the general vicinity of the gate, I typically look for someplace to buy a bottled water. Each time, I wonder if I’m getting the best price within that terminal, or if it might be worth checking other stores to compare. I’ve seen prices vary by as much as 50% from one concession vendor to another, so I usually do some legwork just to be sure.

Obviously, a smart airport retailer could take advantage of this trend to increase sales and make things easier for customers at the same time. For example, if every store in the airport is required to charge the same price for a given item, then say that on the menu board or price list. Upon seeing this, customers would feel comfortable making the purchase at the most convenient location, with less chance that they’ll wander around and not buy anything at all.

Similarly, if prices do vary across the airport for a given item, then anyone who sells at the average price or lower should point out this advantage on their menu or price list. Travelers would then be more motivated to buy right away instead of shopping around. Of course, the highest-cost vendors might lose out on some business by virtue of their high prices. But that’s how it’s supposed to work in a properly functioning marketplace, even if that marketplace is confined to an airport terminal.