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Photo: KLM

KLM to end tax-free sales on board

Because the lowest prices for products can be looked up online, KLM says it will soon suspend duty-free sales on its flights.

KLM has revealed that from July it will no longer be offering tax-free items for sale on its European flights. Later, in January 2020, it also will suspend sales on intercontinental flights.

Sales on board no longer meet customer needs, the Dutch flag carrier explains, due to new developments such as the rise of e-commerce. Instead it is “exploring alternative forms of travel retail”.

“Because the current sales process no longer meet today’s customer requirements, we have decided, after extensive deliberation, to bring this to an end,” says Miriam Kartman, executive vice president of KLM’s inflight services.

For decades, KLM has been “meeting customer needs” by offering tax-free articles, on board and more recently also online.

But the airline says that lately it has noticed that passengers have “grown accustomed to an almost infinite range of products for which they can look up the lowest price online”, the carrier says.

And competition with product ranges at airports is also growing.

As for the alternative forms of travel retail KLM is now exploring, Kartman elaborates: “We will shortly be launching several pilot projects to this end. Customer convenience and a wide range of products are central to this.”

Airline trend
The airline is not the first to exit the inflight duty-free market, the travel retail news site DFNI reports. American Airlines stopped sales in 2015, followed by Qantas, Delta and United.

At the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes last October, the intelligence provider NPD Travel Retail revealed that out of 3,068 passengers interviewed on various flights, only 33% browse the inflight catalogue and just 12% buy.

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