Despite UK ‘airport revolt,’ UAE travelers must still show boarding passes

Refusing to display your boarding pass at the point of sale in the UAE will not likely go down well

Paul Crompton

Published: Updated:

Flying from the UAE and want to join the UK consumer rebellion against showing your boarding pass when buying from an airport shop?

You may want to think again. Despite a scandal that erupted earlier this month in Britain, which UK media outlets dubbed as a “rip-off” and “scam” which British airport retailers had carried out for years, different regulations apply in the UAE.

For years, purchasing even the smallest item from a UK airport retailer would appear to require you to show your boarding pass at the point of sale.

But an investigation by one curious traveler revealed that shops were merely asking in order to claim back tax - and were not passing the savings onto the customer.

Angry consumers responded by refusing to show their boarding passes, in what London-based paper The Independent - the first news outlet to publish the surprise findings - called a “grassroots revolt.”

Meanwhile, airports in the UAE - home to two Gulf mega-carriers Emirates and Etihad - consumers still commonly have to show their boarding passes at any airport point of sale after checking in.

A question of rights

However, refusing to display your boarding pass at the point of sale in the UAE will not likely go down well, according to Hassan Elhais, a legal consultant for UAE-based law firm al-Rowaad.

In such a case, “the seller has the right to refuse completing the sales and purchase process,” he told Al Arabiya News.

Hisham Eltahan, another consultant at al-Rowaad said that consumer rights were not being violated by the existing rules.

Instead, “the airport authority has the right to regulate and put the rules for the airport which also secure the airport and passenger,” he said.

Yet why do UAE airport outlets still ask for boarding passes?

In Dubai, where two giant airports see over 70 million passengers pass through every year, a tax regime is not yet in place, giving little financial incentive for the retailer to ask for boarding passes.

“All of our customers are charged free of taxation,” said a spokesman for Dubai Duty Free, the main retailer at Dubai’s two airports.

A Dubai Duty Free customer service representative said in a telephone inquiry that the retailer asked for boarding passes for statistical purposes.

According to Eltahan, security purposes may be the main reason. There are “no restrictions in the law on the airport authority to take the necessary procedures for security purposes,” he said.

Dubai’s economic development department, which has a consumer protection division, did not respond to a request for comment.