NETHERLANDS. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will halt the sale of tax free goods on its European flights from July and will suspend sales on intercontinental flights from January 2020. The company said in a statement: “As a result of new developments such as the rise of e-commerce, sales on board no longer meet customer needs. Instead, KLM is exploring alternative forms of travel retail.”
KLM Inflight Services Executive Vice President Miriam Kartman said: “Because the current sales process no longer meet today’s customer requirements, we have decided, after extensive deliberation, to bring this to an end.
“As a result, passengers on our European flights will no longer be able to buy tax free articles on board from July 2019 and from January 2020 on our intercontinental flights.”
KLM noted that competition with airport shops has grown, and that “customers have grown accustomed to an almost infinite range of products for which they can look up the lowest price online”.
On how “alternative forms of travel retail concept” might look, Ms Hartman said: “We will shortly be launching several pilot projects to this end. Customer convenience and a wide range of products are central to this.”
KLM has a long history in the duty free business, having run the major ground shops at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for many years until 2007. The company has been acclaimed for its inflight service with many awards down the years, including Frontier Inflight Retailer of the Year on two occasions, most recently in 2016.
Other leading carriers to cease offering inflight tax free sales include Qantas (from January 2018), United Airlines (from April 2017), American Airlines (March 2015) and Delta Air Lines (August 2014).
The sales channel has struggled to show growth over the past decade. According to Generation Research, the inflight business accounted for 3.7% of global duty free & travel retail sales in 2017, or around US$2.6 billion. This was slightly less than the US Dollar figure reported for a decade earlier in 2007.