It’s Cheaper To Take An Uber To The Airport, And Back

Uber has been fighting continuing battles with major cities and their traditional licensed cab drivers for years now. In some cities this has resulted in legal rulings banning Uber drivers from operating completely.

However it’s not just cities taking aim at the taxi app. Airports are also drawing battle lines with the company in an effort to protect revenues.

The ease of catching a cab is often paramount for weary travellers, but many are still very price-sensitive even after the longest of flights.

But are the costs of Uber rides on fiercely competitive (and regulated) airport journeys cheaper then traditional taxis (as they are in cities)?

Methodology

I was able to calculate fares for Uber journey costs from airports on their website (UK & US) (April 2016).

These could then be compared with traditional taxi fare data available from TfL (UK) and Taxi Fare Finder (UK & US) (April 2016).

The Black Taxi

The Black Taxi an icon of London. In recent years Black Taxi drivers have been losing market share of passengers travelling overground to minicabs (often operated by taxi apps, like Uber). The situation is so bad, TfL (who operate Black Cabs), are struggling to recruit new Black Cab drivers.

Queue a fierce fight between TfL and Uber.

One that almost saw Uber being banned from the British capital altogether in 2015 but for a small technicality about wether the app constituted a taximeter. But technicalities aside; why are consumers switching to taxi apps?

Analysis

Uber Services

Uber vs Black Taxi Journey Costs in London

Download chart.

Service Ave Fare (1 mile) GBP Ave Fare (2 mi) GBP Ave Fare (4 mi) GBP Ave Fare (6 mi) GBP
UberX 5.18 7.25 10.95 15.10
UberX (1.9x surge) 9.83 13.78 20.81 28.69
UberX (2.5x surge) 12.94 18.13 27.38 37.75
UberEXEC 9.25 13.30 20.50 28.60
UberLUX 13.78 20.35 31.85 45.00
UberXL 10.53 13.45 18.85 24.70
Black Taxi (Mon-fri (06:00-20:00)) 7.20 11.20 18.50 26.00
Black Cab (Mon-fri (20:00-22:00), Sat-sun (06:00-22:00)) 7.30 11.50 19.00 30.00

Full table.

UberX rides are generally cheaper than traditional Black Cabs, unless the dreaded surge pricing is in effect.

For example, the more expensive Black Taxi Fare would cost £7.30 GBP to go 1 mile. An UberX would cost only £5.18 GBP. However, during periods of high demand where 1.9x and 2.5x surge pricing is in effect the same journey would cost you £9.83 GBP and £12.94 GBP respectively through Uber — potentially well over twice the price of a Black Taxi.

Uber Services To / From London airports

Registered taxis in London (Hackney Carriages, not necessarily Black Taxis) have strictly regulated fares from its many airport into the city.

Uber vs Taxi cost from airport to Paddington Station, London

Download chart.

London Heathrow (T5) – Paddington St GBP (ave) Gatwick South — Paddington St GBP (ave) Stansted – Paddington St GBP (ave) Luton- Paddington St GBP (ave) City- Paddington St GBP (ave)
uberX 37.00 96.00 74.50 46.50 28.50
uberX (1.9x surge) 55.50 144.00 111.75 69.75 42.75
uberX (2.5x surge) 92.50 240.00 186.25 116.25 71.25
uberXL 56.00 149.50 114.00 89.50 40.00
UberEXEC 71.00 135.50 104.50 82.50 55.00
UberLUX 109.50 283.50 221.50 171.00 88.50
Taxi (Mon-fri (06:00-20:00)) 67.40 125.60 78.80 59.90 40.60

Full table.

Many registered taxis and private hire cars pay surcharges to airports (often passed on to passengers directly). Uber drivers are also liable for such charges.

Even so, UberX rides are considerably cheaper from all London airports — almost £50 GBP cheaper from Gatwick South Terminal to Paddington Station. Only recently did Uber scrap flat fees from London airports which could have potentially made these journeys even cheaper.

Registered taxis sit somewhere between UberX and UberXL services, and are the second cheapest option when compared to the other services Uber offers.

Uber To / From US airports

Lets change colours to the bright yellow of the second most iconic taxi, the New York City Cab (and the less iconic taxis of San Francisco and Chicago). And yes, both these cities have had their disagreements (like the London Black Cabs), to put it lightly, with Uber.

Uber vs Taxi cost from US airport to major landmark

Download chart.

JFK – Grand Central (ave) USD SFO – Market St (low) USD ORD – Chicago Union (ave) USD
uberX 59.00 25.00 33.00
uberXL 88.50 37.00 56.50
UberBLACK 116.50 68.00 88.00
UberSUV 145.50 84.00 111.50
Taxi (Mon-fri (06:00-20:00)) 64.73 64.69 52.45

Full table.

Like London, the UberX service comes out much cheaper than choosing a taxi in all cities. In San Francisco and New York the fares are staggeringly cheaper. In New York UberX services are about $20 USD cheaper, and in San Francisco almost $40 cheaper!

Improvements

Uber operates in 81 countries (Oct 2016). In the US and UK cities considered, UberX is cheaper than traditional taxis to and from airports. I would be interested to learn if the same was true in the 79 other countries.

tl;dr

UberX services from airports are cheaper than registered taxis from airports.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Checked Bag Prices On Budget Carriers Are Too Cheap

Budget travellers have come to expect the added costs associated with checked bag prices — and are likely to have developed the ability to pack one-weeks worth of clothes into a single carry-on bag.

Though with cabin baggage allowances regularly being reduced, it’s getting harder. Perhaps so-much-so you start wondering how much it would cost to ship some items by courier to your destination.

The concept is nothing new. Over the past few years a number of companies have set out to do just this. Airlines have also entered the space.

How do budget airlines compare with shipping your bag with a courier?

Methodology

Checked bagged costs on European budget carriers were obtained via TravelSupermarket (sourced in March 2016). 16 different products from 11 budget airlines were reported (some airlines offer different price bands based on checked bag weight).

Checked baggage minimum and maximum charges at booking Mar 2016

Download chart.

Europe’s budget airlines are imposing ever more complex prices for placing a bag in the hold. Where flat fees were once the norm, carriers now charge by an array of variables including time of year. Depending on when you fly, Norwegian has the cheapest possible checked bag cost per flight (£7 GBP / 20kg) , whilst Ryanair has most expensive (£45 GBP / 20kg) — that’s £90 GBP for a round-trip!

Given this analysis considers European budget airlines I then drew up a list of European cities to use as destinations for comparison. Cities were selected based on popularity and wether or not they were served by at least one of the budget airlines I collected prices for.

Full list.

Using MyParcelDelivery I then calculated the cost of shipping a suitcase of dimensions 76cm x 48cm x 29cm (a “large” case) with shipping weights of 15kg, 20kg and 25kg on 1, 2 and 3-5 day services from London, UK to this list of destinations.

Results

1 day services from London

Cost to ship 20kg cheapest hold courier 1 day March 2016

Download chart.

Courier companies are arguably more price sensitive to the distance your bag travels — they are not receiving additional revenue for carrying passengers.

That said, couriering a bag from London to the Netherlands (£80.17 GBP / 378.89km) is slightly more expensive than shipping it to Ireland (£79.68 GBP / 589.28km), a country further away by straight-line distance to each countries central point (210.39km).

Bulgaria or Romania, are the most expensive destinations to courier a 20kg bag from London. Using UPS International Express Saver service (1 day) this would cost you £147.30 GBP. Checking this bag at the most expensive Ryanair price would only cost you £45 GBP — a difference of £102.30 GBP.

Out of the 21 courier routes researched, only 5 cost less than £140 GBP to courier a bag in 1 day.

Therefore, airlines could be missing a significant amount of potential revenue by checking your bag instead of using the space to take time-sensitive cargo — you’re actually getting a great deal in comparison.

2 day services from London

Cost to ship 20kg cheapest hold courier 2 day

Download chart.

2 day services using MPD International Export are slightly cheaper than 1 day services as you would expect. However, they are still all more expensive than even the highest price for checking a bag on a budget airline (Ryanair / £45 GPB).

Croatia is the most expensive destination for 2 day services at £135 GBP, only £10 GBP cheaper then a 1 day service (£145.81 GBP).

This time the Netherlands is the cheapest destination to ship to via courier (£82.19 GBP).

Strangely, to ship to Ireland via courier on 2 day services from London will cost £108.47 GBP — more expensive than most central European countries.

3-5 day services from London

Cost to ship 20kg cheapest hold courier 3-5 day

Download chart.

3-5 day courier services are the only ones that compete on price with checking a bag.

Even so, the cheapest checked bag prices on most budget airlines (7) are still lower than the 25 courier routes researched.

Rank Service 3-5 cost courier / checked airline 20kg cheapest GBP
1 Norwegian (20kg) 7.00
2 Jet2 (22kg) 11.00
3 Germanwings (20kg) 11.60
4 Wizzair (23kg) 12.00
4 Aer Lingus EU (20kg) 12.00
6 easyJet (20kg) 13.00
7 Monarch (20kg) 15.00
8 London-France 16.79
9 London-Austria 17.40
10 London-Belgium 17.99
11 Flybe (20kg) 19.00
12 London-Denmark 19.19
12 London-Germany 19.19
12 London-Ireland 19.19
15 London-Poland 20.39
16 London-Netherlands 21.59
16 London-Portugal 21.59
16 London-Spain 21.59
19 Thomson (20kg) 22.00
19 Thomas Cook (20kg) 22.00
21 London-Sweden 22.20
22 London-Hungary 23.99
23 Ryanair (20kg) 25.00
24 London-Switzerland 30.76
25 London-Norway 31.47
26 London-Finland 38.39
27 London-Estonia 43.19
27 London-Latvia 43.19
27 London-Lithuania 43.19
30 London-Croatia 44.27
31 London-Romania 45.49
32 London-Greece 46.79
33 London-Bulgaria 52.79
34 London-Malta 103.19
35 London-Italy 142.86
36 London-Czech Republic 145.81

Full list.

All services

Average cost by service ave courier ave hold

Download chart.

Many argue that checked bag prices are too rigid. On Easyjet you have to pay for a 20kg bag (minimum price £13 GBP), even if your bag weighs less. Though in Europe all courier services I analysed also charged a flat fee to ship 15 – 20 kg from London. Therefore, you won’t make any savings by choosing a courier if your bag weighs slightly less than the max allowance either.

Improvements

The aforementioned door-to-door luggage services offered by some premium and long-haul airlines would not only give both a wider geographic view, but also a comparison between budget and premium airline charges.

tl;dr

  • Checked bag prices are much cheaper than courier companies one or two day shipping services.
  • If you’re prepared to ship your luggage 3-5 days in advance it might be cheaper to use a courier, but most budget airlines will still be cheaper!

Acknowledgements

Get the Data

High-Speed Rail Is Killing Short-Haul Air Travel

Planes dominate our skies. According to some estimates there are about 100,000 flights, everyday (about 25% of which are flown by low-cost airlines). Where trains were once the best ways to travel 700km, many are now choosing to fly instead.

But long-distance train travel has seen a recent explosion in many countries with the growth of high-speed rail networks. Bullet trains were once only associated with Japan (they have been operating in the country since 1964!). Though today high-speed trains are much common across the world.

As high-speed rail networks grow, as does their viability to compete with equivalent plane routes. China Southern Airlines, China’s largest airline, expects the construction of China’s high-speed railway network, the largest in the world by a large margin, to impact (through increased competition and falling revenues) 25% of its route network in the coming years.

But how do the two forms of transport currently stack up around the world?

Methodology

Train and plane routes used for comparison were selected to test the following statement on the “High-speed rail” Wikipedia page:

“High-speed rail (HSR) is best suited for journeys of 1 to 4½ hours (about 150–900 km or 93–559 mi)”. For trips under about 700 km (430 mi), the process of checking in and going through airport security, as well as traveling to and from the airport, makes the total air journey time equal to or slower than HSR. European authorities treat HSR as competitive with passenger air for HSR trips under 4½ hours.”

I chose 5 well trafficked routes of varying distances above and below 700km from places where both air and rail transport is common: Beijing – Shanghai (1318km), Madrid to Barcelona (621km), London to Paris (492km), Tokyo to Osaka (515km), and Paris to Lyon (409km).

Note, the absence of any US cities. Whilst I did some brief research on potential routes in the country, I could find none that posed a current threat to the massive low-cost airline market. Things are changing though.

For train ticket data for journey costs and time I used Seat61 (25/05/2016).

Using data from Skyscanner I collected flight schedules for each route to obtain the fastest flying time between airports. I also used Skyscanner to search for the cheapest possible fares available during the month of September for comparison (25/05/2016).

To estimate carbon emissions for journeys on each mode of transport I used data from the Aviation Environmental Federation.

Train and Plane Route Distance Jun 2016

Download graph.

In order to calculate emissions I needed actual journey distance. Train track length is freely available for the routes I selected. Unfortunately, planes never take an exact route due to weather conditions, delays, air traffic, etc. Because of this I used point-to-point distance between airports. As a result, figures used are less than average actual distances flown.

Results

Speed overview

Model Type Max operating speed (train) / cruise ground speed (plane) km/h
Boeing 777-200LR Plane 1037
Boeing 707-320 Plane 963
Lockheed L-1011-1 Plane 963
Sukhoi Superjet 100-95 Plane 954
Tupolev Tu-414A Plane 950
Boeing 777-200ER Plane 948
Airbus A350-1000 XWB Plane 945
Airbus A350-900 XWB Plane 945
Airbus A350-800 XWB Plane 945
Boeing 777-300 Plane 945
Airbus A380-800 Plane 945
Airbus A350-1000 Plane 945
Shanghai Maglev Train 431
Harmony CRH 380A, Train 380
AGV Italo Train 360
Siemens Velaro E/AVS 103 Train 350
Talgo 350 Train 350
E5 Series Shinkansen Hayabusa Train 320
Alstom Euroduplex Train 320
SNCF TGV Duplex Train 320
ETR 500 Frecciarossa Train Train 300
THSR 700T Train 300

Full table.

This table shows the fastest planes and trains currently operating commercially.

Most modern aircraft cruising speeds are just below 1,000 km per hour. The Boeing 777-200LR is the only commercial airliner that has a cruising speed above this figure at 1,037 km/h – about 200 km/h slower than the speed of sound (MACH 1 = 1,236 km/h). The 777s speed is probably one of the reasons it is used on many of the longest non-stop commercial routes.

Did you know? Concorde had an average cruising speed of 2,140 km/h.

The world record for the fastest train belongs to Mitsubishi L0 Series maglev. A speed of 603 km/h was achieved on a test track in April 2015. Whilst world records help push innovation, the sad fact is actual operating speeds for the travelling public are much slower.

The Shanghai Maglev, the fastest train in operation today reaches a max speed of 431 km/h in just over 3 mins 20 secs (it has reached a non-commercial speed of 501 km/h). You won’t be travelling that fast for long, the track is only 30km long and the fastest scheduled journey time to cover the distance is 7 mins 20 secs. The line was designed to connect Shanghai’s Pudong airport to the outskirts of the city so that passengers can quickly connect to metro lines.

The 9 other fastest trains in operation travel at speeds between 300 – 380 km/h. The 10th fastest airliner has a cruise speed of 945 km/h — over 3 times faster than the slowest train.

Journey Times

Train and Plane Journey Time Jun 2016

Download graph.

Whilst planes can take more direct routes, stations are usually much more time efficient for passengers. Stations are often found in the middle of cities with great transport links. Take Paris, for example. Charles Du Gaulle Airport is a 29km car journey to the centre of the city. Gare Du Nord is walkable to many hotels in the city.

Check-in times are also much more lenient at stations. Whilst you might need to arrive at the airport 2-3 hours before departure, some international train journeys advise you to arrive 45 mins before departure — a potential time saving of over 2 hours.

Given this, lets assume additional travel time for air travel is +150 minutes and  +60 minutes for rail.

Train and Plane Complete Journey Time Adjusted Jun 2016

Download graph.

Even taking these factors into consideration, travel times, in most cases, are tipped in favour of the plane for three of these five journeys. Notably all three journeys are below the 900 km / 270 min estimates described as the maximum distance high-speed trains could compete well with air travel.

In China, travelling by plane between Beijing and Shanghai (1077 km by plane, 1318 km by train) could save you over one hour in travel time compared to the train (285 min by plane, 348 min by train).

There is no difference in time (225 min) between each mode of transport on the Madrid to Barcelona route (483 km by plane, 621 km by train) suggesting the optimum distance for high-speed train travel versus plane might be slightly less than 900km / 270 min.

Of course these are very crude assumptions as my adjustments do not take into account accurate door-to-door journey time for each city which can vary enormously.

Did you know? You’ll save the most time taking the Eurostar from London to Paris saving 50 minutes compared to flying.

Average Speeds

Journey Average Speeds

Download chart.

It is interesting to compare average speed to top speed of the train serving the route.

The Beijing – Shanghai route average speed for the journey is only 25 km/h slower than the top speed (275 km/h vs. 300 km/h). The trains are operating close to their allowed safe maximum throughout the route (all 1077 km!).

On other routes the difference between average and maximum is greater. The Eurostar Paris – London route is the second best for speed efficiency (300 km/h vs. 256 km/h). Compare that to the Paris to Lyon route 300 km/h vs. 187.33 km/h — average being almost 40% slower.

Journey Cost

Train and Plane Journey Cost Jun 2016

Download graph.

I didn’t realise just how expensive riding the bullet train was in Japan. A fare between Tokyo and Osaka will cost you at best, $124 USD. The cheapest airfare between the two cities is 63% cheaper (about $80 USD — $124 – $46) — a difference that would make most leisure travellers think twice. Interestingly it is only the third longest journey of those analysed (463 km by plane / 515 km by train), resulting in a high-cost per km.

For the other four routes there was very little in cost difference between the cheapest tickets. The second greatest ticket cost difference was on the Paris to Lyon route where air travellers could make savings of about $25 USD.

It’s worth noting you’ll also avoid additional charges often imposed by budget carriers on short-haul routes by choosing the train. The train journeys analysed have no additional charges for personal luggage.

Journey Emissions

Train and Plane CO2 Emissions Per Passenger Jun 2016

Download graph.

According to the Aviation Environmental Federation trains emit 2.5 times less CO2 per passenger than planes (based on optimum fuel efficiency for both modes of transport).

Planes use the most fuel, and produce the most harmful emissions, during takeoff. On short flights, as much as 25 percent of the total fuel consumed is used at this time. The most fuel-efficient route length for airlines is 4,300 km, roughly a flight from Europe to the U.S. East Coast. About 45 percent of all flights in the European Union (and 80% of the routes analysed in this post) cover less than 500 km.

Based on these figures for the journeys analysed it is clear how much more polluting planes are per passenger when compared to trains.

Did you know? Between Beijing and China 100kg more CO2 per passenger will be emitted on plane journeys when compared to a train journey (plane = 188.80 kg/CO2, train = 79.34 kg/CO2).

Summary

Route Plane Distance (km) Train Distance (km) Is train faster? Is train cheaper? Plane cost / time Train time / cost
Beijing-Shanghai 1077 1318 -18.10% 4.94% 0.30 0.23
Madrid-Barcelona 483 621 0.00% 27.78% 0.20 0.16
London-Paris 380 492 28.57% 38.10% 0.26 0.24
Tokyo-Osaka 463 515 12.68% -62.90% 0.19 0.58
Paris-Lyon 392 409 9.95% -31.25% 0.26 0.42

See calculations.

Improvements

Clearly more routes could be used for comparison. 5 routes is too small of a sample size to provide any conclusive findings.

I’d also be interested to obtain passenger load statistics (number of seats occupied for each journey) to improve emissions figures. Although emissions are far less of a concern to consumers, if at all, compared to journey price and time.

Comfort is also a big consideration for travellers. Being able to obtain quantative data-points on passenger comfort would add another variable to base a conclusion on.

tl;dr

  • Trains are faster for journeys up to 620km (track distance). You’ll save the most time taking the Eurostar from London to Paris saving 50 minutes compared to flying.
  • Costs are very sensitive to locale (not distance) for train travel, less so for air travel. In some geographies, for example Tokyo to Osaka (515km by train), you can save over $80 USD when taking the train. Whereas taking the Eurostar from London to Paris you’ll pay $16 USD more for the privilidge. Though these figures do not take into account additional baggage charges often imposed on air travellers.

Acknowledgements

  • Axlegeeks, who provide lots of interesting statistics about aircraft — I used crusing ground speeds.
  • Wikipedia for a wealth of data on high-speed train travel.
  • Skyscanner, where I collected plane journey data from.
  • Seat61, a site that provided train journey data.
  • and finally… The Aviation Environmental Federation for emissions data.

Get the Data

The Duty-Free Market Is Growing, Discounts Not So Much

The global duty-free market is expected to reach £47.7 billion by 2019 according to some reports.

As a child I remember my father bringing back bags of duty-free from business trips to America — a tradition I have failed to uphold. In fact I can’t remember the last thing I bought at a duty-free shop, only the hours spent wandering around seemingly indifferent shops the world over.

With the growth of ecommerce, surely duty-free shops have lost their competitive advantage of price. But with the market growing, perhaps not.

Are savings still to be had at duty-free shops in Europe?

Methodology

I first identified two sources for duty-free purchases — airport duty-free shops and inflight duty-free shops.

Many airlines publish inflight magazines with price lists for products available onboard. I found 5 budget airlines that operate from European airports that publish such magazines: Ryanair, WizzAir, Easyjet, Thomas Cook, Flybe and 2 premium carriers: British Airways and Qatar. The infight magazines used were dated within the first quarter of 2016 (Jan – Mar).

I drew up an itemised list of all perfumes (113 in total) and prices (Male and Female) from these magazines. Perfumes were chosen as a product for comparison because they are a standard offering to compare across all retail channels.

My initial assumption was that, each class of carrier (budget and premium) would each carry an almost identical inventory of perfumes. In fact, all airlines carry an almost unique range of perfumes available for purchase onboard.

Out of the 113 perfumes I analysed sold by these airlines, only 1 was sold by both premium and budget airlines — Marc Jacobs Daisy Dream 50ml (Female). 21 perfumes were sold across multiple airlines in the same class. 92 were available on only one airline.

Full list.

The largest duty-free shop operator in UK airports is World Duty Free. Their website publishes prices available in aiports. I used prices availbale in London Heathrow Terminal 2 for perfumes found in the in-flight magazines — but prices seem fairly static UK wide, it is only range of products that differs.

In addition, I also collected prices of these perfumes from Amazon UK for comparison. Prices from Amazon include delivery fees, if applicable (I did not consider Amazon Prime as a delivery option). I used Amazon for its range of products and its ecommerce market share in the UK.

Analysis

Amazon – airline prices

Histogram of Amazon less ave airline price all classes GBP Mar 2016

Download chart.

Onboard 46 perfumes are cheaper at an airlines duty-free store (average price on all classes) than Amazon (67 that are more expensive).

Overall perfume prices are on average £3.54 GBP cheaper on Amazon compared to buying onboard at an airlines duty-free store.

68 of the 111 perfumes have very little price difference (between -£10 GBP and £10 GBP). At each end of the distribution 2 perfumes are over £35 GBP cheaper on Amazon, 2 are £20 GBP more cheaper on airlines..

Splitting out by carrier type, budget carriers have more perfumes that are cheaper onboard (34) than expensive (22). Conversely, of the 58 perfumes carried on premium carriers, 12 are cheaper onboard compared to 46 that are more expensive.

Amazon - airline prices GBP Mar 2016

Download chart.

The best airline for discounted perfume is Ryanair with average savings of about £5.36 GBP. Compare that with the worst, Qatar, where you are likely to pay £11.97 GBP more for perfume onboard. All premium carriers considered, British Airways and Qatar, are both more expensive than Amazon, on average.

Amazon – World Duty Free prices

Histogram of Amazon - World Duty Free Price GBP Mar 2016

Download chart.

Again, Amazon comes out slightly better for price when compared to World Duty Free shops. 22 perfumes are cheaper to purchase at World Duty Free shops versus 39 that are more expensive.

Amazon – average all duty-free retailers prices

Histogram of Amazon - All Duty Free Price GBP Mar 2016

Download chart.

When considering the average price of perfumes across all duty-free outlets (airlines and shops) 47 are cheaper on duty-free, 66 are cheaper on Amazon.

Clearly if your flying on one airline you won’t have the luxury of being able to compare prices, but duty-free does still offer a number discounts — something I was not expecting. Savings are still relativly small though, with the average

Duty-free rank Perfume Size (ml) Gender AMZ – Ave. Duty-free Price GBP Mar16
1 Gucci Oud Intense 90 Male £22.10
2 Ajmal Aurum 75 Female £20.00
3 Jimmy Choo Illicit 60 Female £19.40
4 Acqua di Parma Colonia Oud 100 Male £19.37
5 Mont Blanc Lady Emblem 50 Female £18.75
6 Lacoste Love Of Pink 90 Female £17.52
7 Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Extreme 50 Male £16.94
8 Gucci Guilty Studs 50 Female £15.50
9 Dolce & Gabanna L’imperatrice No. 3 100 Female £10.36
10 Taylor Swift Wonderstruck Enchanted 50 Female £9.62

Full list.

The 3 best perfumes to buy at duty-free retailers are: 1) Gucci Oud Intense 90ml – Male (savings of: £22.10 GBP), 2) Ajmal Aurum 75ml – Female (£20.00 GBP), 3) Jimmy Choo Illicit 60ml – Female (£19.40 GBP).

World Duty Free prices – Airlines

Histogram of World Duty Free - Ave Airline Price GBP Mar 2016

Download chart.

There is also a normal distribution of price differences between the two duty-free channels, airlines and airport shops. In summary, 24 perfumes are cheaper at World Duty Free stores when compared to the average price you’d pay onboard a plane. 2 perfumes have no price difference, whereas 35 are more expensive at World Duty Free stores.

Improvements

Overall this is a fairly trivial analysis. One of the biggest issues with this analysis is Amazon’s product pricing which can change many times per day. Given this is our single source for non-duty free pricing, daily variations may be skewed. The addition of more retailers would add more stability to price calculations.

tl;dr

  • Perfume prices are typically more expensive at duty-free retailers when compared to buying on Amazon.
  • Most savings are less than £10 GBP between duty-free retailers and Amazon.
  • The 3 best perfumes to buy at duty-free retailers are: 1) Gucci Oud Intense 90ml – Male (savings of: £22.10 GBP), 2) Ajmal Aurum 75ml – Female (£20.00 GBP), 3) Jimmy Choo Illicit 60ml – Female (£19.40 GBP).

Acknowledgements

  • All the retailers used in this post for publishing thier products for sale online.
  • And finally… XE.com for exchange rates.

Get the Data

Airports That Are Unreasonably Far From City Centres

On a journey home from the airport last year I shared a cab with a fellow passenger heading in the same direction. In the awkward small talk between two strangers he asked if I had heard of London Oxford Airport (OXF). “Oxford, in the UK?”, I asked in clarification. “Yes”, he chuckled.

For those not familiar with UK geography, Oxford is over 100km outside of London. A bold, if a little questionable, effort by the airports marketing team.

It would appear Oxford is not alone. See: Paris Vatry (XCR) – 161km to Paris, Oslo Torp (TRF) – 119km to Oslo, or Munich West (FMM) – 115km to Munich, as examples. Arguably none of these are considered their cities “main” airport, however.

Such extreme journeys got me thinking; where are the shortest and longest transfer distances from airports to the cities they serve?

Methodology

To obtain a list of cities for analysis I used Euromonitors’ “Top 100 City Destinations Ranking“. I chose such a list because passengers will expect good infrastructure from heavily travelled destinations and many will be places readers have, or are intending to, visit.

Using EuroMonitors list of cities I then found the closest major airport using a Google search. If there are multiple main airports in a city, airports with the highest yearly passenger volume were selected.

I then used the reported co-ordinates of the geographical centre of each city using a WorldMaps dataset. Similarly, I used the geographical centre of a cities corresponding airport from the OpenFlights dataset to calculate the shortest route by distance on Google Maps using a car from airport to city.

Regional Distribution of Euromonitor Top 100 Cities 2014

Download graph.

It is important to note we are only considering the Top 100 tourist destinations as reported by Euromonitor. This does add some bias to the analysis with 70% of the cities considered located in Europe and Asia Pacific.

Analysis

All airports by distance to their cities

km to City Centre by Road Euromonitor Top 100 2014

Download graph.

km to City Centre by Road Euromonitor 100

Download map.

km to City Centre by Road Euromonitor Top 100 2014 histogram

Download graph.

Did you know? The large majority of Top 100 cities are served by airports within 50km by road to their closest main airport.

Based on the shortest road journey by distance (not time) you will need to travel a median distance of 20km from a main airport to its city (50 of the 100 cities are within 20km of their main airports).

Not all cities on this top 100 list had their own airport. The two cities with the longest connection between airport and city — Andorra la Vella, Andorra (TLS) (194km) and Edirne, Turkey (BOJ) (177km) — are both served by airports from other cities. These two destinations received 2.4MM, and 3.1MM tourists respectively, with visitors having to endure connections of around 3-4 hours by car (assuming a 50km/h average speed)!

Best airports by distance to their cities

km to centre (road) rank City Main Airport km to centre (road)
1 Jeju CJU 2.5
2 Heraklion HER 2.9
3 Mexico City MEX 5.3
4 Lisbon LIS 5.9
5 Mumbai BOM 6.5
5 Punta Cana PUJ 6.5
7 Ho Chi Minh City SGN 7.4
7 Nice NCE 7.4
9 Sofia SOF 7.5
10 Florence FLR 8.5

Full table.

Did you know? The airports closest to the main cities they serve are: 3. MEX (5.3 km to Mexico City), 2. HER (2.9km to Heraklion), 1. CJU (2.5km to Jeju).

Worst airports by distance to their cities

km to centre (road) rank City Main Airport km to centre (road)
91 Seoul ICN 48.8
92 Milan MXP 50.3
93 Jerusalem TLV 54.2
94 Kuala Lumpur KUL 66.4
95 Halong HPH 69.8
96 Artvin BUS 77.4
97 Mugla DLM 94.4
98 Makkah JED 103
99 Edirne BOJ 177
100 Andorra la Vella TLS 194

Full table.

Did you know? The airports furthest away from the main cities they serve are: 3. JED (103km to Mekkah), 2. BOJ (177km to Edirne), TLS (194km to Andorra la Vella).

Best regions for airports by distance to their cities

Min, max, median km from main airport to city by region Euromonitor Top 100 Cities 2014

Download graph.

The median distance from a main airport to the city its serves for each world region is less than 40km. If a short car journey is important, a destination in Australia and New Zealand, Central and South America, or Africa would be a good choice (median distance = 15km from main airport to city).

Secondary ‘airports’

Many budget airlines also use secondary airports, London Luton (LUT) or London Oxford Airport (OXF) around London for example. Secondary airports offer airlines lower operational costs compared to more central, main, airports thus ensuring they can maintain the cheapest fare. Consequently they are typically even further away from the city increasing travel times to and from the airport.

Improvements

To get a wider view I downloaded a dataset from OpenFlights listing 8108 airports and their latitude and longitude. I cross reference the cities listed in this dataset for each airport with cities listed in the WorldMaps dataset used earlier. 2231 cities matched between the two datasets.

I then looked at the point-to-point (as the crow flies) distance between two co-ordinates (city and airport) using a Haversine calculation for these 2231 cities and airports. Obviously the resulting distance from this calculation will be much less than actual road distance.

From these 2231 cities and airports I get a median point-to-point distance of just over 7.1km from airport to city — about 13km less than the median distance by road for the Top 100 cities.

There are a number of different factors that could explain for this, in addition to the difference in calculation. Smaller cities often have more centrally located airports because of low building density, for example.

tl;dr

  • 3 airports are over 100km by car from the cities they serve: 3. JED (103km to Mekkah), 2. BOJ (177km to Edirne), TLS (194km to Andorra la Vella).
  • If you’re visiting a top 100 destination, the median distance from a cities main airport to the city centre is about 20km.
  • destination in Australia and New Zealand, Central and South America, or Africa would be a good choice if a short journey to and from the airport is important (median distance = 15km from main airport to city).

Acknowledgements

Get the Data