Airline meals bust budget

I am always wary when I fly with a budget or no frills airline because although the airfare may appear to be cheap, when you add the extras costs and fees your cheap fare can sometimes end up costing you more than the cheapest fare available from a full service airline.

Now, research on the cost of airline meals has been done in the United Kingdom by travelsupermarket.com, a British website which compares prices of travel. This research was used to gauge the meal, snack and drink prices on a number of budget airlines which fly into Britain, but my guess is that their research would show a commonality for other parts of the world.

According to travelsupermarket.com holidaymakers who buy drinks and nibbles from ‘budget’ airline snack menus are paying a premium of up to 1900% more than if they were to buy before they fly.
Their research showed that the average mark-up on airline snack food is over 358% on supermarket prices and that Ryanair is the biggest price hike offender for onboard snacks on their Airline Snacks Barometer.

The travel comparison site looked at supermarket, airport and onboard prices, which were sourced from the cheapest products available from Boots and WH Smiths at Manchester Airport. The airlines surveyed were: flybe, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Ryanair, easyJet, Monarch, bmibaby and Jet2. It was found the airlines had an average mark-up of food and drink on supermarket prices (not including hot drinks) of 358%. The increase covers items such as sweets, chocolate, baked goods, crisps, soup, soft drinks and alcohol.

According to the research, in the excitement leading up to a holiday abroad, holidaymakers can be tempted to loosen their purse strings and splash out on food and drink onboard an airline, leaving their savvy spending ways at the airport gate. Without realising it, travellers can pay anything up to 1900% more on a cup of tea or coffee on an airline, 1100% on 500ml still water, 900% on a croissant or 746% more on Pringles.

The highest food mark up onboard is found on the smaller items such as soups and baked goods. Some of the highest percentage mark ups of airline vs. supermarket prices are:

Cup-a-soup – 1100% more on Ryanair; it costs £3.00 making it the highest individual mark up excluding tea/coffee
Croissant – 900% on Ryanair
Muffins – 700% on bmibaby
Still water 500ml – 1100% on Ryanair
Stella Artois Beer 33cl – 680% on Jet2 (you usually can’t drink your own alcohol on board any airline)
Pepsi 15cl – 780% on Monarch
Mini Cheddars, 50g – 582% on easyJet

The average overall mark up excluding hot food and sandwiches is 553% – which is driven by hot drinks – without hot drinks and hot food the average mark up is 368%
Average mark up on food (excluding hot food and sandwiches) is 358%
Average mark up on hot drinks is a whopping 1292%
Average mark up on soft drinks is 423%
Average mark up on alcohol is 333%

There are a couple of things to remember before you leave home with your picnic hamper full of goodies to eat on the plane. You cannot take liquids over 100ml through security, so do not pack drinks from home or liquid foods such as yoghurt; in some areas of the world (especially in Australia) there are heavy quarantine restrictions on such things as fruit, vegetables and meats, so check to see what, if any, restrictions there are in the region you wish to travel.

If you are going to have a meal on the plane, then save money by pre-ordering to ensure you actually get the meal you want. Or, look out for meal deals on board which can save you money.
Finally, if you are going to eat/drink on the plane, but don’t want to take food from home with you, then buy at the airport once you have cleared security, as it is cheaper than buying on the plane.

Of course, if you are considering choosing between a budget airline and a full service airline on which food and drink are complimentary, work out what the food would cost you on your budget flight to give you a more accurate comparison of value.

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