Airports hiking up price of snacks by nearly 50% with Pret and WH Smith among offenders

Pret baguettes can cost 48 per cent more at the airport   (Getty Images)
Pret baguettes can cost 48 per cent more at the airport (Getty Images)

The price of drinks and snacks could cost up to 48 per cent more when purchased from major transport hubs across the UK, travellers have been warned.

Pret A Manger, Leon and WH Smith are named among the retailers guilty of applying a high travel premium to their ranges of sandwiches, pastries and bottles of water.

Airports are often the worst for price hikes aimed at peckish travellers, research has revealed.

For a takeaway tuna, mayo and cucumber baguette from Pret A Manger – £3.99 on the high street – a 48 per cent increase at Heathrow Airport priced the chain’s lunch item at £5.90, The Mirror reported.

Similarly, a bottle of water from WH Smith that costs £2 on the high street is priced at £2.89 airside at Heathrow in a 44.5 per cent increase on pre-flight Buxton.

A study investigating railway station catering published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) last week found that the average price premium between high street retailers and railway stations is in the region of 10 per cent.

Comparing retail prices between bottled water and cola, a cost increase of up to 12 per cent was commonly seen at stations.

However, the rail watchdog‘s mystery shoppers suggested that rail station retail prices are lower than equivalent prices at motorway service stations or airports.

For example, Pret charges £4.50 for the same tuna baguette at London Waterloo – £1.40 less than the airport equivalent.

One train operating company told the ORR: “It should be considered that passengers at stations are a captive market similar to those at airports or event venues.

“It is therefore expected that prices in stations will be higher than average and the value for money of the offering should be viewed in this context.”

Retailers claim that higher operating costs in airports and railway stations are the reason for the price increases.

A Pret spokesperson said: “Like all retailers operating in transport hubs, we face a range of different cost pressures, including higher rents and labour costs. We also face additional costs to run our on-site kitchens, where our teams make Pret’s freshly made food every day.

“We always try to absorb these costs as much as possible, reviewing our pricing regularly to remain competitive whilst still offering good value, and never compromising on our high-quality ingredients.”

A WH Smith spokesperson said: “Stores in complex travel locations, such as airports and rail stations, face higher operating costs, with longer trading hours and security clearance needed for products before they are displayed, but wherever we operate, we seek to provide good value for that location.

“Many products sold in travel hubs are at RRP including news, books and magazines, we offer an excellent value Meal Deal and we continually review our prices and promotions to make sure our offer is competitive and offers the best value possible to customers.”

In April, research from luxury travel membership platform Velloy revealed the best-value airport for a drink before departure.

The findings showed that in 2024 the average cost for a pre-holiday pint of beer at a UK airport is £6.75, while the average price of a glass of prosecco is £9.59.

London’s Pride, an airside pub from Fuller’s Brewery at Heathrow, was found to be the most expensive place for a pint, with the average cost of a draught beer coming in at £10.05.

As for the best value, Tennent’s Pier Bar at Glasgow International took top place in the cheap booze charts, charging travellers £4.79 for a pint.