Charging to drop people off at an airport, is it right?

We look at which airports do charge and which ones don't.

Passengers in airport

Looking across social media we see many complaints about being charged to drop off and pick up passengers at UK airports with some people having to pay several pounds just to stop near the terminal to drop off family or friends for a flight.

In order to look at this as a UK wide issue, we set up some polls on social media and contacted most UK airports in a bid to find out which didn’t charge and which did along with what they charged. It turns out that the smaller the airport, the more chance you have of being charged.

Are people happy to pay a charge?

This was perhaps the most burning question because if people were happy to pay then why worry about it right? In an attempt to find out we set up polls on Facebook and Twitter and the result was overwhelming.

On Twitter, 100% of people that responded indicated that were not happy paying a charge to use a drop off point, Facebook (which had a much higher response) was 80% not happy with paying a charge and just 20% happy to do so.

Public opinion was overwhelmingly against paying these charges.

So which airports do charge and how much?

We contacted UK airports to find out which ones charged and if they did, how much. We also asked them to justify the charges where applicable. Heres what we found out.

Airport Charges How Much Free for Blue Badge
Birmingham Airport Didn’t respond.
Bristol Airport Yes £1 (20 mins) Yes
Cardiff Airport Yes £1 (per 10 mins in Short Stay) / Long Stay 1 is Free for 20 mins
East Midlands Airport Didn’t respond.
Edinburgh Airport No
Leeds Bradford Airport Didn’t respond.
London Gatwick No
London Heathrow No
London Luton Airport Yes £3 (10 mins) / up to 2 hours free in Long Stay car park, 15 mins in Mid-Stay) Yes
London Southend No
Manchester Airport Yes £3 (5 mins) £4 (10 mins) Yes
Newcastle Airport Yes £1 (10 mins) Yes
Stansted Airport Yes £3.50 (10 mins) Yes

As you can see from the table above, most of the major airports don’t charge a fee to drop off passengers but smaller regional airports do, although it should be noted that most offer some form of free parking but that is usually some distance from the terminal entrance.

So why do they charge?

Predictably, we got different answers from different airports on this. For example, Manchester Airport told us: “The aim of the scheme is to reduce the extreme congestion outside our terminals and since its introduction earlier this month we have already noticed congestion being alleviated on-site” whereas Newcastle Airport said: “Revenue from car parking allows the Airport to invest in infrastructure which is designed to improve the customer experience, whilst sustaining our current route offering and encouraging airlines to use the Airport to support the success of the North East.”

The common factor though was certainly to reduce congestion, often from minibuses as Bristol Airport pointed out “The charges have been prompted by increased congestion in the area currently used by cars and minibuses for both dropping off and picking up passengers.”. a problem echoed by London Luton Airport who said Our charges for those wishing to drop-off or pick-up closer to the terminal reflect the need to manage a busy area with a limited amount of space.”

But Edinburgh Airport says it can manage congestion as whilst still offering free drop off. Their spokesperson said: “Our drop off area works for passengers by reducing congestion and waiting times, ensuring an efficient pick-up and drop-off experience – we also continue to invest millions of pounds in facilities at the airport. We are also one of only six of the major UK airports to offer a free pick up and drop off area, a popular  service that we are committed to maintaining.”

But if congestion is the main reason, many will ask why airports with a massively bigger passenger flow such as Heathrow and Gatwick are able to manage without charging. London Gatwick told us: “Unlike many airports, Gatwick does not charge to drop off passengers. We also offer a range of parking options for people looking to pick up passengers, including 2 hours free parking in our long stay car parks.” so why do regional airports with fewer passengers do so?

One good aspect discovered is that almost all of the airports that responded (and charge) offered free drop-off for blue badge holders.

Revenue making or eco-friendly?

Overall it seems the trend is that the smaller airports, the ones most in need of generating extra revenue, tend to be the ones that charge and whilst there is a valid case for reducing congestion, and even more valid one for getting people onto public transport,  logic would say that its the bigger airports that have the bigger need for that. Smaller regional airports such as Cardiff or Southend rarely suffer from congested drop off areas.

As a result, one must conclude that airports see this mainly as an extra revenue stream and one that for many people, is hard to avoid. That family of four with 4 cases are unlikely to get a bus and would normally get a family member or friend to drop them off.

Being charged just to pull up outside a building for a minute or two is bound to leave a sour taste in the mouth of many, especially when we live in a time when air travel seems to be about how much money can be extracted from you during your journey.

Between over-priced airport food and drink, duty-free “offers”, extra baggage costs, paying to reserve a seat, food on board, wifi while waiting….it’s an expensive thing flying,  so does that wallet mugging really need to begin outside the terminal door?

As our polls showed, the vast majority think it shouldn’t.

About Nick Harding 476 Articles
Nick is the senior reporter and editor at UK Aviation News as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in the UK but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.