Members of the public using UK airport car parks are being warned to be aware of the “sky-high charges”, but what about the passenger transport industry?
New research by the RAC, found drivers risk paying six times more per minute to park at UK airports than it costs to make a mobile phone call home while abroad. This will not come as a surprise for the hundreds of thousands of taxis, minicabs, chauffeurs and other ground transport providers.
One of the biggest rip-offs they face day in, day out is being charged for bringing or collecting airline passengers at airports across the UK. Unlike the general public the trade can be in and out of a carpark in just a few minutes if the client rings once they have their luggage – increasing the average cost per minute.
If they have to “meet and greet” clients experience can help them determine when to go into arrivals, but this has become difficult at some airports due the staggering amount of time it takes them to clear passport control or gather their luggage.
To further prove how airport parking has become a cash-cow for airports across the UK, Manchester Airport Group makes a staggering £90 million plus a year charging passengers to park at their airports.
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.”
However, the director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, Neil Greig, said often motorists have no choice but to rely on a car to arrive at the airport on time.
“Draconian parking charges only make sense if drivers have a wide range of public transport options to help them get to the airport.
“The reality is most passengers catching early or late flights have no choice but to use a car. Airports operators know this and are just adding to the stress of travelling if their customers feel they are being ripped off.”
London Luton Airport is also the most expensive per minute for drivers opting to wait in their car, with charges of £3 for 10 minutes and £1 per minute thereon. 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.”
Birmingham International Airport is next on the list of the priciest to make a pick-up, where it costs £4.70 to park for up to 60 minutes.
A Birmingham 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.”
And it costs £4.50 to park close to the terminal at Stansted Airport, while motorists face paying £3.90 for just 15 minutes at Edinburgh Airport.
Those picking up from London Heathrow, meanwhile, have to shell out £3.60 for 30 minutes.
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.
Drivers can also be hit by penalties for overstaying the minimum time period in drop-off zones. A penalty of £50 is levied to those who exceed the 10-minute time allowance at London Stansted, the RAC found.
Despite the high prices at many airports, six of the country’s busiest airports still offer some free parking for drop-off and pick-up parking, though these generally mean pre-booking or leaving the car a lot further from the terminal building. These options are in the vast majority of cases useless for the general public or the passenger transport industry.
“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,” RAC head of external affairs Pete Williams said.
“The message to anyone picking up or dropping off at an airport this summer is simple – check the fees carefully before you set out. Overstaying the maximum permitted drop-off time could end up costing as much as a short-haul flight to Europe.
“If you are concerned you may need to stay longer than the minimum period, then either take plenty of change with you or look for options to park a little further away from the terminal which can save a lot of money.”
Even though this research was aimed at the general public, it is the passenger transport industry who are really left picking up the cost. Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds Bradford all charge for not only picking up, but also to drop off passengers.
Putting aside meeting your passengers inside the terminal, if a passenger calls their taxi, minicab or chauffeur to tell them they are in the car park awaiting pickup, parking charges can be over £1 per minute if you are able to exit the car park quickly.
The argument for using the “free” car parking may stand up slightly for “Joe Public”, but it’s an absolute waste of time for the passenger transport industry. I can imagine what would happen if you dropped off your passengers in one of these free carparks and said: “The airport is about ten minutes that way.”
Add into the equation that you will be going to the airport multiple times in one day – both picking up and dropping off – the daily car parking bill quickly adds up. Airports across the UK all fail to appreciate the valuable contribution the passenger transport industry brings to the commercial airport industry.
Everything today at UK airports is about making as much cash as possible from passengers and businesses. Gone are the days where consumers were put first. We would like to know from our readers how many of you believe airports have improved over the last decade or so. Would you rate your airport higher or lower in standards; parking, airport facilities, luggage handling and general customer service.