Airports under fire from RAC over ‘sky high’ cost of picking up and dropping off passengers

Motoring organisation criticises UK airports over charges where at some London terminals it costs a minimum of £3 for a stay of just 10 minutes

Simon Calder
Thursday 11 August 2016 00:12 BST
Heathrow, where it costs a minimum of £3.60 to park
Heathrow, where it costs a minimum of £3.60 to park (Getty)

A row has broken out between a leading motoring organisation and many of the UK’s airports, over a survey focusing on “the sky-high cost” of picking up and dropping off passengers.

The RAC says most of the UK’s 20 busiest airports make a charge for dropping off passengers, although it concedes six of them “still offer some free parking provision”. It says Luton and Stansted insist on a minimum of £3 for a stay of just 10 minutes.

Motorists who take too long to say goodbye to their passengers face steeply increased charges. “Drivers who over-stay risk charges as high as a flight from UK to continental Europe,” says the RAC.

“At London Stansted, drivers receive a staggering £50 penalty if they stay any longer than 10 minutes, while both London Luton and East Midlands charge £1 a minute after waiting ten minutes.”

Edinburgh airport is slammed for charging £3.90 for 15 minutes, or 26p per minute: “More than the price of a mobile phone call from Europe back to the UK.” A spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport said: “Edinburgh Airport is one of only six of the major UK airports to offer a free pickup and dropoff area – this is a popular service that we are committed to maintaining.“

Luton airport is singled out as the most expensive for pickups: “The minimum charge is a staggering £7 for up to 40 minutes.” A spokesperson for Luton airport said: “We offer two hours free parking in the long-stay car park and 15 minutes free drop-off and pick-up in the mid-term car park.

“In a bid to manage traffic flows and ensure all passengers can access the airport easily we charge passengers to use the drop-off zone outside the terminal which can be used for both picking up and dropping off passengers.”

The RAC says Luton and Stansted insist on a minimum of £3 for a stay of just 10 minutes (Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Next worst for pickups, according to the RAC, is Birmingham; the £4.70 fee buys an hour’s stay, “with no option to park more cheaply for a shorter period”.

But an airport spokesperson said: “The RAC’s information is factually incorrect. Birmingham Airport offers a range of car park options for passengers and for those picking up or dropping off. This includes 15 minutes free in car park 5, which is a 10-minute walk from the terminal and is also served by a five-minute free shuttle bus.

“Per minute we are one of the cheapest airports and we also provide a car park directly outside the terminal for dropping off, for a small charge.”

At Heathrow, passengers can be dropped off at terminal forecourts, but vehicles picking up arriving travellers must pay to use short stay car parks, the cheapest of which will set drivers back at least £3.60 for up to 30 minutes.

The RAC’s head of external affairs, Pete Williams, said: “While it is true that many airports provide a range of different parking options for drivers depending on how long they expect to stay, motorists need to be aware of the sky-high charges levied by some for parking close to the terminal.

“Drivers are running the risk of incurring some hefty charges if they drive to a pick-up zone to collect somebody whose flight is delayed, or who has to wait a long time at baggage reclaim.”

A spokesperson for the Airport Operators’ Association said that parking fees keep charges to airlines down, benefiting travellers through lower air fares, and that motorists could easily find out about parking options: “Travellers have a high level of awareness of the different ways they can choose to get to the airport, ranging from public transport to travelling by car.”

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