Expensive airline food: How to avoid sky high costs

Many of us are well aware of the price of food and drink on trains and aeroplanes. Whether it’s a particularly pricey yet miniscule bottle of spirit, confusingly expensive sandwich or a meal whose price suggests it was created by a Michelin-starred chef, lots of people have felt a sting in their wallets while riding the rails or flying at 30,000 ft.

We wanted to find out just how much people pay for the privilege of snacking on the go, so we dug into a selection of on-board menus from different train and plane operators, and compared them against typical supermarket prices. You can see our results below – and once you do, you might find yourself taking a packed lunch with you the next time you travel!

Here’s how the snacks size up against one another:



Average Mark Up
Airline Train
Can of fizzy drink 173% 161%
Bottled water 273% 247%
Can of beer (330ml) 382% 287%
Bottle of wine (187ml) 153% 137%
Chocolate bar 123% 51%
Packet of crisps 126% 42%
Packet of peanuts 71% NA
Sharing bag of sweets 114% 30%

As you can see, you pay the biggest mark-up for your on-board booze: costing nearly five times the supermarket price on a plane and four times on a train, a can of beer can cost you dear when you travel. Strangely enough, wine isn’t nearly as pricey – so maybe the classier option’s also the kindest on your wallet.

For train travellers, crisps come out as the least marked-up snack on the list, while for air passengers it’s the beloved staple, the packet of peanuts. In general, prices across the board were distinctly lower for train travel, although in both cases you’re almost always paying at least twice what you would at your local shop.

If you don’t want to end up paying the above, of course, there are plenty of things you can do to cut costs and save money for when you’ve arrived at your destination. If you can’t wait to eat until you’ve landed, here are some of our top tips…

Bring a packed lunch

One of the easiest ways to save when travelling is to bring a packaged lunch. Via plane, hand luggage restrictions don’t cover solid foods, and while you’re not allowed to bring meat or dairy products on board if you’re travelling outside of the EU, bringing a rotisserie chicken and a baguette to your flight is perfectly fine when travelling within the bloc. Obviously, you can bring whatever you’d like onto a train.

Liquids, including semi-liquids such as honey and jam, aren’t allowed past security, but if your jam sandwiches are pre-made, there won’t be any problem. If you’ve invested in hold luggage, you’ll have lots of space to bring cold foods and snacks.

Take advantage of duty-free

Not necessarily an option for train passengers (unless you include station sandwich shops), airport duty-free supermarkets can be a goldmine for cost saving.

While you won’t find much in the way of meals in an airport duty-free shop, there are all sorts of snacks and drinks you can bring on board, and if you’re hankering for a meal you can always grab something from a kiosk or café and take that aboard.

Beware: most, if not all, airlines forbid customers from drinking duty-free alcohol on board. If you’re fancying a gin and tonic, by all means bring the tonic on board, but you’ll still have to purchase the spirits on the plane.

Buy online

Some airlines allow you to pre-book an in-flight meal online before you board, a service that often gives a discount. The same goes for passengers on trains – pick exactly what you want and save cash as well.

Just add water

Hot water is usually free for passengers on both planes and trains, so think about bringing along some tea bags, a little instant coffee, lemon wedges, instant porridge or even some instant ramen to beat your hunger.

There’s no reason to get snagged by inflated airline prices. All of the above are easy to do, and will save you lots of cash, even if you’re not a regular flyer.


*Airlines: Jet2, easyJet, Ryanair, Flybe, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomson Airways, Aer Lingus, Monarch, flydubai, Norwegian. Train operators: Virgin, Scot Rail, Cross Country Trains, South West Trains, Chiltern Railways

Not all products were available across all airline and train operators. Prices correct as of October 2016.

Supermarket price based on average of up to five non-offer prices shown on MySupermarket.co.uk