Drivers hit by higher airport drop-off fees as two thirds put up prices

Drivers giving a lift to friends and family to the airport hit by ‘sky-high’ drop-off fees as two-thirds put up prices post-pandemic

  • London Stansted is the most expensive, with an initial fee of £7 for 15 minutes 
  • Drop offs at Heathrow and Gatwick were free before the pandemic, but no more
  • Bristol Airport hikes initial drop off fees by 400% – from £1 to £5 per 10 minutes
  • Cardiff, London City and Belfast City the only airports not charging initial fees 

Drivers dropping off friends or relatives at the airport face being ripped off as two thirds of the UK’s 21 busiest airports have put prices up, new research by RAC reveals. 

Desperate to recoup heavy losses suffered during the Covid pandemic, cash-strapped airports have been introducing higher parking fees in the past couple of years.

Airports argue that drop-off charges are meant to encourage travellers to use public transport to get to the airport, making journeys more sustainable. 

Drop-off charges:  Cash-strapped airports have been introducing higher parking fees in the past couple of years as they try to recoup losses suffered during the pandemic

London Stansted is the most expensive for drop-offs, with an initial fee of £7 for 15 minutes, which it introduced in November 2020. It used to be £4 for 10 minutes in the summer 2019.

Stay any longer than 15 minutes and you are stung with a £25 charge.

Luton comes second, with the airport charging £5 for parking 10 minutes at drop-off – a charge set in January 2021 – and £1 a minute thereafter. It used to charge £4 for 13 minutes before the pandemic. 

Drivers arriving at both Luton and Stansted will have to pay at gate barriers when leaving the airport.

Britain’s two busiest airports Heathrow and Gatwick, where drop-offs were free before the pandemic, have also succumbed to introducing them. 

Both charge £5, which will get you just 10 minutes at Gatwick and an unspecified number of minutes at Heathrow. If you overstay at Gatwick, you will pay £1 per minute up to 20 mins and £25 for 30 minutes.

Drivers at Heathrow can pre-pay online or by phone, giving their car registration number and credit or debit card details. Or they have until 11.59pm the following day to pay. If they don’t, they face a £80 parking charge notice. 

Manchester Airport gives drivers just five minutes for dropping off at a cost of £5, a 67 per cent increase from the £3 it charged in 2019. Add £1 extra and you have 10 minutes, but stay longer and there is a £25 fee.

The charges, introduced in November 2020, are paid at the barrier gate. 

Liverpool John Lennon has raised its fees to £4 for 10 minutes, from £3 for 20 minutes before the pandemic.

Bristol and East Midlands Airports have both put up their charges to £5 for 10 minutes and 15 minutes respectively.

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.

Bristol Airport’s hike is especially steep – an increase of 400 per cent – 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.

Only Birmingham and Belfast International Airports have kept their fees the same since 2019, with drivers paying £3 for 15 minutes and £1 for 10 minutes respectively.

The only main airports still not charging drop-off fees near the terminal entrance are 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.

‘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.’

He went on to say: ‘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.’

Airport Initial fee (2022) Thereafter charge (2022) Initial fee (2019) Notes
London Stansted £7 for 15 minutes £25 for more than 15 minutes £4 for 10 minutes Express set-down
London Heathrow £5 Not mentioned, £80 PCN applies for non-payment Free Terminal forecourt
London Gatwick £5 for 10 minutes £1 per minute thereafter up to 20 mins; £25 for 30 minutes Free Terminal forecourt
London Luton £5 for 10 minutes £1 per minute thereafter £4 for 13 minutes Drop-off zone
Bristol £5 for 10 minutes £7 for 10-20 minutes; £10 for 20-40 minutes £1 for 10 minutes Drop and Go
Leeds Bradford £5 for 10 minutes £7 for 10-20 minutes; £9 for 20-30 minutes £3 for 30 minutes Pick Up & Drop Off car park
London Southend £5 for 10 minutes £7 for 11-30 minutes £3 for 10 minutes Short-stay car park
East Midlands £5 for 15 minutes £1 for every minute thereafter £3 for 10 minutes Rapid drop-off
Manchester £5 for 5 minutes £6 for 10 minutes; £25 for over 10 minutes £3 for 5 minutes Terminal forecourt
Liverpool John Lennon £4 for 10 minutes £10 for 20 minutes; £25 for 1 hour £3 for 20 minutes Express drop-off & pick-up
Edinburgh £4 for 10 minutes £8 for 10-15 minutes; £15 for 15-30 minutes £2 for 5 minutes Ground 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 Express drop-off & pick-up
Newcastle £4 for 10 minutes £6 for 30 minutes £2 for 10 minutes Express car park
Aberdeen £4 for 10 minutes £10 for 30 minutes £2 for 10 minutes Express drop-off
Doncaster-Sheffield £4 for 10 minutes Not specified £3 for 15 minutes Express drop-off
Southampton £4 for 20 minutes Not listed £2 for 15 minutes Express 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 Premium set down
Exeter £3 for 30 minutes £5 for 1 hour New listing Car Park P1
Belfast International £1 for 10 minutes £3 for 10-20 minutes; £5 for 20-60 minutes £1 for 10 minutes Drop-off zone
London City Free drop-off No waiting – penalty charges issued (not specified) Free Forecourt
Belfast City Free for 10 minutes £3 for 10-30 minutes; £6 for 30-60 minutes Free Short Stay Drive-Up
Cardiff Free for 5 minutes £3 for every 5 minutes thereafter Free for 10 minutes Drop off zone
Source: RAC. Drop-off data based upon nearest drop-off point to terminal building