Airport Shops Agree To New Code of Practice Following VAT Boarding Pass Controversy

Following last summer’s controversy about how airport shops were reclaiming VAT relief intended for shoppers flying to non-EU countries after demanding to check passenger’s boarding passes, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) and the UK Travel Retail Forum (UKTRF) have launched a new Code of Practice (CoP) to ensure greater transparency on how customers benefit from the VAT relief concession for airport retailers.

The industry-wide set of guidelines are aimed at giving clarity to customers by requiring airport retailers to provide a clear explanation to all customers on how the VAT benefit is used and on when and why customers are required to present boarding passes.

The guidelines also enshrine current best practice on VAT relief in airports and will be set out in-store and online.

Retailers who have signed up to the Code of Practice will report to the UK Travel Retail Forum (UKTRF) on how they implement the Code. The initiative is endorsed by UK airports, who will facilitate additional customer enquiries about the code.

Dozens of major airport shops have signed up to the code, including WH Smith, World Duty Free, Boots, and Harrods.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the AOA said: “AOA member airports are determined to ensure that passengers have an excellent experience from the moment they arrive at the airport to the moment they leave. We have worked closely with airport partners and retailers to improve information and transparency about how the retailers apply the VAT relief concession, ensuring travellers can continue to shop at UK airports confident in the knowledge that they are getting a great deal.”

Sarah Branquinho, Chair of the UKTRF, added: “Our members have an exemplary record of compliance with HM Revenue & Customs laws, Advertising Standards Authority guidelines and Trading Standards Authority consumer legislation, but the Code of Practice will go one step further in ensuring transparency and consumer trust. This new measure will help ensure that customers know that the savings resulting from the VAT relief concession are passed on to them.”

NAM Implications:
  • If the Boarding Pass data is so useful to airport retailers, why not offer a 1% discount for scans of all Boarding Passes?
  • Every little helps?