Hikes in airport drop-off fees will leave drivers ‘stunned’, says RAC

·3-min read

Drop-off fees have increased at two-thirds of the UK’s major airports since 2019, according to research.

Sixteen of the 22 airports analysed have introduced or raised charges for dropping off passengers in the past three years, an RAC investigation found.

The motoring services company claimed drivers will be “stunned” by some of the “sky-high” fees.

Stansted Airport continues to top the table for the most expensive so-called kiss and fly charges, which are typically levied for dropping off someone as close to the terminal as possible.

Stansted Airport's terminal
Stansted Airport has the most expensive fees for drop-offs (Clynt Garnham Architecture/Alamy Stock Photo/PA)

The Essex airport’s initial fee is £7 for up to 15 minutes, an increase from £4 for 10 minutes in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.

A Stansted spokesman said the charge “makes an important contribution to encouraging alternative, more sustainable transport options and reducing congestion on the airport and surrounding roads”.

It is one of many airports that offer free options for dropping passengers off in mid or long-stay car parks connected to terminals by buses.

Eight airports charge £5 for dropping off passengers.

They include the UK’s two busiest airports: Heathrow and Gatwick, which introduced the charge last year.

Manchester Airport gives drivers just five minutes to drop off travellers for £5 (up from £3 in 2019), while Liverpool John Lennon Airport has raised its fees from £3 for 20 minutes to £4 for 10 minutes.

Bristol Airport has hiked its initial fee for 10 minutes from £1 to £5.

Dropping off passengers at the three largest airports in Scotland is not much cheaper.

Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow Airports have all doubled their fees in the past three years to £4 for 10 minutes.

Airports generally charge more for exceeding time limits associated with their initial fees.

Birmingham and Belfast International Airports have kept their fees the same since 2019 (£3 for 15 minutes and £1 for 10 minutes respectively), while drivers can take still advantage of free-drop-off areas near terminal entrances at Cardiff, London City and Belfast City Airports.

RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said limited public transport options for some airports and concerns about train strikes mean many passengers are asking a friend or relative to give them a lift.

He went on: “Anyone dropping a loved one off at the terminal this summer will be stunned by some of these sky-high, kiss-and-drop charges.

“And for those using the UK’s two busiest airports, the luxury of free drop-offs outside the terminal building has been replaced by some pretty high fees.

“Minute for minute and pound for pound, some of these charges could almost be as high as the airfare itself.”

Mr Lyes said it appears many airports have increased fees to “partially make up 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 bans on stopping in certain areas.

“Trying to drop passengers off without paying could result in a hefty charge,” he added.

A spokesman for industry body the Airport Operators Association said airports provide clear information about parking and drop-off charges to ensure travellers are “well-informed on the range of options to suit their needs”.

He added: “Airports that operate drop-off charges directly outside the terminal do so for a number of different reasons, including to manage congestion in capacity-restricted areas and to limit the environmental and air quality impacts of ‘kiss and fly’ journeys.”