Don’t get ripped off when you take off

Low-cost airlines appear to be anything but ‘budget’ when it comes to the on board price of food and drink, with popular items such as Pringles costing 495 per cent* more than from the supermarket, according to new research from TravelSupermarket.   

  • Average overall mark up excluding hot food and sandwiches is 347 per cent 
  • Average mark-up on airline snacks is over 180 per cent on supermarket prices
  • TravelSupermarket urges passengers to buy before they fly

The travel comparison site has compared both the supermarket and on board snack prices** and found an average mark-up on food and drink in the air (not including sandwiches and hot food) of 347 per cent. This included popular items such as sweets, chocolate, baked goods, crisps, soft drinks and alcohol.

With holidaymakers already under pressure to remember all the important things before jetting off such as tickets, boarding cards and passports, many can be tempted to loosen their purse strings and splash out on food and drink up in the air. However, this could be a pricey move, as travellers can pay anything up to 1,471 per cent more for a 500ml bottle of still water, 1,039 per cent more for a flapjack or 495 per cent more for a tin of Pringles.
Highest mark-ups
There are huge mark ups are across a range of trolley options, some of the highest percentage mark ups of airline vs. supermarket prices are:

  • Still water 500ml – 1,083 per cent on Aer Lingus
  • Flapjacks – 1,036 per cent on flybe
  • 7Up – 1,007 per cent on Ryanair
  • Muffin – 740 per cent on easyJet  
  • Baileys**** – 612 per cent on Ryanair
  • Cadbury’s Mini Fingers – 582 per cent on Jet2

Key stats
Taking a look at the average mark up of each food/drink group below, the results show hot drinks have the highest mark ups on board. Examples of the highest percentage mark up of airline vs. supermarket prices:

  • Average mark up on hot drinks is 2,355 per cent 
  • Average overall mark up excluding hot food and sandwiches is 347 per cent – driven by hot drinks – without hot drinks the average is 257 per cent 
  • Average mark up on soft drinks is 370 per cent 
  • Average mark up on alcohol**** is 311 per cent 
  • Average mark up on food (excluding hot food and sandwiches) is 181 per cent 
  • Average  mark up on sandwiches is 61.5 per cent

Bob Atkinson, travel expert from TravelSupermarket, said: “Holidaymakers flying with airlines that don’t offer a complimentary meal can easily fork out a small fortune on snacks which are considerably more expensive on board than what you’d pay in a supermarket, or even in an airport shop. Airlines realise hungry and thirsty passengers are a captive audience with no option but to buy from the trolley if they have failed to plan ahead.  

“Rather than leaving things until last minute, a much better option is to think ahead and either bring along your own food from home or buy sandwiches and snacks at a supermarket for your flight. Alternatively, pick up a meal deal in airport branches of Boots or W.H.Smith before you board and save yourself around 50per cent***** on similar items bought on board. Many airports also offer voucher booklets offering a range of discounts on airport shops and restaurants, so look out for these before travelling if you wish to buy at the airport.

“There is of course no getting around the airline liquids ban. However families can still save a significant amount by purchasing non-alcoholic drinks in the departure area before the flight – you’ll also find the choice is greater.”

Sample cost comparisons

Provider Kit Kat Four finger Pringles (43g) Water still (500 ml) Tea Coffee Walkers shortbread
flybe £1.00 £1.30 £1.70 £2.10 £2.10 £1.00
Thomson £1.20 £1.50


£2.40 £2.40 £1.00
Thomas Cook n/a £1.20 £1.60 £2.00 £2.00 £1.00
Ryanair*** n/a £2.02 £2.76 £2.76 £2.76 £1.38
Easyjet £1.00 £1.75 £1.50 £2.50 £2.50 £1.00
Monarch £1.00 £1.40 £1.70 £2.30 £2.30 £1.00
bmibaby £1.20 £1.50 £1.70 £2.20 £2.40 £1.20
Jet2 £1.20 n/a £1.80 £2.25 £2.25 £1.20
Aer Lingus £1.30 £1.80 £2.20 £2.30 £2.30 £1.30
Supermarket price £0.37 £0.39 £0.23 £0.05 £0.09 £0.16
Biggest difference to supermarket prices £0.93 £1.68 £2.53 £2.71 £2.67 £1.22
249% 495% 1083% 5420.00% 2967% 337%

Research conducted by, July 2012** [detailed results available on request]

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at TravelSupermarket offers these top tips for saving money on airline food:

  • It is always worth checking what your airline includes in your flight. Some airlines such as British Airways include free drinks and a small snack on short haul flights. On long haul flights, many airlines do include complimentary food, even if you still have to pay for some drinks. So before buying unnecessary food and drink at the airport, check what is included. 
  • Take your own food with you from home and save a fortune  - spending £30 plus for a family of four for sandwiches, drinks and a chocolate bar is extortionate when you could provide your own/buy at the airport for significantly less
  • Remember you cannot take liquids over 100ml through security, so do not pack drinks from home or liquid foods such as yoghurt.
  • Take your own fruit and crudités with you – it’s cheap and healthy and you will not find fresh fruit salad or veg options on board.
  • If you choose to have a meal on the plane, then save money by pre-ordering to ensure you actually get the meal you want. 
  • Look out for meal deals on board to save money. 
  • If you are going to eat/drink on the plane, but don’t want to take food from home with you, then buy at the airport once you have cleared security, as it is cheaper than buying on the plane.  
  • Remember, passengers cannot buy alcohol in the airport for consumption on board an aircraft. You may only drink alcohol supplied (free or at a charge) by the cabin crew. 
  • Finally, you could always be cheeky and take your own cup and tea bags/coffee with you and ask for hot water – although there is no guarantee the airline staff will serve you.


* Saving of the price of a tub of Pringles bought from Asda vs. on board a Ryanair flight

** Best supermarket prices sourced from Asda; airlines compared were flybe, Thomson, Thomas Cook, Ryanair, easyJet, Monarch, bmibaby, Jet2

*** Ryanair prices calculated at an exchange rate of €1 to £1

**** Passengers are not allowed to consume their own alcohol on board

***** A meal deal at Boots costs £15.60 or £15.96 at W.H.Smith based on a family of four. This shows a saving of around 50 per cent on Aer Lingus’s on board price of £31.60.


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