Qantas axes inflight duty-free shopping

By David Flynn, December 5 2017
Qantas axes inflight duty-free shopping

Qantas is shutting down its inflight duty-free shopping service, with that last watch, universal AC adaptor or bottle of perfume sold above the clouds on New Year's Eve.

The airline this morning confirmed the move, following comments to trade publication TRBusiness by  Alpha Flight Services' Manager of Duty Free Lenelle Williams – who oversaw the inflight duty-free operation under contract to Qantas – "that Qantas have made the decision to discontinue their traditional offering of inflight duty free from 1 January 2018, with the last flight departing the Australian ports on 31 December 2017."

As a global trend inflight duty-free sales are said to have been steadily declining over the past decade, driven by improved duty-free retail outlets at airports as well as the greater availability of goods – and greater price competition – through online shopping.

"If you look at what has been happening in Australian retail over the last year or two, there has been a lot of pressure on retailers with online ordering," observed Alpha Flight Services Marketing and Duty Free general manager Pat Osborne. "The recent launch of Amazon in the country is a prime example."

Qantas flights will not only ditch their extensive stock of duty-free but also the In Sky Shopping catalogue which crowds those seat pockets.

We'd like to hear from Australian Business Traveller readers on this: will you miss duty-free shopping on Qantas flights? Indeed, what's the last time you bought any duty-free product on a flight – and what was it, and why?


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Dec 2014

Total posts 44

Last time I bought a duty free product on a plane was back in 2013. I got some model 777s from AC because I forgot to get the kids a souvenir from Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever used QFs service.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1379

Can't remember the last time I bought something, or even flipped a catalogue.

Be interested to know how many kg a flight this will save.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1248

Inflight duty free seems to do very well (or at least be a necessary sign of prestige) for the Asian and Middle East carriers - their catalogues can be absolute volumes sometimes.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 474

No loss. I don't believe I've ever bought any inflight DF, though I do always browse through the catalogue.

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 155

Compared to the absolute zoo of getting duty free on arrival, the rip-off pricing, the predatory staff who insist on using dynamic currency conversion (a scam which should be banned) and the delay which completely negates the J class advantage of being first off the plane, when it comes to immigration - I've always found in flight duty free to be a reasonably priced alternative to feeding the leaches in the arrivals terminal in Sydney or Melbourne. I'll miss it, to be honest.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1248

I'll definitely miss browsing the catalogue, at any rate!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 362

No loss, was never even any cheaper anyway. Recently flew CX and can’t see them closing it down anytime soon. They were more interested in pushing their duty free than serving meals and drinks as soon as the plane took off.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 592

Inflight duty free is only good for exclusive items otherwise everything else can be found elsewhere for the same or less


20 Nov 2014

Total posts 7

My last purchase was a Qantas wrist watch on a Flt from Manila back in 1994. Still have it, still works with only one battery change.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 207

No great loss, nothing on offer was of any better value.

26 Oct 2015

Total posts 7

Smart business decision on Qantas part lest labour involved putting them on there and taking them off all while saving on small portion of fuel across the whole business...

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 178

Smart move, probably very little demand for duty-free these days so plenty of savings in weight and cost and labour and overall 'focus' not being wasted on something like this.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1426

I think they have it online on the video screen anyway; and they can just add it to the online mall, as a set of QF specials. Tourists (and locals heading off soon) can get their tax back when the leave anyway.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jun 2014

Total posts 20

Guess that also explains the lack of Sky Shopping catalogues on QF9/10 last month...

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2553

I've always thought that offering boxed sets of TV shows you have watched on board – not as duty-free per se, but something you could order during the flight and have delivered to your home or work (via third party fulfilment) would work well. Let's say I had some time to kill during a long flight and thought "Oh, I've heard about that Downton Abbey TV show, yeah, let's see what it's like," and watched a few eps and got hooked. If the screen offered me the chance to order boxed sets of the entire season, especially the season I'd just started watching but only got through a handful of episodes, that'd be appealing for sure.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 66

I agree, Or if you want to see what happens in seasons 1-3 of a TV show because the IFE only has season 4 onwards.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2016

Total posts 37

"The recent launch of Amazon in the country is a prime example." Pun intended?


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 733

Thank god for that.

17 Jun 2015

Total posts 1

A Good move. Now we only need the airports to do the same and get rid of all the other crap that clutters them up so they go back to being airports rather than low end shopping centres

03 May 2012

Total posts 11


Visiting Melbourne T2 often makes me think the taxi accidentally took me to Chadstone rather than the airport.

The post customs shops feels more like a rat maze than an airport. I wonder whether tulla will ever give up on flights and focus on their core competencies - a paid parking lot and shopping mall.

03 May 2012

Total posts 11

I'm glad it will cut down on extra annoying announcements. I don't know how it ever paid for itself based on the handling and associated fuel costs.

01 Jan 1970

Total posts 0

Will there be a closing down sale? :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 6

Can't say I'll miss it. One less announcement to assault your ears when you've just settled down with headphones on to watch a movie.

Now if the airports can just do something about the "Thank you for visiting Australia, please exit the country via the gift shop" embarrassment...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 220

Spot on! QF is my carrier of choice but it drives me insane occasionally with the announcements. And as for buying anything off DF, last purchase was sunglasses that were shoddy as and lasted two days.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 416

No big deal at all. Surprised it's lasted this long. Most airports have inbound duty free anyway.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Dec 2011

Total posts 6

no biggie we will all survive and move to cheaper online shopping anyway

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2017

Total posts 1

Fabulous. Qantas will have room now to bring onboard some limes for the G&Ts!!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 134

Good for the old seat pitch in Y!

30 Apr 2015

Total posts 6

Look at the duty free stores in the airports, terminals have turned into shopping centres. Great move QF, more room to maybe improve on food and beverage offering. You would think nowadays you could order via IFE onboard and have your purchase ready at the terminal when yo get back. They could get commission on sales. A thought!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 4

I'll be honest, when flying from the States I almost always purchased the Vodafone SIM available from inflight duty free, the deal was invariably better than anything offered once you cleared customs in Australia. Other than that, I have never had any desire to purchase anything.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 682

Years ago, when QF handled on-board DF, there were some truly innovative travel products apart from the usual regimen of perfume, cologne, alcohol and pens / watches. Since the 'outsourcing' of DF at QF, the quality and range of goods has slipped dramatically. Over the last 3-4 years, QF seems not to have put any effort into these sales ~ and are now wondering why sales revenue is down.

On DFW-SYD a week or so ago, there were 2 cabin announcements and an obligatory 30 second dash through the cabin by a disinterested cabin member. I guess even the 'allure' of bonus QF FF points is no big 'pull' these days even?

Forgetting the alcohol and small value items, I wouldn't mnd betting some of the better stuff might just end up on the QF online store eventually .. or perhaps it'll all be gone forever. So where do we get our $30 B787-9 plastic model frames from now?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Jul 2016

Total posts 1

Most will say good bye to it, but managed to grab a few good items on InSky Shopping over the past year. The price on the Beoplay headphones is usually pretty good, especially when they have the 10% discounts offers from time to time. But you can only own so many headphones I guess...


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 386

QF inflight duty free is/was quite possibly the worst retail experience I’ve ever had to endure. From totally “has been” average products to tragic Aussie trinkets, if I were QF i’d be furious to be in this position. The likes of SQ, CX offer great range of on ground store products well worth buying.

Last time I used this service was on a MEL-LAX flight in 2008, ordered online before the flight, and nothing made it to the plane. The order was recorded and on the Cabin Managers list, but nothing found. He did arrange a full refund, which hit my account two days after we landed. So; for me - I wont miss it at all. I only ever read the magazine for something to do.

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