Water, wi-fi and parking: What most people spend their money on at airports

2018-12-28 06:30 - Marisa Crous
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A recent 5 hour layover in Dubai cost me dearly. Hungry? That'll be R150 for a bland chicken wrap, madam. Sleepy? R120 for an Americano.

Yes, airport mark-ups are some of the highest in the world. Exorbitant. And almost offensive. But when you're in a place with limited resources, you are basically at the mercy of the terminal, it sets the price, and you must pay. 

According to Express, passengers spend around £60 (R1 101) from the time they enter an airport to when they board. Spending about 53% on food and 44% on drinks, while many also purchase items they don't even need for their journey. 

Here are some items we spend (a lot of) money on at airports: 


We tend to buy a bottle of water at the airport boarding gates as we're not allowed to take fluids over 100ml past security check. But be clever and take an empty water bottle through, then once you're on the other side, you fill up your bottle instead of buying water at an exorbitant price.

(However, be sure to only use this strategy in countries where drinking tap water is safe). 

READ: Passport-free international travel? Boarding a flight might soon involve little more than posing for a photo 


We are no longer used to paying for wi-fi as buying a drink in a café usually gets you the password. But a lot of airports like Cape Town International Airport allows passengers a limited time wi-fi usage, like an hour, thereafter it charges you top dollar.

Instead of buying more wi-fi time, go to one of the airport's eateries and see if they offer wi-fi access for longer periods of time if you order a beverage. This will end up being much cheaper. 

We can't all live this life...


Cheat Sheet notes that most airports are known for charging much higher prices for food. We all know this, but some airports also purposely make restaurants into havens for passengers on long layovers, luring them in with comfy seating and cool spaces in the hopes of mindless passenger spending. 

For example, earlier this year The Mail Online reported a massive surge in sales at a burger joint at Dallas Forth Worth airport. After installing 'smart glass' at the restaurant by the departure gate, people wanted to linger longer before boarding. With no more glare, customers were shielded from the hot Texas sun and spent more money on food and drinks. 

READ: UK supermarket chain launches world’s first in-store ice rink for the festive season! 

Rather cheat the system and bring some snacks along like dry foods that won't perish like nuts and biscuits. 


Passengers are notorious for forgetting their chargers. And airports know this. That's why every airport, often even the tiniest of airports, have an electronics store. Convenient, yes. Unnecessary expense, most definitely. 


You might be in a rush to fetch someone at the airport, so you park closest to the terminal in the parkade most convenient at the time.


For example, Parkade 1 at Cape Town International Airport charges up to R45 for a hour, whereas the same amount will get you up to 3 - 4 hours in P4's shaded parking area. 

But Business Day notes that "One of the important sources of commercial revenue for airports is the management and exploitation of vehicle parking spaces. But airports face challenges here, such as competition with parking services in areas near airports, rising use of public transport to get to airport, and increasing use of shared-vehicle services." 

READ: Popular travel hubs affected by disasters and if you should go there in 2019 


Sorry to burst your bubble, but 'bargains' at duty-free might not exactly be as great as you think. eDreams, a flight comparison website conducted a price check and found that a lot of duty free items were actually more expensive at the airport than they would be if you shopped then at the supermarket.

This is not the case with all items or at all airports, however. Yet, rather do your research and see whether the duty free item is really worth shopping at the airport (and worth carrying with you on your journey), instead of shopping it back home. 

Earlier this year Business Day reported that people are becoming wiser to the ways of airport shops, food courts and duty-free. Despite an international spike in travellers passing through airports, retail spending at airports are down. This is problematic, as a drop in commercial revenues could lead to higher aeronautical tariffs to maintain current margins.

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