You DO have to show your boarding passes at duty free

You don’t need to show your boarding pass at airport shops, but you do at duty free. A media furore over the summer has sown confusion, so it’s time to clear it up…

The great boarding-pass scandal

During the height of the summer, a scandal was revealed by The Independent that most airport retailers were wrongly forcing people to show their boarding passes.

Many people willingly complied thinking it was done for security. In reality it allowed shops to claim back VAT on goods bought by those travelling outside the EU – they should’ve been passing the saving on to customers but they weren’t.

I was very vocal on the subject, and did countless broadcast and print interviews, urging consumers to band together and refuse to show their boarding passes at shops like WH Smith, Boots and others, to deprive the stores of extra income unless they at least split it with customers.

The whole thing became a media circus, politicians got involved slating stores for not passing on the gain, and many retailers including Boots and Dixons said they’d no longer make it compulsory for staff to ask.

Below is a video I recorded at the time…

The big misunderstanding

The whole campaign was about airport retailers – not duty-free shops. It was something I mentioned in my quotes and you’ll hear it briefly in the video. Yet my concern is I continue to get tweets and emails from people like this…

And even some duty-free staff have been getting frustrated with it.

So I wanted to take this opportunity to spell out the differences and clear it up. As HMRC states…

Sales in duty-free shops are tightly controlled as they can hold goods where the duty or VAT has been suspended. To ensure sufficient controls are in place, HMRC require duty-free outlets to provide evidence of destination for all goods sold.

In other words if you’re buying any goods, specifically from the duty-free stores, you do need to show your boarding pass.

Addendum: 5 October 2015: Looking at the comments below, I can see some still clearly angry duty-free staff. It is a disgrace that people have been abusive to you – something I’d never condone – and it’s a shame people have got the wrong end of the stick.

However, I think you over credit my role. I didn’t break the story and I suspect I was involved in less than 10% of the coverage on it (Google it and you’ll see). As explained above, when I was involved, where possible (note that I don’t choose which bits of my quote other publications use), I made it plain that duty free is different.

But as I have said already on social media, I am more than happy to try and help – we need people to be correctly informed. If the management of WDF want to get in touch, we can work on a joint poster that can go up in stores explaining it – and I’d have my picture and brand on it if that’d help.