No more $27 beer; Authorities crack down on out-of-control prices at NYC airports

May 14, 2022

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Most people who have visited New York City expect to pay a little more for things in the Big Apple. And most travelers have at least one story where they have paid a ridiculous amount of money for a stale sandwich or watered-down cocktail at an airport. But $27 beer is apparently where New York authorities draw the line.

The agency that oversees the three major New York City area airports is cracking down on sky-high prices being charged for food and drinks. An investigation by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has oversight over Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark-Liberty (EWR) airports, found that some beer and food in the terminals was being sold to travelers at “totally indefensible” prices.

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Bartender pours a beer for a customer. (Photo by MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

How egregious were some of the prices being charged? How about $27.85 for a Sam Adams Summer Ale Draught? Or $11 for an order of french fries or $4 for a small orange juice?

The PA’s Office of Inspector General launched a months-long investigation into the alleged price gouging. The agency’s report concluded that the vendor OTG violated street pricing policy by erroneously adding a surcharge to an already inflated base price. OTG handles concessions at the three NYC-area airports as well as at hundreds of other airports across the U.S.

The Port Authority now says it has implemented new pricing standards for concessions at the three New York/New Jersey airports that sets a cap for food and drink prices at what are described as local “street prices.” The new policy allows for a maximum surcharge of 10% that can be added. Part of the problem, the agency said, was that the previous street-pricing policy was not specific enough in its instructions to vendors. The revisions presumably address that issue.

“All airport customers should rightly expect that policies which limit the pricing of food and beverages at concessions will be followed and enforced,” Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole said in a statement. “Nobody should have to fork over such an exorbitant amount for a beer.  The Aviation Department’s new compliance and enforcement measures announced today make it crystal clear that all prices at concessions will be routinely monitored to ensure they are aligned with the regional marketplace.”

In addition to price caps, airport concessionaires must also offer less expensive food and drink options to customers.

All of this began with a viral tweet back in July 2021 from a customer who couldn’t believe the beer prices inside LaGuardia Airport.

Not long after that, New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne, Jr., also called out the obscene prices for concessions at Newark-Liberty airport. Payne, who represents New Jersey’s 10th district, said $11 french fries and $20 beers were an insult to travelers.

“Simply put: travel is stressful enough,” Payne wrote in a letter he co-authored with other lawmakers to the Port Authority. “Being bamboozled at the bar for a bottle of beer is no way for our region to greet or wave goodbye to our neighbors.”

The Port Authority encourages anyone who travels through one of the area’s three big airports to report any suspected price gouging by alerting the agency’s social media channels. In other words: If you see something, say something.

Related: First look inside American’s new Admirals Club and concourse at LaGuardia Airport

Featured photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.

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