Lonely Planet Writer

New research shows just how much more you'll spend buying drinks and food on flights

Hopping on a plane or train to head off to your next travel destination is a great feeling – unless you’ve forgotten to pack a snack. While everyone is aware that items on transport are overpriced, new research shows just how steep the mark-up is.

Snacks are marked-up on flights.
Airline food is marked-up on flights. Image by BraunS/Getty Images

ICE Currency Exchange reviewed on-board menus from different train and plane operators and compared them with typical prices at the supermarket. Unsurprisingly, drinks, particularly alcohol, tend to be the most expensive item for travellers. According to the research, the average mark-up on bottled water is 273% on a flight and 247% on the train. A can of beer sees a 382% price rise on a plane, and 287% on the train, while a 187ml bottle of wine is marked-up 153% on flights and 137% on a train.

Snacks on the train are generally cheaper than on a plane, but both will leave travellers paying a lot more than what they would in the shop. For train passengers looking for the cheapest treat, a pack of crisps will fit the bill, as there is only a 42% mark-up, compared to 126% on a flight. A chocolate bar has a mark-up of 51% on a train, while 123% on a flight. A sharing bag of sweets is probably the cheapest option, as its only 114% more on planes and 30% on trains.

Wine and beer have a high mark-up on flights.
Wine and beer have a high mark-up on flights. Image by Roy Mehta/Getty Images

Naturally, there are some easy ways to save a bit of money while travelling, particularly packing snacks for the ride. ICE Currency Exchange also notes that some airlines and trains offer discounts for passengers who book an on-board meal in advance. They also say that hot water is generally free for passengers on planes and train, so travellers can bring along tea bags, instant coffee, instant porridge and more to save funds.

However, the numbers from ICE Currency Exchange are actually a bit easier to take than similar research from travel search engine Kayak, which found earlier this year that some items are marked-up more than 2000% on flights. The research found that highest mark-up was on a Cup a Soup sachet, which cost as little as 12p in the shop, but can cost up to £2.50 on some flights, a mark-up of 2646% compared to the supermarket cost for the same brand. That research also found that chocolate bars are generally marked up by more than 500% and other sweets pack similar additional costs.