The airline industry does a lot of smart moves and a few stupid ones. In the latter category nothing beats tax-free sales at departure. On-board sales might, though. If anyone can come up with one single advantage of selling tax-free articles ahead of a flight instead of after landing, please make a comment below. People go to the airport early enough to be able to shop and then stand waiting idle at the conveyor belt for fifteen minutes grumping that it takes to long for the luggage to arrive. Most often they have no choice. You are not allowed to shop on arrival, at least not booze and tobacco. There are a few exceptions. Reykjavik, New Delhi, Dubai, Marrakech, Oslo Gardemoen of all places and a few other airports allow passengers the same privilege after landing as before take off. And why not.

The list of arguments against pre-flight shopping can be made rather long – and embarrassing. The sheer weight of it all. As a general rule extra kilos cost 4% extra fuel per hour to carry, i.e. one extra ton on a ten hour flight burns up an extra 400 kg of fuel. Environmentalists should go upside down if they knew that every B747 on such a flight, with a full load of passengers who might have bought – apart from the obligatory bottles of whisky and wine – some other stuff amounting to a total of 5 kilos each, will increase the fuel consumption and the atmosphere contamination with 350 x 5 x 4 x 10 = 700 kg.

More advantages:  At departure you might be delayed in check in and security preventing a dash through tax-free. You don’t have to carry the extra kilos. The allowance may amount to twenty pounds if you buy booze, wine, beer and cosmetics. More room on board. No fire hazard. No easily available weapon. The most common weapon in a bar brawl is a broken bottle. Since tax-free shops refuse to sell plastic bottles, you can also easily make a Molotov cocktail, if you think things are boring. And again – the weight. Ambitious airlines are reducing their potable water uplift by a couple of hundred kilos – and fuel reserves – to save weight!

If you have nothing to do, bring out a pen and paper and calculate for yourselves how much fuel is wasted for no reason whatsoever. These days where every little thing counts, when it comes to pollution. Just check two thousand heavy jets flying ten hours minimum with some two hundred and fifty some passengers having bought four pounds of something. That’s half a ton per flight. Ten hours makes forty percent or two hundred kilos wasted. Each day these two thousand wide bodies together burn four hundred thousand kilos (400 tons) extra. Again, for no reason. Short haul might contribute just as much by sheer numbers.

The habit of charter airlines to carry tons of stuff to the destination and back to provide pre-pack sales in the seats to returning vacationers is to dumb to bring up. They could just as easily pick it up in the arrival hall, had regulations allowed it. And there we have it. Could all various decision makers, be it customs officers, airline CEO’s, tax-free shop owners or whatever be forced to solve this or never be brought back from the conference center they were forced to go to, to discuss the issue, there would be no more reason for red cheeks in this industry. Fortunately things are moving in the right direction. In the arrival hall tax-free shop at Gardemoen airport, Oslo, people are shopping like crazy.



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