The internet and popular shopping sites like Amazon have claimed yet another victim – this time it’s the long-loved tradition of in-flight Duty Free shopping which faces being relegated to the history book. The Dutch carrier KLM today announced it will phase out all in-flight shopping within the next 12 months. Tax-free goodies will be taken off European flights from July, while sales will be suspended on long-haul flights from January 2020.
KLM joins a growing list of full-service airlines who have already removed the dog-eared Duty Free catalougues from passenger seatbacks forever. American Airlines decided to ditch its in-flight range in 2015 after a “contractual disagreement” with the retail partner who used to run their Duty-Free programme. United Airlines had already jettisoned its own tax-free range a year before and Delta followed suit in 2016.
Other international airlines, including the likes of Qantas, have also removed Duty Free shopping from their aircraft, while other carriers are reducing the range they offer. Meanwhile, other carriers seem to be doubling down on enticing promotions, with Cathay Pacific being particulary fervent in trying to get passengers to part with their cash.
In a study conducted by Duty-Free World Council and published by APEX, researchers found in-flight sales fell from 7.3% of total global Duty Free and travel retail sales in 2006 to just 4.6% in 2014. The latest research suggests that figure will only continue to decline going forward.
Simply put, selling onboard Duty-Free just isn’t worth the hassle of the complicated logistics of running such an operation. Instead, airlines can make more money by taking off the heavy carts and saving money on fuel burn.
“Because the current sales process no longer meets today’s customer requirements, we have decided, after extensive deliberation, to bring this to an end,” explained Miriam Kartman, Executive Vice President at KLM In-Flight Services.
In a statement, KLM said “customers have grown accustomed to an almost infinite range of products for which they can look up the lowest price online. Competition with product ranges at the airports is also growing.”
But it might not be the complete end of the road for in-flight shopping. KLM is also trialling a number of “alternative forms of travel retail” – although the airline wasn’t yet willing to explain what that might exactly entail.
Would you still something from an in-flight Duty Free catalogue?
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.