Discounts Through Pre-Flight Duty Free Shopping – Is It A Good Deal?

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Many airlines offer their customers the option of purchasing Duty Free items ahead of the flight and also add some specialty items that can be pre-ordered such as certain premium champagne brands.

Especially when purchasing expensive items it might make sense to have a second look if certain offers can make sense such as during my flight on China Airlines last weekend.

Usually the discounts at Duty Free are rather small and depending on what products you purchase (maybe some cosmetics or eau de toilette) is in the low 2 digits but last week I decided to pre-order two bottles of Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne since the price was right after I had a look at the China Airlines Duty Free online shop (access here).

While champagne is priced rather moderately in Europe and sometimes in North America usually it comes with a premium in Asia, especially in countries with a high import tax such as Thailand where champagne and wine is rather expensive.

The bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee (just like Dom Perignon in the most recent retail vintage 2006) usually hovers around 140 EUR retail at a regular wine boutique in Europe. The China Airlines Duty Free price is US$197 but what caught my attention was the 15% pre order rebate which has just been renewed (see here).

From 1May. to 31May. 2017, China Airlines offers up to 15% off (not in conjunction with other promotional offers except for the mileage offset program) for e-Shopping(except for tobacco and selected items).

Paragon, Emerald and corporate flyer members may enjoy 20% off when present membership card during the same period.

Paragon and Emerald are the status level of China Airlines frequent flyer program which I’m not a status member of but the 15% discount looked decent and I decided to order two bottle of the Krug Champagne for our flight to Thailand at a total of $394. The 15% discount was applied with US$60 and that brought the purchase down to US$334 which is very close to the European retail price.

The goods were delivered to the flight and distributed on board the flight where final payment took place. It’s interesting that they offered the choice of paying in either USD or TWD. While usually the local currency is always the best (we wrote numerous articles about the pesky Dynamic Currency Conversion scam at payment terminals) in this case the USD price was much better. A quick check with the XE Currency Application (very useful tool) showed that in TWD the purchase would have been ~ $14 more.

Most recently I saw these pre-order discounts pop up at many different airlines and I tend to monitor the duty free prices a little while going through airports and flying on longer routes. Usually the discounts hover around 10% and often have restrictions that eliminate the most attractive products where big savings could be utilized.

Lufthansa currently offers 5x the award miles for duty free purchases when ordering online. Not only do I find their products one of the most boring and uninspired selection in comparison to competitors but 5x the award miles isn’t really a big incentive. What is that, a couple hundred miles? I rather have the cash!

Conclusion

With Duty Free it pays to know the retail prices of certain goods to the point and also judge discounts properly. All I ever purchase in duty free is Eau de Toilette and Champagne/Liqour so I usually know when I see a good deal.

The advantage of pre-order is that products like Dom Perignon or Krug Champagne is usually never loaded as part of regular on board sales (have never seen it at least). If you see an attractive price ahead of time you can save yourself the hassle of dragging purchases through the airport and just get it at your seat. By the way, no miles were given for purchases on board China Airlines.

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