Is Duty Free Alcohol a Rip-Off?

Airport Duty Free outlets were once a great place to pick up a bargain. But it seems that bargains are now few and far between. Taxes and duties should not be payable on Duty Free alcohol. Yet it’s often the same price – or even more expensive – at the airport than Dan Murphy’s or the local supermarket. So, why is Duty Free so expensive? And are there any bargains still out there?

I’ve been aware for some time that Duty “Free” alcohol at Australian Airports has been a rip off but it seems that other places are joining the excess profit game… What do other frequent flyers think and is there anywhere left where duty free alcohol is a reasonable price?

One member is quick to point out that “Duty Free” does not necessarily mean “profit free”. While taxes may not be payable, airport retailers are ultimately there to make as much money as possible. The airport retailers’ high rent and labour costs are also reflected in prices.

First off ‘duty free’ dun = ‘profit free’ in Australia! They still make a hefty margin (suppose they gotta cover pretty high wages here + rent).

While some products are very poor value when bought Duty Free, others may be good buys. Wine and spirits, in particular, may be good value. For example, our members have recently reported a number of genuine bargains on spirits.

I got 1L of Bombay Sapphire at Melbourne airport for $38 AUD. Just checked on Dan Murphys and selling for $66 so I guess it all depends – do research before hand to know what is a good price.

It’s not just in Australia that customers frequently pay through the nose for Duty Free. It is often just as expensive overseas. But there are some bargains still to be had. According to one member, Johannesburg Airport in South Africa is where some of the best wine deals and other Duty Free bargains can be found.

In terms of duty-free alcohol bargains, I’ve found South Africa to be the cheapest. The duty-free alcohol at JNB seemed to be around half the price you would pay in Australia. (No wonder there was so much duty-free waiting to be collected at the gate during boarding for QF64!)

Knowing exactly what you want and conducting prior research seems to be the key to ensuring you get the best price.

Do you know of any Duty Free bargains? Contribute to the discussion HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]