Jim Duffy: Airport food and drink prices take us for a ride

It’s that time of year when the ­temperature heats up, the holiday season is upon us and the airport queues get longer. Heading off to far flung places to relax and unwind or go a bit ­crazy until the wee small hours. For most of us, departing from an operating (hopefully) Scottish airport will mark the start of our holiday. Will you get value for money?

Not able to take through a bottle of water, I now had to pay through the nose to rehydrate, says Duffy. Picture: contributed.
Not able to take through a bottle of water, I now had to pay through the nose to rehydrate, says Duffy. Picture: contributed.

As I rocked up to Alicante airport this week to fly to Glasgow, I was looking ­forward to what is usually a stress-free and polished airport experience. Alicante is the gateway airport for the Costa ­Blanca serving towns like Benidorm, Altea, Calpe, Torrevieja and San Javier. Many of the big-name airlines operate from and to Alicante including Ryanair, EasyJet and, of course, British Airways. So, its ­terminal, which is vast, is busy and spacious to accommodate all this traffic. Add in the fact that Spain and this particular coastline is home to tens of thousands of ex-pats who pop “home” every now and then and Alicante becomes a favourite destination. But this week it let itself down.

We all know how pricey airport ­parking can be, especially if we do not want to walk too far. But, inside the terminal is where the real price action takes place. Is this right and proper? As a result of recent events, with the 9/11 attacks, the shoe bomber and a few other isolated incidents, airport security is a faff and an onerous burden that has been foisted upon us. The queues, and queuing systems, vary from airport to airport with Glasgow being a positive experience for me, while ­Edinburgh isn not so.

Watches, some jewellery, and belts must come off. Depending on the mood of the staff, which always perplexes me, my shoes may or may not be off as well. ­Laptops and iPads all out and on the trays for checking and toiletries placed in small, clear plastic bags. Inevitably, there is always someone who has forgotten the rules or forgotten their brain. This week a young lady in front of me had three items which were well in excess of the 100ml limit and, of course, she held up the whole queue as the staff tried hard to find these secreted in her luggage. I wondered as I looked on whether she was just dim or was trying her best to get the cheap supermarket booze through undetected.

Yes, 100ml is all the fluid you are allowed to carry through these days. And this is where some airports are duly taking advantage of us. I had my toiletries in my clear bag, all under 100ml. I had managed to get through the airport duty free ­without buying a thing, as the deals no longer feel like a bargain. I was in the main terminal, airside. It was hot and I needed water.

Alicante like many international feeder airports has all the usual eateries, from Costa Coffee to Subway to Eat. They are all there offering sandwiches, wraps, salads and drinks, but all I wanted was a bottle of water. Guess how much a bottle – 1 litre – of water costs at Alicante? Well, if I tell you that it costs only 35 cents at the local supermarkets, you may decide that one euro at the airport feels a good pricepoint. No? Try €3.80.

For a small bottle of water? And all the food outlets were charging the same price. Funny that… having had to surrender my right to having more than 100ml in a bottle and therefore not be able to take through a bigger bottle of water, I now had to pay through the nose to rehydrate. Doesn’t seem right to me.

I get that these outlets have to pay dearly to rent this space from airport operators who, in turn, want to maximise their profits. But, water is a vital ingredient for us human beings to stay alive. With so many older passengers already struggling with heat and ­queuing coming through security, is it fair and ­reasonable to then hit them with this exorbitant price for a bottle of water?

Terrorist attacks have made us rethink security at airports and quite rightly so. But, when this security leads to blatant profiteering by some, perhaps it is time to call it out.

- Jim Duffy MBE, Create Special.