Beware sky-high drop-off and pick-up charges at UK airports

Airport drop-off zone
Dropping off passengers at the airport can be surprisingly costly (image: RAC)

If you’re heading abroad for more than a few days, getting a lift to the airport and then getting collected on your return is often a cheaper alternative to airport parking.

But airports are getting wise to the profit potential of their drop-off and pick up parking zones, which are often located in prime areas close to the terminal doors. Research by the RAC has found that charges for drop-off parking have reached record levels, even for stops of just a few minutes.

The RAC found that nearly half of the UK’s 20 busiest airports have increased the price for drivers wanting to stop and pick up or drop off a passenger in 2017. And with six million people expected to fly away during October, these increased charges could be a windfall for airport operators.

The drop-off zone

According to the RAC, London Stansted Airport has the dubious honour of offering the UK’s most expensive drop-off fee. Anyone wanting to drop-off passengers outside the terminal building now has to pay £3.50 for 10 minutes.

Luton Airport isn’t far behind, at £3 for 10 minutes. And Liverpool John Lennon Airport will give you 20 minutes but still wants £3 in return in its express drop-off area.

Glasgow International Airport has also now done away with free drop-offs, with the airport demanding £2 for 10 minutes. Birmingham Airport operates a premium set-down facility which charges £2 for 10 minutes, however this has been partially offset by new free drop-off facilities slightly further away from the terminal entrance.

Among the few airports offering free drop-off parking right by their terminal buildings are Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Cardiff, Manchester, Belfast City and Jersey.

Getting picked up ain’t cheap

It’s a similar story for drivers wanting to pick up passengers. Most airports offer a short-stay car park close to the terminal for drivers who want to meet people at the airport. According to the RAC, eight of the UK’s top 20 airports have hiked the price of such arrivals parking already this year.

Topping the list of offenders is Luton Airport, which charges an eye-watering £7 for 40 minutes.

Running a close second are London’s Stansted Airport, which charges £5 for 30 minutes, and Birmingham Airport, which charges £4.90 for one hour. Manchester isn’t far behind, at £4 for 30 minutes.

However, at least these airports allow a reasonable period of time. Passengers arriving at London City Airport have to be quick off the mark — anyone waiting to pick them up must pay £3.50 for just 10 minutes. This can be extended to 30 minutes, but only in exchange for a sky-high payout of £7.50.

How to minimise the cost

You can’t completely avoid the cost of dropping off or picking up passengers at the airport. But as always, you can minimise what you pay by checking charges in advance and planning ahead.

For example, if you’re collecting someone from the airport, a good tip is to find somewhere free to park nearby. Wait until the person you’re collecting sends you a text confirming that they’ve collected their luggage before you drive to the arrivals parking.

Another good tip is to avoid long goodbyes! Get these out of the way before you arrive at the airport — with only 10 minutes to spare at some airports, drop-offs must be efficient and speedy operations.

Finally — make sure you know how to pay and do so correctly. I’ve personally been stuck in queues at airport car parks behind people who haven’t validated their tickets correctly and block up the exit to the car park. Don’t be that person…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.