Queenstown NZ's priciest airport for food, drink

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
There is no place one can imagine paying $14.50 for a mince and cheese pie. Apart from maybe, the departure terminal of an airport.

Food and beverage retail at airports have long enjoyed a markup. According to Stats NZ the average cup of takeaway coffee is $4.70. The moment you are airside, this can cost travellers upwards of $6.

Convenience comes with a premium. Coffee to go is more expensive at airports because time-poor air travellers are not able to shop around. There are no laws in New Zealand against price gouging, as long as vendors can explain why they have put up their prices. “Because people will pay” is reason enough under the Fair Trading Act.

Anyone with the disposable income to fly is good for an overpriced cup of coffee, you might argue.

But is passing through security screening reason enough to justify a 50 to 150 per cent price hike on food? Trapped in departures, how much are Kiwis being asked to pay for a takeaway cup?

In 2022 the New York Port Authority ruled in favour of travellers to cap food prices after it was found that patrons at New York’s LaGuardia Airport were being charged $40 a pint for draught beer. Well above New York’s already inflated average price of $15. While there are different operating costs of running a business airside, the authority argued it could not be more than double.

Airports in New York and New Jersey are now price capped at 10 per cent above street pricing.

However, the US is not the only place to complain about the price of airport food.

Inflation is of course a factor. Stats NZ’s Food Index shows a cup of takeaway coffee outside of an airport has climbed 12.4 per cent from $4.18 to $4.70, in the past two years. It’s even steeper inside the terminal.

Perhaps nowhere is this “trav-flation” more evident than the humble meat and cheese pie.

A ubiquitous Kiwi foodstuff, these pastry parcels change little around the country but cost varies wildly even within airports from $6.50 to $14.50.

In Auckland, pies have increased by a fifth from $10 to $12 in departures.

Wellington Airport’s Domestic food hall has seen a pie in 2022 rise from $7.50 to $10.50.

But it is Queenstown Airport’s Airspresso which takes the biscuit for New Zealand’s most expensive pie. A heated mince and cheese pie at the departure gate will set you back $14.50.

How much more expensive are airport coffee and pies?

Plotting airport prices against the Food Index average for coffee and meat pies shows flyers are paying above the odds

4. Christchurch Airport

Pie: $6.50, Relay

Coffee: $5.50 Coffee Culture

$12.00 total

3. Wellington Airport

Pie: $10.50, Mojo

Coffee: $5.50, Three Quarter Soc.

$16.00 total

2. Auckland Airport

Pie: $12, Aroha Coffee

Coffee: $6, Retro Espresso

$18.00 total

1. Queenstown Airport

Pie: $14.50, Airspresso

Coffee: $6.50, Fuel to Fly

$21.00 total