$14 airport sandwich sparks ‘price gouging’ warning to Aussie travellers

An expert says customers are being taken advantage of.

Those flying in and out of airports across the country this holiday season are being warned to expect “price gouging” at air-side cafes and restaurants after a photo of a $14 sandwich went viral. In the image, the Classic Chicken can be seen sitting on a shelf of an eatery at Melbourne airport's terminal 3 above a $13.90 price tag.

But the cost of the sandwich — which features free-range meat, house mayonnaise, dill, parsley and rocket on seven grain sourdough — is a far cry from what customers would pay to eat at one of the franchise's other restaurants, with an online menu selling the item for $10.90.

“Look, you’re at the airport, you’re stuck, you’re a captive audience, going to the other side of security isn’t even an option, and you’ve only got so many choices,” Professor Roberta Crouch from the College of Business, Government and Law at Flinders University told Yahoo News Australia.

Classic chicken sandwiches on sale at airport with $14 price tag.
Customers said they weren't surprised at the cost of the chicken sandwich. Source: Reddit

She added that Christmas is also the time “when prices tend to go up”.

“You know it’s like travelling at peak time,” she explained. “And it is a bit of opportunism and price gouging and the only sort of offset to that would be the excruciating penalty rates that people would be paying staff working on Christmas. So there’s always that to consider, however, it would want to be a pretty good sandwich for 14 bucks.”

Ethical questions raised

Just like the price of petrol being pushed up during school holidays, when more families are out and about, Professor Crouch said “people in retail and business can be opportunistic” and “there’s always some ethical questions about that”.

“You know, there's the camp that says, ‘well business is business and if people want to travel at this time, they've got to expect that they're going to pay higher prices for things because it’s peak’,” she explained. “Then the other side of that coin is, ‘fair is fair’.

“At the end of the day, when is it over the line of good business or social licence accepted business practice and just price gouging? And 14 bucks for a chicken sandwich I think comes close to that line.”

‘Sounds about right’

While the cost of the sandwich has sparked fury online, many people aren’t surprised. Commenting on the Reddit post, which was uploaded on Tuesday morning, one person suggested the shocked poster “must be new around here”. “You’re in Australia and you’re also at an airport,” they pointed out.

While another said the price “sounds about right to me”. “There’s a reason why Maccas and Hungry Jacks always got the longest line,” someone else wrote, while another recommended bringing boxes lunches from home the next time the poster travels.

Earlier this year, an airport breakfast went viral over its $19 bill. In a photo posted to social media, a bottle of orange juice could be seen next to a ham and cheese croissant. “BEHOLD!” the diner wrote. “The $18.69 breakfast at Sumo Salad Brisbane Airport.”

But the post failed to land with many users commenting that they “didn’t see the problem”. “The airport know you’ll pay and you paid,” one person wrote. “The price is expensive mainly because the lease for the trading area is very high,” added another.

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