Something you might not know: You DON’T necessarily need your boarding pass to make a purchase at a UK airport

  Boarding passes aren't just paper any more, you can use digital versions, too! Image credit:  mroach / Flickr

Boarding passes aren't just paper any more, you can use digital versions, too! Image credit: mroach/Flickr

Buying a drink and a snack at the airport should be a simple process. A refreshment while you wait for your flight would present much of a problem in the outside world.

You pick up what you need off the shelf, then rock up to the till before making your payment and leaving with a purchase.

But in an airport, there’s one key component missing – “Do you have your boarding pass?” It’s a straightforward enough question, but it’s often met with unnecessary effort or groans of frustration.

It’s a pain, and that’s if you’ve even got the thing to hand, but having to root for it in your bag or return to your travel companion to collect it is just pointless hassle.

Though what you might not know is that you don’t necessarily have to cough up your plane ticket in order to complete a transaction with airport retailers.

The real reason why stores in airports ask for customers’ boarding passes is so that they can obtain flight details, enabling them to claim back value added tax (VAT) on goods bought by those travelling outside of the European Union.

It is a saving that these shops, like WH Smith, Boots and others, were retaining and not passing on to customers, and an issue that wasn’t afforded clarity, either.

Because of this, The Independent’s initial findings brandished it a ‘scam’ and it was suggested that the consensus amongst consumers was that boarding passes were required by shops for security reasons.

Martin Lewis also took to the television and his website to encourage people to refuse showing their boarding passes to these stores, but did warn people of one exception.

Boarding passes are required for things bought at duty free because, as Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs states:

“Sales in duty-free shops are tightly controlled as they can hold goods where the duty of 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.”

So while it may be necessary to brandish your boarding card at duty-free, it’s important to remember and learn the reasons why you don’t have to do the same for other airport retailers, and make a conscientious decision whether to do so or not.