Sat, Mar 14, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Airport food quality, prices criticized

FOOD FURORThe price and quality of food available at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport came under scrutiny after Lucille Han wrote about it in her newspaper column

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Food sold at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has recently come under criticism for being unreasonably priced.

The issue came under public scrutiny when gourmet Lucille Han (韓良露) wrote about it in her column in the Chinese-language United Daily News last month. Han said she felt ashamed of the terrible, yet expensive food sold at the nation’s main international airport.

“Let’s look at what we sell at our airport … Does it match the quality of food in Taipei or anywhere in Taiwan?” she wrote. “The beef noodle soup looks like it was taken from a packet. The buffet on offer looked rough too and so were the sandwiches, the croissants and even the Japanese Ramen. What’s more, it tasted awful. How can we talk about a food culture in Taiwan if this is what we actually bring to the table?”

Han said the beef noodle soup cost NT$250 per bowl, “which is outrageous.”

“Even though Beijing Airport has newer and better facilities, the food prices were higher than those in Taipei and the service was worse as well. That’s probably the only consolation we have,” Han said in conclusion. “But there is a bureaucratic culture in China. Can’t we look to a better role model, such as the airport in Tokyo?”

Beef noodle soup was just one of the items singled out.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) compared the food prices at Taipei 101 and Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and said the latter was charging exorbitant prices for traditional Taiwanese snacks, such as pork ball soup, chicken rolls and rice with braised pork. A bowl of soup with two pork balls costs about NT$40 at Taipei 101, but the price is NT$100 at the airport.

Following the criticism, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) requested that food vendors at the airport drop their prices immediately.

To show its determination to improve catering, the CAA decided to replace the director of the airport. It also invited an award-winning store in Taipei to provide 40 bowls of beef noodle soup daily, each costing NT$150. It further vowed to protect consumers’ interests by monitoring the food prices at the airport’s terminals.

Chou Ming-feng (周明芬), a store owner at the airport’s Terminal 2, said the government should ask vendors at the airport to pay royalties annually or a percentage of revenue as commission, not both, as is currently the case. This would allow vendors to lower their prices, she said.

Cherie Lu (盧曉櫻), an assistant professor of aviation and maritime transportation management at Chang Jung Christian University, said the government needs to actively monitor the quality of service at the airport.

“Consumers feel they are being overcharged because the money they pay does not correspond to the quality of service they receive,” Lu said. “Airport officials should look at food prices at regular stores and set prices that are acceptable not only to the general public, but also to passengers from overseas.”

She cited Amsterdam’s airport as an example, where airport officials hold regular surveys to gauge the level of satisfaction of passengers.

However, not everybody agreed with Han’s observations.

“Ms Han probably has never visited Dulles Airport in Washington,” said a person named Texasgal in an online forum. “There, [she] wouldn’t be able to find food to eat.”

“NT$250 may sound like a lot of money for a bowl of beef noodle soup,” another person named Mr Fu said on the forum. “But for passengers from Japan, who have to pay more than ¥1,000, or approximately NT$300, for a bowl of Sapporo Ramen, it may seem rather a good deal.”

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