airport scam

“Why do I need to show my boarding pass when purchasing a magazine or anything else at the airport?”

The answer is, “You don’t.”

As a frequent traveller, I was scandalized to read this report in today’s The Daily Telegraph.  It turns out that we’ve been lied to about the reason we need to show our boarding pass in airport duty-free and non-duty free shops.  The real reason is that the stores are using our information to claim back sales tax…and they do not pass the savings onto passengers.

UK AIRPORT VAT scam:  Retailers pocketing millions from duty-free discounts

Some of Britain’s top retailers are facing calls to be more honest with airport customers as they pocket millions of pounds in VAT discounts on duty free items without passing on the savings.

Many stores in airports across the UK demand that passengers present their boarding cards at checkouts before paying for any goods. But that is not a legal requirement, and instead the information is being used by stores to avoid paying 20 per cent VAT (value-added tax) on everything they sell to customers who are travelling outside the European Union.

Research by The Independent suggests the majority of these stores are passing little if any of the savings to customers, and instead are using the tax rebate to boost the profits of their airport franchises.

Here’s an excerpt from The Daily Telegraph article written by Natalie Paris –

Ana Silva O’Reilly, a travel blogger, will now refuse to show her pass after becoming increasingly annoyed with the stance taken by firms like Boots and WHSmith.

“I personally felt I was providing too much information for no reason whatsoever,” she said. “I find it very uncomfortable to be queuing for 10 minutes holding 5 kgs of magazines and books and then when finally served (service has become quite awful at WHSmiths), having to find my boarding pass somewhere.

VAT revolt as thousands refuse to show boarding passes to airport shops

Thousands of passengers say they will no longer show their boarding passes at the checkout after it was revealed shops are using the information to claim back VAT

A mini-revolution is taking place at airports across the country after retailers were forced to admit that customers are not actually required to show their boarding passes at the till and that those who do are merely helping companies claim back VAT.

Thousands of air passengers who had up until now been under the impression that producing their boarding pass was a legal requirement have been outraged to find out that this is not the case.

Airport retailers such as WHSmiths and Boots have admitted that fliers are entitled to say no when asked to show their pass and have said that they use the information to claim back VAT on purchases made by customers flying to non-EU destinations.

90 per cent of 29,000 Telegraph readers said they did not realise why shops ask to see boarding passes. Now they are saying that they will refuse to show their boarding passes in future.  They are also angry at shop assistants who have told them that scanning their boarding pass is necessary in order to complete a sale.

Information on a boarding pass covers a passenger’s entire itinerary, making fears over data protection another legitimate reason to refuse to show it.

I can only imagine that if this is happening in the U.K., it’s happening elsewhere.

So the next time you’re making a purchase at the till and they ask for your boarding pass, look them straight in the eye and say firmly, “No. I have no legal obligation whatsoever to show you my boarding pass.”

One thought on “airport scam

  1. Thanks for the information. I wondered about this before, but I thought it was connected to showing proof that you were just passing through and therefore entitled ro purchase duty-free items. Pretty sneaky stuff.

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