Airports are mistakenly thought by many to be there to service the airlines and its travellers. While that may have been the case up until late last century, the privatisation of the major airports has seen a quantum change in the focus of many airports. Thanks to their slightly different planning laws that generally are more advantageous to retail operators, shopping has become a focus for many owners. With shopping centres popping up at most airports in Australia, it’s no surprise to see such activity become a significant contributor to airport revenue. However there is one form of shopping that you will only normally see at ports and airports, and the revenue it generates may surprise you.

That form of shopping is of course Duty Free. It’s pretty hard to navigate the walkways of most airports these days after customs without running into a merchandise display featuring the latest exclusive spirits or perfume offer. With news recently of a change in operator for the duty free concession in Sydney, some interesting facts also came to light.

Nuance has lost the contract and a new operator will start early next year according to Jamie Freed in the Sydney Morning Herald. In case you’re wondering, duty free contributed to 13% Of Sydney Airports revenue.

The current operator certainly has not been in the good books with many of our members. Compared to overseas, prices are high, and it appears service is not something you’re paying for.

Good riddance. Nuance in Australia were hopeless. I rang SYD duty free last week (at 5pm) to get a price check on an Omega watch, I was greeted with a message that the call centre was closed at 3pm every day! I assumed wrongly, that I would be able to speak to someone in duty free during airport opening hours, go figure.

With the change, comes the chance to revamp and redesign the operation. While the duty free stores may seem to take up a lot of space, as percentage of the total airport terminal area the reality is they take up very little. This has not escaped the attention of the airport or the new operator, and it looks like things will be going up in more ways than one.

With statements from SYD airport such as ” Sydney Airport said retail revenues were expected to be higher in 2015 due to the re-tender and a reconfiguration of the duty-free space to implement Heinemann’s shop design” must mean the unrealistic prices currently charged will increase to make retail revenues higher!

If you’re heading overseas from Sydney in the near future, it you might be leaving Sydney empty handed when it comes to duty free. With the already expensive prices tipped to rise, duty free could well become an activity done entirely overseas if you wish to save real money.

Has Duty Free become more of an exercise than the savings warrant, are our airports getting greedier, have your say HERE.


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