The largest expert travel community:
  • 768,884 Total members
  • 9,915 Users online now
  • 1,721,441 Threads
  • 31,543,595 Posts

Why Starbucks Is Leaving (Many) US Airports

Why Starbucks Is Leaving (Many) US Airports

Starbucks’ relationship with US airports is getting ready to change in a major way. Why? Starbucks just doesn’t get as much love as it used to.

Who Doesn’t Like Starbucks Anymore?

People still love Starbucks, but airports are beginning to feel differently. In the United States, airports are run by local or state governments, and those governments are increasingly interested in promoting local or regional brands over larger chains like Starbucks.

That locavore trend has been a big problem for HMSHost, the airport concession giant that–up until it announced the end of the partnership earlier this month–has an exclusive relationship with Starbucks. That means that every one of the 400 or so Starbucks coffee shops in US airports is there because that airport has a contract with HMSHost.

But, now that many airports want other options than Starbucks, HMSHost’s exclusive relationship hasn’t worked out in its favor. HMSHost submits bids for concessions contracts by the concourse or terminal. If an airport chooses HMSHost as their concession provider, Starbucks is the only coffee shop available.

So for airports who only want local or regional coffee chains (like San Francisco International Airport specified in this 2017 request for proposals), HMSHosts is automatically out of the running.

We don’t know how many airports have opted out of a relationship with Starbucks but we’re guessing that it’s significant since it drove HMSHosts to leave a relationship that it’s enjoyed since 1991.

The Future of Starbucks in US Airports

While HMSHost and Starbucks are parting ways, that doesn’t mean that Starbucks will be gone from your home airport by the time you fly next. Most Starbucks have 10-year agreements with the airports they’re in. So, the Starbucks you stop by on the way to your gate will be there until that contract expires.

What happens after that is up to the airport. Now that Starbucks and HMSHost have consciously uncoupled, other airport concession providers can have their own relationships with Starbucks and offer it to airports that want it. Starbucks has already entered a (non-exclusive) agreement with another large concession provider, OTG that has plans to provide Starbucks carts which will allow you to order your Starbucks via iPad and have it delivered to your gate “in the most efficient, frictionless way possible.”

This could mean less waiting in line at the crowded airport Starbucks, but we have big questions about demand, wait times, order customizability and other possible hiccups that we won’t get the answer to until OTG’s proposed Starbucks changes materialize.



But, while Frappucino purists may lose their favorite option, this coffee shirt might open travelers up to new coffee brands. Is there a local coffee shop that you hope to see at your home airport? Let us know in the comments section.


View Comments (50)


  1. ChinaShrek

    February 11, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    More Dunkin Donuts, please!

  2. Gynob001

    February 11, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    High price, long lines, people in a hurry not wanting to wait are some of the problems I see. If Starbucks has a smaller cup with $1 price that one could use a sending machine Tokens To send that one could buy in city Starbucks, it might be better appreciated.
    Starbucks coffee has limited “life time”. Travelers who want to sleep in their flight might find the coffee too rich and thick

  3. FlyingNone

    February 11, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    Somehow I just can’t work up enough sympathy for Fourbucks’ overpriced, bitter coffee.

  4. emcampbe

    February 11, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Article is misleading. As far as I understand, while the exclusive Starbucks-HMSHost partnership is ending, it’s really just the ‘exclusive’ part. So sure, some airport Starbucks locations will go away in favor of local brands that HMSHost can now contract with, but that doesn’t mean many won’t stay.

    Also misleading to say if an airport wants to contract with HMSHost, Starbucks is the only coffee options. There are airports that use different concession contracts, even for the same terminal. So HMSHost may run some of the airport concessions, but not all. Take YYZ for example, HMSHost, OTG, and I believe there’s a third company, that all run outlets at T1. In fact, in addition to Starbucks, there are Tim Hortons (which I had always thought was run by HMSHost, but maybe not). It’s not like the airport can’t use multiple contracts.

    That said, interesting to see how this OTG thing will work out with Starbucks. Personally, I hate the OTG concessions (at least the ones I’ve seen at EWR, IAH and YYZ). Those stupid iPads are horrible to order with, take up areas that used to have enough seats for everyone, and now don’t, and are almost impossible to properly make ingredient substitutions on any given menu items (with our family, we have vegetarians and vegans, for example, which almost always requires it), and if you try to talk to one of the humans working, they are completely uninterested. When there’s an egg allergy involved (and where there’s plenty of food items that include it, that you might not think), which makes it impossible to order efficiently. EWR they’ve also crammed so many concessions, that its hard to walk down to the gates (on the plus side, maybe some of those awful generic OTG-run EWR coffee shops will change to Starbucks?

    Also intersted to see how people react to the moving Starbucks carts. Personally, I like the consistency of knowing where the location is. At ORD, for example, there may not always be a location right next to my gate, but I know where to go if I need a coffee. How does that work with these rolling carts, which may be at gate X one hour, and gate C another? Sounds confusing to me.

  5. Barrheadlass

    February 12, 2020 at 2:39 am

    I went to a different coffee place at Logan recently and threw out my coffee after one sip. It was absolutely horrible. P.S. I live in a town of 23,000 that has 7 Dunkin Donuts!

  6. fotographer

    February 12, 2020 at 3:20 am

    dont like starbucks. so not bothered… would prefer a real coffee house

  7. enggeol

    February 12, 2020 at 4:15 am

    Great news, I might actually want to drink coffee at a US airport now. Starbucks really is far from my favourite chain for hot drinks.

  8. weero


    February 12, 2020 at 4:15 am

    Great – as if US airports weren’t devoid of options to begin with.

    I wonder how many are willing to try the “State Mandated People’s Coffe” the airports offer…..

  9. ddoble

    February 12, 2020 at 4:22 am

    You beauty! A giant leap for mankind … Mediocrity out and (just maybe) some palatable coffee in!

  10. PJSUN

    February 12, 2020 at 4:25 am

    Just one more thing to make me unhappy when I am traveling. The first thing I look for when I get to an airport is the Starbucks!


    February 12, 2020 at 4:26 am

    NO! More Tim Horton’s please!

  12. dls25

    February 12, 2020 at 4:27 am

    Dunkin donuts is disgusting

  13. Garryl549

    February 12, 2020 at 4:28 am

    I drink coffee black, I like it that way, I don’t like all the fancy “stuff” Starbuck’s does to coffee, and their straight black coffee is horrible, it taste like burnt shoe leather. And I don’t like their politic’s. I for one would be glad to see them gone.

  14. KenTarmac

    February 12, 2020 at 5:13 am

    Caribou Coffee Please!

  15. captbrando

    February 12, 2020 at 5:55 am

    I actually agree with this, and am surprised that Starbucks didn’t want to pull it from airports. HMSHost does not do a good job handling the Starbucks brand, and the people behind the counter are poorly trained and couldn’t care less about the needs of a traveler who has 20 minutes to connect.

  16. arcticflier

    February 12, 2020 at 5:56 am

    I lost that Lost Lovin’ feeling for SBUX when they expired 7 Free drink credits while I was deployed overseas.
    Good riddance.

  17. fyree39

    February 12, 2020 at 6:08 am

    I’ve never cared for Starbucks’ swill. Won’t be missed.

  18. edgewood49

    February 12, 2020 at 6:21 am

    I saw the interview on CNBC with the CEO of OTG frankly it’s great news ! Starbucks in not leaving HMS Hosts is a dying business model as someone that averages 100K a year business travel I have seen first hand how really bad they have gotten. HMS has simply not kept with with the demand, they haven’t invested in technology training of their people. One app that I use and really enjoy is “Grab” when I enter the airport I simply order on my phone after clearing security my order is ready!

  19. dro45

    February 12, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Good riddance to Starbucks.

  20. pdisme


    February 12, 2020 at 6:40 am

    What we really need is for airports to dump HMShost and their monopoly on providing mediocre garbage at inflated prices. They can then get more of the revenue without raising prices further (since we all know they won’t cut), and at least offer flyers what they want.

  21. jrpallante

    February 12, 2020 at 6:44 am

    @ChinaShrek LOL! My home airport (DEN) has had a Dunkin Donuts for a few years, but I have never been there because the line is always 30+ deep, and it creeps along very slowly.

  22. cfh

    February 12, 2020 at 6:57 am

    Can anyone explain why the Starbucks, Peets, etc. at the airport are not the same quality as in the regular stores? Do the airport contracts restrict who they can hire or otherwise prevent the employees from getting the same training?

  23. ksandness

    February 12, 2020 at 7:32 am

    MSP already has Caribou Coffee outlets.

  24. toadman

    February 12, 2020 at 7:41 am

    Options are good.

  25. IBJoel

    February 12, 2020 at 7:57 am

    Hear, hear. I don’t loathe Starbucks the way some people do, but it’s nice to be able to get some local taste right in the terminal.

  26. bobbysfca

    February 12, 2020 at 8:20 am

    Good news as far as I’m concerned.
    There are very few things in the world that I find to be more overrated than Starbucks.
    It’s become the McDonalds of coffee.

  27. doggz

    February 12, 2020 at 8:30 am

    I’d like to see a Philz at SFO post-security.

  28. zigzagg900


    February 12, 2020 at 9:13 am

    I second Philz!


    February 12, 2020 at 9:32 am

    Silly customers for wanting Starbucks. How dare we expect the airports to actually provide services we want!! What a cheek to even think that way! It’s like our local toll road service stations that replaced Starbucks with inferior yucky tasting brands and saved us a fortune now that we don’t stop there any more!

  30. BC Shelby

    February 12, 2020 at 10:01 am

    ….in Portland we used to have Coffee People, which was a local company at PDX. They ran into financial difficulties pretty much went under save for one shop in town but are making a comeback. Would be nice to see “Aero Moika” again(the name of their original airport concession).

  31. DCAFly

    February 12, 2020 at 10:07 am

    It’s almost $3 (more in an airport) a SBUX for a “normal” cup of coffee that’s over-roasted and bitter. Good riddance.

  32. gobluetwo

    February 12, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I’m good with a change as long as the replacement has good oatmeal during breakfast. I couldn’t care less about their coffee.

  33. dliesse

    February 12, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Not a coffee drinker, so I don’t much care from that standpoint (on the extremely rare occasion that I have drunk coffee, FWIW, Caribou has always been my favorite). I do drink iced tea, though, and so far I’ve found Starbucks does best in that regard — had some at Peet’s, I think it was, this past November at SMF, and it tasted like there was coffee mixed into it. I also appreciate that I can get it in a real plastic cup at Starbucks; tea does NOT taste right in anything foam or paper.

  34. Daitheflu84

    February 12, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Here’s my problem. While, yes, there are much better coffee places out there, such as the little spot located near gate G22 in MSP (my personal fav), some of those more local spots have terrible coffee. I had to hit 3 separate places the last time I passed through JFK and all were just not good. At all. Starbucks is at least consistent, and if I only have 45 mins between flights to power up, I’d prefer to go somewhere that I KNOW has decent coffee than risk getting something undrinkable.

  35. OMSHH

    February 12, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I just read another article that offered that while the Starbucks HMSHost partnership has ended, Starbucks has entered into 2 agreements with OTG and Paradies Lagardère to — its presence in airports.

    And I feel sad for all the haters hating on Starbucks. No one is forcing anything down your throat(s). By all means, stick to your 7-11 cup-of-mud… (or that of Dunkin’s for that matter).

    @cfh,I can only speak about Starbucks airport locations (not sure about Peet’s)… And yes, Srarbucks provides the fixtures (store design) and the consumer product… As far as interviewing, hiring, training, firing… employee benefits, as well as day-to-day management, all that is provided by HMSHost… and hence the difference in quality of experience.

  36. Morgacj2004

    February 12, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Like my Starbucks as they have a consistent product and good selection. Agree that the airport locations are overpriced. Some competition will be good!

  37. Sydneyberlin

    February 12, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    Aaaah. Americans and their funny little problems ;-)

  38. amnicoll

    February 13, 2020 at 1:30 am

    as I have boycotted Starbucks for years now I am not disappointed but note the fact that an exclusive relationship means no competition and therefore higher prices so this could be a benefit to travelers

  39. RUAMKZ

    February 13, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    In Seattle—a city known for coffee—it’s going to make things work. At SEA-TAC airport, if anything, there is a problem with not enough coffee places. The Coffee bean place closed a few months ago(to make way for a brewpub). Seattle’s Best closed a couple of years ago. Peet’s had opened up a few months ago, only to recently close, and be incorporated into this group of food places(which still hasn’t opened yet).

    You are already short three coffee places. Closing Starbucks—whose lines are often long anyway—-would make the lines even longer at whatever places are open.

  40. emcampbe

    February 14, 2020 at 6:51 am

    To all those suggesting Starbucks is not going to be around because of HMSHost, it’s just wrong. HMSHost can and likely will continue to contract with HMSHost. However, the exclusivity is over, meaning HMSHost can now contract with other coffee places – both local and national. So if HMSHost wants, it could contract with Starbucks, and Dunkin. And then in the airports where it is the contracted vendor, they could put a Starbucks and Dunkin there – even right next to each other if they desire.

    Again, I’m not convinced the OTG partnership is ideal – don’t wan to see ‘moving’ locations – want to know that I can go to gate A7 (or whatever) and there is a Starbucks there. Hate the OTG forced-iPad ordering system (the current Starbucks app for mobile ordering is pretty good – but doubt you’ll be able to use that for airport locations.

    I do agree the airport Starbucks locations are pretty bad in terms of employees and training. At CVG, for example, the line is often long, and coffee’s take forever to come out. They don’t make them fast enough (compared to regular Starbucks – they are slow). Maybe the threat of competition will force Starbucks to insist on standards with airport contractors that match their company-owned locations.

    Oh, and I almost forgot, more Caribou’s would be great. We lost all our stores here a number of years ago (Cincinnati), and Chicago changed them all to Peets. Now the only place I can grab a Mint Condition is the odd time I have a connection in DEN.

  41. johnwb

    February 14, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    I detest Starbucks. They pioneered the fad that in order to be considered “good”, coffee should be over-roasted and bitter. No wonder most people who go there dump sugar and cream in their beverage .. it’s the only way it becomes bearable.

    Fortunately nowadays there are many local coffee houses that recognize this and provide a high quality medium roast brew that tastes wonderful.

  42. StAugustine

    February 14, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    I drink my coffee black no sugar. Last month in FLL it took 10 minutes for them to, literally, just pour coffee in a cup, put the cover on and hand it to me.

  43. hyho61

    February 14, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    I like Starbucks and hate airports that don’t have it. I don’t care much for “local” brands which can be hit or miss. And the local brands coffee is the same or more pricey than Starbucks anyway. There are long lines because people like Starbucks.

  44. jdclover

    February 14, 2020 at 10:48 pm

    I’m not a fan of coffee, and I feel that is all that local places are going to offer. I like Starbucks because of the stuff that doesn’t taste like coffee, from the dragon drink to the frappuccinos. I’ve tried other places attempts, and frankly they just don’t hold up. In addition to that, airport Starbucks still have the naked juice brand, whereas the non-airport Starbucks have evolve, which sucks. I look forward to being able to buy naked juice on my morning flights, and I know where to go to get it. So, I would rather keep Starbucks, because they serve more than just coffee, and they do a good job with all the other stuff they offer.

    And for people that complain about the price though, do you think a local place is going to somehow be inexpensive at an airport? For whatever reason, I don’t think there’s any restaurant/food joint that doesn’t have a significant markup at the airport.

  45. MRM

    February 15, 2020 at 7:07 am

    If Starbucks truly leaves airports, millenials will stop flying, thereby leaving more space and quiet time in the gate area and on planes. Win, win, win!

  46. fish3d

    February 16, 2020 at 1:21 am

    I won’t stand in line for most things…certainly not Starbucks

  47. cplunk

    February 16, 2020 at 3:58 am

    I am left to wonder, all the commenters who don’t like Starbucks and want a “real” coffee shop, what do you actually think they are going to be replaced with?
    The real bonus here is ending HMSHost monopoly!!!! They are horrible. And it’s not just the Starbucks, every airport concession run by them is often just horrible. I typically go hungry on any layover less than 2 hours because I’d rather that than sit in a restaurant and wonder if my food will arrive before I have to leave on my flight.

  48. cplunk

    February 16, 2020 at 4:06 am

    I’ve seen Caribou Coffee at MSP, ATL, MCI (ya, Kansas City) and most surprisingly MCT. (Yep, Caribou Coffee in Muscat, Oman!!!)
    While I do like the sweet milky coffee flavored drinks and never get just drip coffee at Starbucks (which isn’t $4.00 BTW, it’s the sweet milky that are that expensive, and actually up to $6.00 at HMSHost airport locations), Caribou Coffee is just a little too sweet for me.

  49. Occupationalhazard

    February 18, 2020 at 6:55 am

    I generally don’t get coffee in airports but really, not digging the “You Must Drink The Soviet Coffee We Determine You Should Drink” BS either.

  50. erikfos

    February 26, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Hey great. Now I can have my double espresso order refused at Cartel Coffee in PHX, because they are elitist coffee snobs who refuse to serve it in a paper cup!

You must be logged in on the FORUM to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


More in Airports

Is Dining in the American Flagship Lounge Worth $100?

Joe CortezFebruary 24, 2020
JFK international terminal 4

JFK Gets Nearly $4 Billion to Expand Terminal 4, Destroy Terminal 2

Joe CortezFebruary 21, 2020
Boston Logan International Airport

Hub Wars, Boston Edition: JetBlue v Delta & American

Taylor RainsFebruary 20, 2020

Copyright © 2014 Top News Theme. Theme by MVP Themes, powered by Wordpress.


I want emails from FlyerTalk with travel information and promotions. I can unsubscribe any time using the unsubscribe link at the end of all emails