Why You Need to Show Your Boarding Pass in the Airport Shops

Most air travellers are used to having their boarding passes scanned when purchasing items from shops in the departure lounge. Most think it’s a legal requirement; that they need to do so in order to complete their transaction. But it’s not necessary.

The real reason you have to show your boarding pass is because, if you’re flying to a destination outside of the EU, you don’t have to pay VAT on the goods you purchase. But in order for the retailer to know whether they have to add VAT or not, they have to scan your boarding pass.

If you’re flying within the EU, you must pay VAT on your items.

However, according to research by the Independent, many airport retailers are failing to pass on the VAT savings to long-haul travellers, and instead, are using your boarding pass information to boost their profits.

VAT is charged at 20%, so if you’re travelling outside of the EU, your purchase price should be 20% lower than that of an EU traveller’s.

Commenting in the Independent, Consumer affairs expert, Paul Lewis said, “They [airport retailers] are asking to see passengers’ boarding cards but not telling them that this is so they can make more money by not paying the VAT on what they’re selling.

“What of course they should be doing is passing on the savings that they make to the passengers who are travelling outside Europe.”

Showing your boarding pass is not a legal requirement – you may have been told it was for marketing purposes or necessary to complete the purchase, but you don’t have to show your pass.

The Independent is calling for an end to what they call the “sunscreen scam” and Martin Lewis from is calling on travellers to refuse to let airport retailers scan their boarding passes. 

The arguments about who should benefit from VAT-free goods is set to run on for some time to come. In the meantime, if you don't want to show your boarding pass - particularly if you're not benefitting financially by doing so, you don't have to. The choice is yours.