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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Why Does Water Triple In Price At The Airport?

Wrigley Field: Water as a "bottled drink."
On my recent journey through the Midwest most all the conversations I had with strangers involved not the weather, the war in Iraq, nor the price of gasoline, but rather the cost of water.

Throughout the four flights I took in the past two weeks I encountered dozens joining the water rant, and with good reason. In the past, complaints about the high cost of water in places like ballparks, stadiums, and airports was met with the reply "plan ahead and bring your own next time." But at our nation's airports that's no longer possible.

You can't bring water, or any other liquid, through an airport security checkpoint. That rule forces travelers wishing to stay hydrated to either pay the ridiculous $3 or more per bottle in a terminal snack bar, or wait until the beverage cart works its way down the aisle during their flight. If you arrive two to three hours early for your flight, be prepared to be parched.

For those who break down and make the investment in a bottle, they'll have to drink up before boarding. Once on the plane, flyers are asked prior to takeoff to hand over any liquids they might have accidentally carried on board. On one flight, TSA was in the jetway doing spot searches. At another airport, the window ledge beside the boarding line was filled with half-consumed cups of Starbucks coffee and bottles of water.

There's been plenty of debate about the effectiveness of the security measures. But the matter many travelers harp on is how airport vendors have managed to escape criticism while charging more for a bottle of water than for a soda, or hot drink. What happens to a $1 bottle of water between the convenience store and the airport that causes it to more than triple in price?

Every savvy traveler knows that the price per gallon of gasoline increases at service stations closest to airports (blame the nearby rental car lots). But as pricey as that gasoline can be, it's never three times the cost of gasoline elsewhere in town. Were that the case there'd surely be an outcry, as well as an investigation.

Not so with water, which unlike other beverages is not a luxury, but rather a necessity.

Congress has to be aware of it. They fly the same airports and follow the same rules. But, maybe their bottled water qualifies as a reimburseable travel expense.

— TJ Sullivan
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