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The In-Flight Food Shakedown

“Don’t get ripped off by in-flight food prices,” warns a headline on a release from the U.K.’s research firm. This report cites markups of more than 1,000 percent on a bottle of still water on Aer Lingus, flapjacks on Flybe, and 7 Up on Ryanair. And lots of other items ranged between 500 percent and 1,000 percent higher than they would cost on in the store. The average markup on hot drinks is 2,355 percent, says, and the average markup on soft drinks is 370 percent.

My old marketing professor would sneer at those numbers. According to the classic retail method of accounting, markup is always calculated as a percent of the final selling price, not a price over the cost. So a reported 1,000 percent markup would really amount to a 91 percent markup. Still, that’s a really big markup. Although the survey involved mainly European airlines, the pattern is likely to be the same everywhere. recommends schlepping your own food from home—remembering the security liquid limits—or buying at the airport post-security. You get the message: Airline onboard prices can be ripoffs. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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