United Airlines to Discontinue Duty Free on International Flights

By Paul Riegler on 19 March 2017
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Welcome on board but please shop somewhere else.

Welcome on board but please shop somewhere else.

United Airlines said earlier this week that it plans to stop offering duty-free items for sale on international flights at the end of March.

The move comes as little surprise: American Airlines ended duty-free sales in early 2015 and Delta Air Lines discontinued its duty-free program in the summer of 2014.

United had experienced “declining sales revenue” on its duty-free offerings, the airline said in a message to its employees. “We are unable to compete with airport duty-free vendors that stock much more merchandise.”

At the time Delta dropped its duty-free operations, a Delta purser, who asked that his name not be used as he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the airline, told Frequent Business Traveler he was “happy” to hear the news. He explained that he felt the change would improve the in-flight experience for passengers, who considered it more of a disruption than a benefit.

While on-board sales have been discontinued, virtually all international airports offer duty-free shops where travelers can make purchases. Duty-free shopping can be traced back to the 1940s when Brendan O’Regan opened up a duty-free shop that sold Irish goods to passengers on a refueling stop at Rineanna (now Shannon) Airport where he served as catering controller.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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