Boarding Passes – Do Airport Shops Need to See Them?

    Have you ever wondered why some shops at the airport ask you to show your boarding pass?

    We’ve created this post to explain exactly why you might get asked for your boarding pass, whether you’re required to, and what the exceptions are.

    COVID-19 has scuppered travel plans for now. But hopefully that may be changing later into 2021. We still have to ask the important question though, is it required?

    Why Do Some Airport Shops Ask to See a Boarding Pass?

    The reason for them asking is that if you show your boarding pass and you’re travelling to somewhere outside the European Union, they are able to claim the VAT back.

    However, many people argue that these reduced prices should be passed onto you, the customer.

    Do I Have to Show Them My Boarding Pass?

    No, you’re not required to show them your boarding pass, and you’re fully able to decline this request.

    Are There Any Exceptions to the Rule?

    Actually, yes.

    The rules are different at Duty Free shops within the airport.

    As the HMRC themselves state: “Duty-free shops can sell goods where the excise, customs duty or VAT has been suspended, usually alcohol and tobacco. Sales in duty-free shops are tightly controlled and HMRC requires these outlets to know where the passenger is travelling to before completing a sale.”

    So no matter what you’re purchasing from the Duty Free shop, you WILL need to show the sales assistant your boarding pass.

    Pre-Order duty free

    What About Self-Service Tills?

    At the airport, many shops have self-service tills that require you to scan your boarding pass.

    If this is the case, you can simply make a sales assistant aware that you don’t have your pass so that they can authorise the transaction.

    Why Should I Withhold My Boarding Pass From Other Shops?

    Basically, it’s a case of “If you’re not getting a benefit, why should the shops?”

    Martin Lewis of started a campaign in 2017 to see airport-based shops splitting the extra profits with the customers.

    Although there’s not been an across-the-board change as yet, we are starting to see improvements.

    In WHSmith and Boots, for example, you can get the VAT back if you show your boarding pass, are travelling outside the EU and are spending over £5 and £6 per item respectively.

    So in those instances, it does pay to show your boarding pass.

    The hope is with continued pressure, more companies will adopt similar policies.

    So What Could Happen If I Don’t Show My Boarding Pass?

    If the sales assistant asks to see it and you tell them you don’t want to show it, most will simply continue with the transaction.

    However, shops are able to refuse your custom as long as it’s not discriminatory, so it’s possible they will insist to see it. But just know that they are not legally entitled to see it unless you’re in a Duty Free shop.

    And What Happens If I Do Show My Boarding Pass?

    Nothing, really!

    If you’re travelling outside the EU, you will simply pay for your goods and the company will make a little bit more profit from you.