In my years of frequent travel, I’ve learned that nothing comes cheap in an airport. A bottle of water that normally costs $1 in a supermarket or convenience store suddenly sells for $4. Which is why I was did a double take when I saw this water display in the Dublin airport:
It’s an unmanned sales kiosk for “Plane Water.” You can take a bottle of water and leave one Euro (a little more than $1) in the “Honesty Box.” There were several of these Plane Water kiosks in the terminal, sometimes directly adjacent to shops where the normal overpriced bottles were available. As if the fact of more reasonably priced bottled water weren’t enough, the Dublin Airport Authority also donates 10% of the income from the Plane Water to their charity of the year.
The honor system seems to be working. One newspaper found that 92% of the people who take a bottle of water pay for it with the Honesty Box.
It would be interesting to see if there are any ancillary effects of this program within the airport. The reciprocity effect suggests that if people perceive the Plane Water as a kindness on the part of the airport authority, they may respond by displaying more kindness themselves. Could it be that passengers who’ve spotted a Plane Water kiosk might be more polite or more helpful?
If you’re an enterprising Irish psychology student looking for a quick class project, please consider studying this! Have a confederate drop something in sight of the kiosks and in a different area of the airport where there is no kiosk, log how many people help retrieve the item, and of course, report your findings back. I’m genuinely curious to see if this small service from the airport softens the attitudes of passengers. I know it made me feel just a little less crabby.