‘I Trust This Is a Joke’


A photo of food and a beverage at Newark Airport has gone viral on social media because of what the poster said the meal cost him.

New York Times op-ed columnist and author David Brooks posted the picture of a hamburger, fries and what appears to be a single or double alcoholic alcoholic drink that he purchased at the airport.

“This meal just cost me $78 at Newark Airport,” Brooks wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “This is why Americans think the economy is terrible.”

It’s not clear where Brooks purchased his meal. Newark Liberty International Airport has 61 restaurants, according to its website, and at least seven serve burgers.

A “community note” attached to the post said that based on the “table, glass, chair, sheet and cut of fries,” Brooks purchased his meal at the Smokehouse BBQ restaurant in Terminal A. The burger and fries “cost $17,” the note said.

Newsweek reached out to the airport via email for comment.

A Continental Airlines jet approaches Newark Liberty International Airport for a landing on September 13, 2001. The airport recently drew attention on social media after a post on X (formerly Twitter) said a small meal and beverage there cost $78.
TOM MIHALEK/AFP via Getty Images

Brooks, whose post has been viewed over 8 million times, received a resounding response on X.

“I trust this is a joke–even David Brooks knows that the overwhelming majority of people in this country are not looking to buy $78 meals at Newark Airport and would not be looking to buy them even if they cost half this price,” wrote Dean Baker, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“I’m guessing it’s the $30 double barreled whiskey to blame and not the $25 burger & fries entree + tax & tip,” wrote another economist, Parker Ross.

“To be fair, the ratio of scotch-to-meal is probably pretty high,” wrote comedian Jay Black. “I mean, not as high as what the ratio will be on this ill-advised tweet, but, still…”

The airport’s Terminal A finalized a $2.7 billion upgrade that began in 2018, according to the Eater New York website. The 1-million-square-foot building has 33 gates, four lounges, and new shops and restaurants serving 13 million passengers annually.

Food prices are normally higher at airports compared with other locations because of how the vendors operate.

On the Parking Spot website, which focuses on airport parking and hospitality, a December 2022 article pointed out that airport restaurant owners lease space from the airport and likely set their own prices to stay out of the red.

While many airports set restrictions on product pricing for companies operating under their roof—otherwise called “street pricing”—the businesses are responsible for operating expenses, including rent, commission and other fees, and pass on higher costs to the consumer so they can make a profit.

The fees paid to airport authorities are not set in stone, according to Mint Fares, a flight and travel service. Supply and demand also plays a role, as some outside items are typically not permitted inside the airport.

“When passengers need to eat or drink something, they have no choice but to eat at the airport’s high-priced establishment,” Mint Fares wrote in a LinkedIn post. “In short, security concerns and a number of other factors limit the supply of goods to these airport shops. This consequently causes a supply and demand imbalance, which raises the product prices.”

Earlier this year, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a series of measures regarding pricing for food and beverages—including a cap on all concession “street prices” plus a maximum surcharge of 10 percent.

The report specifically mentioned vendors selling a cup of beer for “the totally indefensible amounts” of $23 or $27, depending on size.


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