Price Gouging at Airports Continue, But JFK’s Got Your Back. Well, Sort Of

by SharonKurheg

Back in the summer of 2021, Cooper Lund, a passenger who was scheduled to fly out of JFK later that day, tweeted an image of the menu one of the airport’s bars. Prices included a Sam Adams Summer Ale Draught that cost nearly $28/pint. He eventually made the tweet private, but part of it is still readily available via searches:

a hand holding a paper with text

The tweet was picked up  by news and social media outlets around the world, which, in turn, got the attention of the Port Authority of NY and NJ (PANYNJ) (that’s the bi-state agency that controls EWR, JFK, and LGA). An audit of airport pricing was eventually done, and we reported on what happened after that, back in May of 2022.

Long story short, PANYNJ eventually declared that pricing of goods sold by Airport Concessionaires could only be sold at maximum prices equal to prices charged locally, off-airport, plus 10%. This rule had actually been in effect since the summer of 2020. But without PANYNJ breathing down concessionaires’ backs, who’s going to know the difference, right?

Meanwhile, like many airports, JFK maintains an online list of all shops, restaurants, services and amenities available at the airport. Each entry includes the facilities’ respective name and location (i.e. Jamaica Station AirTrain Station, Terminal 5, Across from Gate 4, etc.)

a screenshot of a menu However to show that JFK “has your back,” the list specifies which of their shops, restaurants, etc. have heeded the PANYNJ and offer bottled water for an “affordable” $2. Like these:

a screenshot of a menuWhich I suppose is nice but (A) how much do you want to bet those bottled waters that are $2 are No Name brand and not, say, Aquafina and Smart Water and (B) how much are the rest of their wares?

And that’s the problem. Few, if any of these bars, eateries, etc. at the airport have their prices easily accessible, so how would you ever know if the Starbucks, bars or even full-service restaurants have prices no more than 10% above street prices, like they’re supposed to, unless you’re physically at the establishment and can find prices to compare? Unless some kind soul has posted menus, with prices, on Yelp.

Research reveals that very few of the restaurants at JFK have outlets outside the airport. So it’s VERY difficult to compare apples to apples. However we did find one such place, to use as an example: Blue Point Brewing, which has a sit down restaurant/bar at Terminal B (Gate 34), as well as Blue Point Brewpub, located in the Long Island town of Patchogue NY.

Yeah, slightly different names, but the Blue/Point logo is the same for both. So if it’s not the same company, I suggest one of them sue for copyright infringement.

a close up of a glass of beerLeft: Blue/Point Brewpub (Patchogue) / Facebook  // Right: Blue/Point Brewing (JFK) / Yelp

We can’t compare alcohol prices because the restaurant’s alcohol prices aren’t posted online. But we can compare food prices.

Here’s the menu for Blue/Point Brewpub (Patchogue), as captured January 14, 2024:

a menu of a restaurant

Blue/Point Brewing (JFK) did away with conventional menus; instead they offer a QR code, which someone posted on Yelp (thank-you, Gurpreet S.!). So we have access to their current menu.

a barcode on a table

The JFK restaurant has a MUCH smaller menu to choose from, but that would make sense. A small footprint at JFK would mean less storage, and it’s probably cheaper/easier to be able to offer fewer items. The 2 restaurants also had very few items that were even remotely similar, which made comparison difficult. However we did find a handful.

Under Soups & Salads, the JFK-based restaurant only offers 3 options:

  • Caesar The Day ($23.98, plus $7.99 to add grilled chicken or chicken tenders)
  • Wedge ($23.48, plus $7.99 to add grilled chicken or chicken tenders)
  • Soup Du Jour ($12.79)

a screenshot of a menu

So at the Patchogue location, a wedge salad is $10, and $6 for a chicken add-on. But at the JFK location, it’s $23.48 (over double their own “street price”) and $7.99 to add chicken (roughly 30% more than “street price”).

To be fair, in searching for other menu items between the two, the prices are more in line:

  • Big Chewy’s Nachos: $16 (Patchogue), $15.99 (JFK)
  • Everything Pretzel: $14 (Patchogue) // “Pretzel”: $11.99 (JFK)

But still, that Wedge salad price just blew my mind!

So yeah, JFK’s supposedly got your back for $2 water (although you can bring a refillable water bottle with you, go to a hydration station, and BOOM – free water!) But are $28 beers a thing of the past? Color me cynical. It certainly isn’t anything you can easily find online.

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Retired Gambler January 18, 2024 - 1:26 pm

Who cares? No one is putting a gun to people’s heads to make them buy. If you don’t want to pay $20-$30 for a beer (plus tax and tip) then don’t order one. It is supply and demand and the market should set the price without price caps. If no one buys at the listed price I assure you prices will come down. Price gouging is only something that occurs during a disaster where people don’t have an option. Here you can easily elect not to have that beer or get cheaper food. I hate big government trying to tell business what to do – so sad

Dave January 18, 2024 - 3:00 pm

And tips are still expected..

SharonKurheg January 18, 2024 - 3:02 pm

Tipping at a full service restaurant has nothing to do with prices. I would never punish a server for something their company is doing; they have nothing to do with price decisions.


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