Where is the justification for sky high airport drop-off charges? - Jayne Dowle
However, I can’t help but feel trepidation at the thought. Flying, which should be an adventurous activity, is fraught with hidden charges and consumer potholes waiting to trip up the unwary at every turn.
Only last week, the RAC announced that airport drop-off charges for drivers have increased by almost a third at UK airports over the last year. Where is the justification in this?
The RAC argues that the increased drop-off charges are far too high to charge drivers for such short periods of time. It’s a particularly bitter pill to swallow if people are dropping off those with limited mobility or young families, they say.
I strongly agree. If airport executives ever had to negotiate the delights of the cheapest motoring option of ‘off-site’ airport parking, juggling cases, bags, toddlers and a folding buggy, sitting (if you’re lucky enough to get a seat) on a crowded shuttle bus heading off from a carpark in what feels like Siberia, fretting you’re about to miss your flight, they might have a heart and make it easier and cheaper to seek alternatives.
Leeds Bradford, our one-remaining Yorkshire airport - following the closure of Doncaster Sheffield earlier this year - charges from £5 for up to 10 minutes turnaround/waiting time at the terminal, up to £9 if your friend, family member or taxi driver (who will likely already have added this cost onto the fare) needs to hang about for up to half an hour.
The airport with the highest minimum payment is Stansted, where the fee is £7 for 15 minutes. Woe betide if you go over the allotted time; we once flew to Croatia from Gatwick, parked up, unloaded our luggage and waited for the valet parking driver to arrive.
With five people to disembark in our party and a chatty valet parker to boot, we ended up going over those 10 minutes by the grand total of 32 seconds and found ourselves landed with a hefty fine from the airport authorities on our return from holiday. Not the kind of souvenir you want to bring back.
I know that airports found themselves at a colossal financial loss during the many long months of Covid lockdowns, when air travel almost came to a standstill, but it strikes me that paying to ‘kiss and fly’ is just one of the invidious ways constantly being invented to make money out of travellers.
Last autumn, after a short break to Ibiza, I booked a taxi transfer from Manchester Airport back home. Stepping off the plane after our return flight we spent 45 minutes trying to track down our driver. It turned out that he refused to pay the entrance fee to pick us up outside the Arrivals terminal and was circling various car-parks on the perimeter.
Being back in Blighty left a very sour taste, again. So this time around, after saying ‘no thank you’ to taxi transfer firms wanting to charge upwards of £300 for two people and two carry-on 10kg suitcases from South Yorkshire to Birmingham airport, I’ve decided to drive us down and back myself.
At least I’ve got my parking sorted out, at the airport, at the eye-watering cost of £139 for a seven-night stay, because obviously it’s July and the start of the school holidays. I did consider public transport, but we fly at 5.45am and my daughter took one look at my tortuous train route calculations and said she would rather walk.
Whatever time we arrive, we might be there for a while. It’s reported that around 100 staff at Birmingham Airport have voted to start industrial action over pay – and you’ve guessed it, strikes by security guards and technicians are scheduled to start in the middle of July, the day we depart.
Going on a modest week’s holiday abroad should not feel like a series of hurdles which must be anticipated, negotiated and paid over the odds for.
Since the pandemic, airports seem to have developed a love-hate relationship with their customers; they know they need us, but they don’t actually want us there, unless we’re paying out for everything from the privilege of driving up to Departures and Arrivals to the inflated cost of food and drink.
Perhaps don’t bother, you might say. The Yorkshire coast is lovely at this time of year. But I won’t stop travelling - when I can - because we should never take the freedom to fly for granted again.
Even though sometimes, it feels like a huge battle to even get off the ground.