Wellington Airport to lose online duty free pickup

By John Walton, February 15 2011
Wellington Airport to lose online duty free pickup

An online-only duty free store that delivers goods to passengers flying through Wellington Airport in New Zealand says it is being forced out of the market by a competitor, reducing travellers' options for duty free shopping.

Duty Free Stores New Zealand's CEO told Australian Business Traveller this morning that the last date for pickups will be Monday 28 February unless Wellington Airport or NZ competition authorities step in.

Long a favourite frequent flyer tip for business travellers flying to Australia from New Zealand, customers order their goods from Duty Free Stores New Zealand's online shop and pick them up at the duty free store in the airport, run by competitor JR Duty Free. Goods from the online-only retailer often work out cheaper than the competition.

Buying duty free online keeps costs down and speeds up the process at the airport, allowing busy travellers to swing by and pick up a pre-paid package of gifts or gadgets rather than waiting in a queue.

JR has increased the handling fee it charges to Duty Free Stores from NZ$13 to NZ$44, which makes it "impossible to compete" according to the company's CEO boss Grant Archibald, who spoke to Australian Business Traveller today.

"We deliver duty free to JR Duty Free the day before a customer collects it," Archibald said. "JR Duty Free put the goods on a shelf and hand them to the customer when they fly in or out of New Zealand. And they are now going to charge $44 for that limited service. It is difficult to see how these charges can be justified."

Duty Free Stores has asked Wellington airport authorities for separate facilities to continue its pickup service.

The company has also complained to the NZ Competition Commission, which has previously stated the benefits of keeping multiple operators at New Zealand airports. In 2008, the Commission warned Auckland Airport's owners to keep two duty free stores open at NZ's largest airport or risk a competition investigation.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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