Newark Airport Beer Is Expensive, And Congress Wants Answers

Last week I wrote about airport concessions operator OTG charging $28 plus tax and tip for beer at Newark airport. This clearly violates their lease to abide by ‘street pricing’ rules.

OTG, famous for making you order everything via an iPad, quickly claimed the pricing was a mistake, corrected it, but still argued that it really wasn’t such a bad deal after all because it was a big pour.

While there’s no longer $28 beers for sale at Newark, four members of Congress want in on the outrage. The letter comes under the letterhead of Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and is joined by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ).

The quartet complains not just about $27.95 Sam Adams, but also $10.90 french fries and $4 orange juice. And they’re demanding an investigation “pursuant to Article IV, Section 6 of the PANYNJ interstate compact” which rests responsibility in an inspector general for “investigating, where appropriate” complaints of “fraud, waste and abuse” primarily by the Port Authority itself but also third parties doing business with the port authority.

Under this interpretation ‘abuse’ is more or less anything, and it covers abuse by anyone who does business with the Port Authority, even if the abuse is directed towards others.

There’s already a pricing audit that’s been announced by the Port Authority, so the Inspector General might simply wait for that to be completed in any case. In other words, these four Members of Congress want in on the outrage.

If they wanted to do something that actually made a difference they might call for customers who were overcharged to be… refunded. But no question pertaining to refunds is in their letter. Or if they wanted to do something that made a difference they might address the myriad drivers of expensive poor quality food available in the airport to begin with. Has there ever been anything more depressing than ordering off an OTG iPad at Newark Airport CBGB’s?

  • Rent is often far more expensive at the airport than anywhere else nearby. Labor costs are too, whether because of the need to find people who can pass background checks or because local laws often mandate higher minimum wages (New York airports are going to $19 in 2023). Bringing supplies and ingredients into the airport is also costly, because it involves using separate vendors and bringing goods through security. That’s the cost side.

  • Meanwhile passengers are a largely captive audience. The government forbids them from bringing liquids through the security checkpoint, “no outside beverages” isn’t just a movie theater rule it’s the law. And in many airports there’s limited competition across vendors, since so many of the businesses that have familiar names – be it Wendy’s or TGI Friday’s – are really the same management company like OTG or Delaware North licensing the brand. Customers, facing long lines and little time during connections, often don’t have much time to comparison shop in any case.

As much as $28 is way too much for a Sam Adams (don’t order one) I have to wonder how this became one of the top 10 things any of these four members of Congress had to do on a given day?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why? Because one of these member got burned themself and was pissed off and had the power to do something as well as know who to report it to. Unlike Jane and Joe average already nickled and dimed and just trying to get from Point A to Point B for some well deserved down time.

  2. This is what congressmen are spending their time on? What is happening to this lovely country? It’s a free market economy. They can charge $78 for beer if they want and if some idiot wants to pay for it, so be it!

  3. Wouldn’t it be nice if they showed similar outrage over the cost of taxes we are paying.

  4. It sounds like you answered this yourself. The contract has stipulations that says “you can’t charge more than this baseline”. Yes, there are higher expenses at an airport, but for the 3 NYC airports, the constant supply of “captive” customers likely makes up for most/all of that. If OTG was overcharging, they need to rectify that, and having Congressional pressure certainly helps.

    Also, if you think this is the most meaningless thing Congresscritters have gotten involved in, you don’t pay attention to the myriad of meaningless proclamations and other meaningless “name this post office” bills they are constantly passing.

    Finally, if you have inside information the $28 beer was also at EWR, please let us know, but your own post you use as a source specifically calls out LaGuardia as the offender for that.

  5. Aren’t there more pressing issues like stopping illegals/creating school choice/ending the war on drugs/ending all welfare programs and UE in favor of UBI for all citizens 18 and over than $28 beer at an airport restaurant?

    Higher wages are fair and have to be payed for with higher prices. If federal, state, excise, sales and city taxes weren’t so astronomical for businesses, prices could be lowered and wages could be even higher. Why don’t these politicians focus on that.

  6. Have you run out of things to complain about? As long as Congress has been around we have had:

    I can’t believe Congress is doing “insert issue here” when they should be worrying about “insert more important issue here”.

  7. More power to them…. Great job. The best airport for excellent and varied food done in ‘street pricing’ is PDX.

  8. Well, at least someone in congress is doing something for a change that may save me some money.

  9. Wow is this timely. Flew out of EWR last night, Terminal A, evening flight which became a night flight. Outside security, no bars or lounges. So if your looking for some refreshments, you have to go gateside. So, inside we go, find one restaurant that has drinks, TGIFriday’s and sit at the bar. Whoops! To sit at the bar you MUST order food (very limited menu and very expensive) with your drink and, you cannot spend more than 30 minutes in the chair. And so, a Sam Adams, in a plastic solo cup, (maybe 10 ounces) is $12.50. The terminal area is jam packed with people, utter chaos, very difficult to find a seat, the terminal is filthy! And because of the delayed flight we got to be entertained by watching the people. Now that was fun!
    EWR needs to be knocked down and completely rebuilt. I do remember when it was opened in the new terminal complex is was wonderful but, that was 50+ years ago. Now it has outlived its “sell by date” and the beer is too expensive!

  10. Reason #37 why EWR is the worst airport in the US (and it’s one of my home airports)

    At Peter Mac – they are going to close A after Terminal One opens…should actually be nice

  11. @UA-NYC and @Peter Mac: it can’t close soon enough. I fly AA out of there frequently and the security entrance, lack of TSA Pre (no, a piece of paper in my hand does not make it TSA Pre), the scandalous food prices and utter dreariness of the place is just awful.

  12. David I agree about the outrageous taxes( and will be getting higher as Joe,Kamala,Nancy,CHuck,Berni and Liz all want more of our money!!Thank you Dem voters!!!

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