Airport ‘Fair Pricing’ Policies Don’t Fly With Travelers

Phoenix Marketing International Looks at How Air Passengers Perceive Prices at Airports

SOMERSET, N.J., March 7 /PRNewswire/ — Since the dawn of air travel, fliers have long suspected that they were being overcharged for food, beverage and retail items at airports. Some airports have adopted policies known as “fair pricing” or “street pricing” that have sought to assure air travelers that they would not be paying any more for concessions than they would if they happened to be shopping at the local mall. Have “street pricing” policies at airports worked? Does the passenger feel that they are being fairly charged at airports that regularly monitor prices at local malls and require airport concessionaires to adjust their prices accordingly?

Not by a long shot.

The overwhelming majority of air passengers purchasing food, beverage and other retail items felt they were being overcharged at the airport whether or not the airport had a “street pricing” policy. “At airports that do not have a pricing policy, 89% of travelers felt that they were paying more than they would off-airport”, said Michael Taylor of Phoenix Marketing International. “At airports that have publicized ‘street pricing’ policies, 81.5% of passengers felt they were being overcharged. That’s not much of a difference and it indicates that these pricing policies aren’t effective at airports”.

The study also shows that very few travelers are aware of any type of pricing initiative at airports. “We surveyed over 35,000 air travelers purchasing items at airports,” Taylor said. “The percentage of travelers aware of pricing programs at a group of street-pricing airports averaged in the single digits, not much different than passengers who erroneously believed that their airports have a street pricing policy. Either passengers are unaware of some airports with a street-pricing policy or they just don’t believe it. Either way, the policies are ineffective.”

Travelers at Pittsburgh International Airport were most widely aware of that airport’s pricing policy, but only 20% of travelers at Pittsburgh knew that the airport monitored prices. Even with that higher awareness, 70% of travelers felt that prices at the Pittsburgh International airport were higher than they would expect to pay elsewhere.

“These findings confirm our other research into concessions at airports,” Taylor said. “Passengers don’t memorize prices and attempts to improve their perception of pricing at airports is a waste of time. What drives satisfaction with airport concessions is quality, variety and availability.

“Pittsburgh International’s airport concessions are among the most highly regarded in the world, driven by the quality and variety of stores and restaurants available to passengers. Yet 70% of their customers feel that they were overcharged. Airports should concentrate on increasing quality and variety, that’s the key to higher passenger satisfaction.”

The study conducted surveys among 35,832 air travelers purchasing items at airports. The group of airports with publicized street pricing policies included Atlanta Hartsfield International, Austin Bergstrom International, Pittsburgh International and Portland (OR) International airports. Scores from these airports were compared to a group of airports that do not publicly claim to monitor prices. Those airports included Chicago O’Hare International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Denver International and Minneapolis/St. Paul International among others.

About Phoenix Marketing International

Through decades of market research, Phoenix Marketing International is one of the world’s fastest growing market management firms with over 100 clients worldwide and over $20 million in annual sales as partner to many Fortune 100 companies in the financial services, consumer package goods, automotive and travel and leisure industries. Using qualitative and quantitative research, PMI specializes in assisting clients across a variety of topics including customer satisfaction, new product development and market segmentation through a variety of analytical techniques.

For more information about airport studies, please contact Michael Taylor at (203) 438-9364 or by e-mail at Or visit Phoenix Marketing International at

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