Drivers hit by sky-high airport drop-off fees as two-thirds put up prices post-pandemic

Drivers hit by sky-high airport drop-off fees as two-thirds put up prices post-pandemic
With many jetting off this summer for first time since 2019, those giving them a lift will be greeted by the highest ever drop-off fees as more than two-thirds of the UK’s 21 busiest airports have put prices up, according to new RAC research.

London Stansted continues to top the drop-off charges table with a whopping initial fee of £7 for 15 minutes (in summer 2019 it was £4 for 10 minutes), but travellers will not find other London airports much cheaper.

London Luton has increased its initial drop-off charges to £5 for 10 minutes (2019 - £4 for 13 minutes) while Britain’s two busiest airports Heathrow and Gatwick have finally succumbed to introducing drop-off fees with both charging £5, which will get you just 10 minutes at Gatwick and an unspecified number of minutes at Heathrow. Dropping off passengers at these two airports was free in 2019.

Across other parts of the country, sky-high charges are also prevalent. Manchester Airport gives drivers just five minutes for dropping off at a cost of £5 (an increase from £3 in 2019), while Liverpool John Lennon has raised its fees to £4 for 10 minutes (an increase from £3 for 20 minutes).

Bristol and East Midlands Airports have both put up their charges to £5 for 10 minutes and 15 minutes respectively – Bristol Airport’s hike is especially galling as it was charging £1 for 10 minutes in 2019.

Holidaymakers using the three largest airports in Scotland fair little better. Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow Airports have all doubled their drop-off fees to £4 for 10 minutes.

More positively, 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 the terminal entrance at Cardiff, London City and Belfast City airports.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “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 And for those using the UK’s two busiest airports, the luxury of free drop-offs outside the terminal building has been replaced by some pretty high fees.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.

“While airports have had a turbulent couple of years with the pandemic, it very much looks like they have put up drop-off fees to partially make up for two years of lost revenue.

“Drop-off charges were meant to encourage travellers to use public transport to get to the airport, but with strikes impacting the rail network this summer and public transport options being limited at some airports, people will understandably seek more reliable ways to get to the terminal and that usually means asking a friend or relative to give them a lift. The increase in drop-off fees, combined with high fuel prices, means taking loved-ones to the airport this summer is more expensive than ever.

“Doing your research on the fees charged before heading to drop off at an airport has to be the best advice. It’s good to see some airports offering cheaper drop-off rates in mid-term or long-stay car parks though these tend to be further away from the terminal and might require a shuttle bus connection. 

“Drivers should also be aware that many airport forecourts have no stopping areas enforced by cameras, so trying to drop passengers off without paying could result in a hefty charge.”

RAC top tips to avoid stress and high airport parking charges

1. Do your research. Check out the drop-off facilities on the airport’s website to understand fees, payment options and stay times. 

2. Have your payment ready. Once you have found out how to pay, ensure you have payment ready to hand, whether that is adequate change, a debit or credit card or pre-programmed the payment number into your mobile.

3. Say your goodbyes before travel. Say your farewells before you get to the airport to keep goodbyes to a minimum, otherwise they may prove expensive, particularly if you go over the initial time limit for drop-offs

4. Check your taxi fare includes a drop-off fee. If you’re booking a taxi to take you to the airport, check with the taxi firm that any drop-off fees are included in your fare to avoid any nasty surprises upon arrival.

While those flying abroad may not have to worry too much about drop-off or pick up charges, if they are planning on hiring cars when they land, they should spend some time making sure they are protected financially in case they are unlucky enough to damage their rental vehicle. Many do not realise they can take out products such as RAC Hire Car Excess Insurance to cover them against huge excesses of between £500 and £2,000 in the event their vehicle suffers some form of damage.

In addition, travel insurance is a must to ensure holidaymakers don’t lose out financially as a result of being taken ill abroad or losing or damaging valuable possessions.

2022 airport drop-off charges – ranked by initial drop-off fee

Airport2022 initial fee2022 thereafter charge2019 initial feeInitial fee change since 2019 (+£)Notes
London Stansted£7 for 15 minutes£25 for more than 15 minutes£4 for 10 minutes£3Express set-down
London Heathrow£5Not mentioned, £80 PCN applies for non-paymentFree£5Terminal forecourt
London Gatwick£5 for 10 minutes£1 per minute thereafter up to 20 mins; £25 for 30 minutesFree£5Terminal forecourt
London Luton£5 for 10 minutes£1 per minute thereafter£4 for 13 minutes£1Drop-off zone
Bristol£5 for 10 minutes£7 for 10-20 minutes; £10 for 20-40 minutes£1 for 10 minutes£4Drop and Go
Leeds Bradford£5 for 10 minutes£7 for 10-20 minutes; £9 for 20-30 minutes£3 for 30 minutes£2Pick Up & Drop Off car park
London Southend£5 for 10 minutes£7 for 11-30 minutes£3 for 10 minutes£2Short-stay car park
East Midlands£5 for 15 minutes£1 for every minute thereafter£3 for 10 minutes£2Rapid drop-off
Manchester£5 for 5 minutes£6 for 10 minutes; £25 for over 10 minutes£3 for 5 minutes£2Terminal forecourt
Liverpool John Lennon£4 for 10 minutes£10 for 20 minutes; £25 for 1 hour£3 for 20 minutes£1Express drop-off & pick-up
Edinburgh£4 for 10 minutes£8 for 10-15 minutes; £15 for 15-30 minutes£2 for 5 minutes£2Ground floor of the multi-storey car park
Glasgow£4 for 10 minutes£6 for 11-15 minutes; £10 for 16-20 minutes; £15 for 20-30 minutes£2 for 10 minutes£2Express drop-off & pick-up
Newcastle£4 for 10 minutes£6 for 30 minutes£2 for 10 minutes£2Express car park
Aberdeen£4 for 10 minutes£10 for 30 minutes£2 for 10 minutes£2Express drop-off
Doncaster-Sheffield£4 for 10 minutesNot specified£3 for 15 minutes£1Express drop-off
Southampton£4 for 20 minutesNot listed£2 for 15 minutes£2Express drop-off
Birmingham£3 for 15 minutes£8 for 15-20 minutes; £13 for 20-25 minutes; £18 for 25-30 minutes£3 for 15 minutes£0Premium set down
Exeter£3 for 30 minutes£5 for 1 hourNew listingNEWCar Park P1
Belfast International£1 for 10 minutes£3 for 10-20 minutes; £5 for 20-60 minutes£1 for 10 minutes£0Drop-off zone
London CityFree drop-offNo waiting - penalty charges issued (not specified)Free£0Forecourt
Belfast CityFree for 10 minutes£3 for 10-30 minutes; £6 for 30-60 minutesFree£0Short Stay Drive-Up
CardiffFree for 5 minutes£3 for every 5 minutes thereafterFree for 10 minutes£0Drop off zone
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Notes for those analysing the data

1. Drop-off data based upon nearest drop-off point to terminal building. These areas go under different names but are listed. We know that all airports offer either free or differently priced alternatives in mid or long-stay car parks with connecting bus or shuttle services.

2. Red in 2022 denotes changes in charges. Green represents no change in charges

3. Figures correct as of 16 August 2022; 2019 figures correct in August 2019

4. Airports selected on the total passenger numbers for calendar year 2019 (more recent data is available but impacted by falling travellers during COVID). All listed airports had over 1 million passengers in 2019 as outlined in table 8 in the CAA datasets

5. The RAC started recording prices in 2016. For ease of reference, we are only comparing 2022 and 2019 prices.