New research has shown that airport drop-off rates for drivers can be more expensive than flying to Paris.
Sixteen airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester, have introduced or increased fares for motorists who bring passengers to the terminals since 2019, according to an RAC survey.
Drivers are likely to be “stunned” by the “sky-high” fares to bring loved ones as close to the terminal as possible for their flights, the auto services company said.
London Stansted Airport is the most expensive, costing £ 7 for up to 15 minutes. This is an increase from £ 4 for 10 minutes in 2019, before the pandemic.
If drivers stay longer than 15 minutes, the charge triples to £ 25, which equates to £ 1.55 per minute if the driver is there for 16 minutes.
This is more expensive per minute than taking a Eurostar train from London to Paris, which costs £ 155 one way for a journey lasting 145 minutes (£ 1.07 per minute).
It is also more expensive than taking a cheap flight from London Luton Airport to Paris, which costs £ 25 one way and takes 80 minutes (31p per minute).
Nicholas Lyes, the chief of road policy at RAC, said limited public transport options for some airports and concerns about train strikes mean that many passengers are asking a friend or relative to give them a ride.
“Anyone who leaves a loved one in the terminal this summer will be stunned by some of these giddy allegations,” he said.
“And for those using the UK’s two busiest airports, the luxury of free drop-off outside the terminal building has been replaced by some pretty high fares.
“Minute-by-minute and pound-by-pound, some of these charges could be nearly as high as the airfare itself.”
Heathrow and Gatwick, the UK’s two busiest airports, used to offer free drop off, but now charge £ 5 just for entry into the drop off zone. Gatwick then charges £ 1 for each additional minute if drivers stay longer than 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, Manchester Airport charges £ 5 for just five minutes in the delivery zone, which is an increase from £ 3 in 2019.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport has increased its fares from £ 3 for 20 minutes to £ 4 for 10 minutes. Bristol Airport has increased its starting fare for 10 minutes from £ 1 to £ 5.
Airports recovering ‘two years of lost earnings’
Scottish airports are not doing much better. Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow have all doubled their fees over the past three years to £ 4 for 10 minutes.
Lyes said many airports appear to have raised fares to “partially compensate for two years of lost revenue” during the pandemic.
He advised drivers to research charges before heading to airports and warned them to be aware that many sites use cameras to enforce parking bans in certain areas.
“Trying to get passengers off without paying could be a hefty charge,” he added.
Birmingham and Belfast International Airports have kept their fares unchanged since 2019 (£ 3 for 15 minutes and £ 1 for 10 minutes respectively). Drivers can still take advantage of the free landing areas near the terminal entrances at Cardiff, London City and Belfast City airports.
Most airports offer free or cheaper options to drop off passengers at medium or long-term parking lots that are connected to the terminals by bus.
A Stansted Airport spokesperson said: “The Express Set Down fare is designed to help manage congestion in a limited capacity area and also helps limit the environmental impact of private vehicle drop-off and pick-up travel. We also offer free parking and the ride facility at the mid-term parking lot which drops passengers on the terminal apron if they don’t want to pay to use the express area.
“A generous discount scheme is also in place for local residents living within 10 miles of the airport using the Express Set Down facility.
“The revenue generated from parking and airport retail is used to develop new passenger services and facilities and keep fares for airlines low, resulting in lower air fares for our passengers. Airport car pickup and drop-off is reviewed annually with the aim of improving customer service and developing a range of parking products that are affordable, competitively priced and suitable for a variety of different users. “