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Airports hike 'kiss and fly' drop-off charges – how to beat them

Airports hike 'kiss and fly' drop-off charges – how to beat them

Eight major airports across the UK have upped the cost of dropping off passengers over the last year, a MoneySavingExpert investigation reveals – and one now charges a whopping £7 for a 10-minute drop-off. But at most airports it's possible to beat the fees and drop off for free if you know where to go – we've full airport-by-airport help below.

Update: Since we published this story, East Midlands Airport has told us it's "temporarily suspended" its price rise and returned to its old charging structure until it announces new tariffs next week.

Last July we revealed that 19 of the UK's 30 busiest airports will make you pay for a 10-minute drop-off at the terminal, and this year that remains the case – but our investigation's found that prices have climbed rapidly.

While some big airports including Heathrow and Gatwick choose not to charge, at those which do you could pay up to £4 for a five-minute drop-off, £7 for a 10-minute drop-off and a whopping £27 for a 30-minute wait.

In total, we found eight airports have upped their prices and a further two have increased charges for certain drop-off periods but lowered others. East Midlands Airport has more than tripled the cost of a 10-minute drop-off, while Edinburgh Airport has doubled the cost of some stays.

This is one of several airport MoneySaving tips – also see:

Which airports have increased prices?

Here are the airports we found have raised prices since we last collected data in July 2018:

  • Doncaster Sheffield Airport has raised the price of drop-offs of up to 15 minutes from £2 to £3, a 50% increase.

  • East Midlands Airport has reduced the window for a £2 drop-off from 10 minutes to five minutes. As it charges £1 for every minute you stay beyond this, the cost of a 10-minute drop-off has more than tripled from £2 to £7, while a 30-minute stay now costs £27 not £22. However, it's told us it's "temporarily suspended" these higher charges and returned to its old charging structure until it announces new tariffs next week.

  • Edinburgh Airport has doubled the cost of some drop-offs: a five-minute wait now costs £2 and a 30-minute drop-off costs £15 – compared to £1 and £7 respectively last year. For a 10-minute drop-off, you'll now pay £4, up from £3 last year.

  • Glasgow Airport has raised the price of a 30-minute drop-off from £10 to £15, a 50% increase. The prices of drop-offs of up to 15 minutes have stayed the same.

  • Newcastle Airport has doubled the price of a 10-minute drop-off from £1 to £2. It's also increased the cost of a 30-minute drop-off from £3 to £4.

  • Southend Airport now charges £5 for drop-offs between five and 30 minutes, up from £4.50 last year – though after we contacted it for comment, it told us it will be reducing some charges "in the next few weeks".

  • Southampton Airport has upped the cost of a 30-minute drop-off from £3.50 to £4. The price of drop-offs of up to 15 minutes has stayed the same at £2.

  • Stansted Airport has upped the cost of drop-offs of up to 10 minutes – they now cost £4, not £3.50.

Two more airports have raised some prices but also lowered others:

  • Birmingham Airport has upped the cost of a 10-minute drop-off from £2 to £3, a 50% rise. However, the cost of a longer wait has gone down – it's now £3 not £5 for a 15-minute drop-off and £18 not £20 for 30 minutes.

  • Glasgow Prestwick Airport has removed its five-minute free grace period and now charges a flat rate of £2 for up to 30 minutes. This means a 10-minute drop-off has gone up by a third from £1.50, but a 30-minute drop-off, which used to be £3.50, is 43% cheaper.

'Costs have soared – but there's usually no need to pay anything'

Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "The cost of dropping a loved one off at an airport terminal has soared in the last year, with over a third of airports which charge for 10-minute drop-offs upping at least some of their costs.

"Many passengers will rightly be stunned to be charged as much as £7 for a 10-minute drop-off – frankly, it's hard to know how airports can justify such eye-watering fees.

"But the good news is that in most cases there's no need to pay anything when saying goodbye to family and friends, as almost all airports have a free area for drop-offs – as long as you're willing to take a short walk or shuttle ride to the terminal."

What do the UK's biggest airports charge for drop-offs?

Here's what major airports currently charge to drop passengers off – in many cases, the same charge will also apply to collect passengers from the terminal:

'Kiss and fly' drop-off charges at UK airports

AIRPORT CHARGE FOR 5 MINS CHARGE FOR 10 MINS CHARGE FOR 30 MINS
Aberdeen £2 £2 £10
Belfast City Free Free £3
Belfast International £1 £1 £5
Birmingham £3 £3 £18
Bournemouth £3 £3 £3
Bristol £1 £1 £5
Cardiff Free Free £10
Doncaster Sheffield £3 £3 £5
East Midlands (1) £2 £7 £27
Edinburgh £2 £4 £15
Exeter £1 £1 £1
Gatwick Free to drop off (but no waiting allowed)
Glasgow £2 £2 £15
Glasgow Prestwick £2 £2 £2
Guernsey Free for up to an hour
Heathrow Free to drop off (but no waiting allowed)
Inverness Free Free £4.50
Isle of Man Free to drop off (but no waiting allowed)
Jersey Free to drop off (but no waiting allowed)
Leeds Bradford £3 £3 £3
Liverpool £3 £3 £10
London City Free to drop off (but no waiting allowed)
Luton £3 £3 £23
Manchester £3 £4 N/A (2)
Newcastle £2 £2 £4
Newquay Free for an up to 30-minute drop-off
Norwich Free  Free £2.30
Southend (3) Free £5 £5
Southampton £2 £2 £4
Stansted £4 £4 £25

(1) East Midlands Airport told us it's "temporarily suspended" these higher charges, until it announces a new tariff next week. (2) You're not allowed to stay for longer than 10 minutes. (3) Southend Airport told us it will be changing its tariffs "over the next few weeks". It will be removing its five-minute grace period, but will reduce the charge for a 10-minute stay to £3.

How to avoid airports' 'kiss and fly' charges and drop off for free

Even if there's a charge to park right outside the terminal, most airports have an alternative free drop-off area. It's usually a little way away though and you may need to take a shuttle or walk for up to 15 minutes – not ideal if you or the person you're dropping off is dashing to make a flight, so always allow extra time for this option.

Don't just assume you can drive near to the terminal and drop off by the roadside – some airports have double red lines on approach roads and even cameras to catch you if you stop. Always be mindful of safety too when stopping.

Here's how to avoid paying at the 19 UK airports which charge:

  • Aberdeen. Its long-stay car park is free for up to 15 minutes, and there's a free shuttle bus to the terminal. See Aberdeen airport info.

  • Belfast International. Its long-stay car park is free for up to 15 minutes, and a six-minute walk from the terminal. See Belfast International airport info.

  • Birmingham. Its drop-off area is free for up to 30 minutes, and is a 10-minute walk from the terminal. There's also a free bus service which runs every 15 minutes and takes 7-8 minutes to get to the terminal. See Birmingham airport info.

  • Bournemouth. Unfortunately we can't find a free option here – let us know if you know of one in the comments or by emailing news@moneysavingexpert.com.

  • Bristol. Unfortunately we can't find a free option here – let us know if you know of one in the comments or by emailing news@moneysavingexpert.com. It costs £1 for a 10-minute drop-off, but if you need longer you can also pay £1 for up to 20 minutes in the short-stay car park, which is a 2-3 minute walk from the terminal. See Bristol airport info.

  • Doncaster Sheffield. Its short-stay car park is free for up to 15 minutes, and is two minutes' walk from the terminal. See Doncaster Sheffield airport info.

  • East Midlands. Its long-stay car park is free for up to an hour, and there's a bus which runs every 15 minutes and gets you to the terminal in five minutes. See East Midlands airport info.

  • Edinburgh. Its long-stay car park is free for up to 10 minutes, and there's a free shuttle bus which runs every eight minutes and takes seven minutes to get to the terminal. See Edinburgh airport info.

  • Exeter. There are free drop-offs for up to 10 minutes in Car Park P4, and there's a free on-demand shuttle bus to the terminal which takes two minutes. See Exeter airport info.

  • Glasgow. Its long-stay car park is free for up to 30 minutes, and there's a free bus to the terminal every 10-15 minutes, which takes about three minutes. See Glasgow airport info.

  • Glasgow Prestwick. Unfortunately we can't find a free option here – let us know if you know of one in the comments or by emailing news@moneysavingexpert.com. See Glasgow Prestwick airport info.

  • Leeds Bradford. There's a one-hour free parking zone, which is a 3-4 minute walk to the terminal. See Leeds Bradford airport info.

  • Liverpool. Its Drop Off 2 car park is free for up to 40 minutes, and is a 5-10 minute walk to the terminal. See Liverpool airport info.

  • Luton. Its mid-term car park is free for up to 15 minutes. It's a 10-15 minute walk to the terminal, or alternatively there's a shuttle bus every 12 minutes which takes five minutes. See Luton airport info.

  • Manchester. There's a free drop-off area which is a shuttle ride away from the terminal. See Manchester airport info.

  • Newcastle. Its Short Stay 2 car park is free for up to 15 minutes, and is a short walk to the terminal. See Newcastle airport info.

  • Southend. Its Long Stay 3 car park is free for up to 15 minutes, and is a four-minute walk from the terminal. See Southend airport info.

  • Southampton. Its long-stay car park is free for up to 30 minutes. There's a free shuttle bus every 10-12 minutes, which takes 3-5 minutes to get to the terminal. See Southampton airport info.

  • Stansted. Its mid-stay car park is free for an hour. There's a free shuttle bus every 10 minutes, which takes seven minutes to get to the terminal. See Stansted airport info.

What do the airports say?

Airports which had changed their prices usually told us they had done so to reduce traffic outside the airport and improve safety and efficiency, or to give passengers more options for longer drop-offs – and in most cases, stressed that passengers do have other options to park for free.

Here are a few of the specific comments we had:

  • A Birmingham Airport spokesperson said: "In conjunction with our official car park partner, NCP, the car park tariffs have been changed in response to customer feedback, asking for more time to drop off. The aim of the change is to improve the overall experience for customers and more time to park and say farewell to their passengers.

  • An Edinburgh Airport spokesperson said: "It's easy for people to look at figures and come to conclusions without understanding the reasoning behind it – we increased our drop-off fee to combat congestion on the main road into the airport, and the increase brings us in line with other Scottish airports... The increased drop-off fee will contribute towards the funding of a new access road to the airport and improve traffic flow around the terminal."

  • An East Midlands Airport spokesperson said: "The recent changes to rapid drop-off waiting times at East Midlands Airport have been introduced to improve the through-flow of vehicles using this facility to make it easier and quicker for more passengers to get from their cars and taxis to the departure gates.

    "While the primary driver for this is to improve efficiency, it is also about safety. The airport campus is busy 24-hours a day, not just with passenger traffic but also with lorries and trucks accessing the logistics firms serving the night-time cargo operation. We are taking steps to reduce traffic congestion on the roads across the entire airport site, which will make it safer for workers, passengers and visitors."

  • A Glasgow Airport spokesperson told us: "The facility is designed for quick pick-ups/drop-offs of up to 10 minutes. All our signage and website clearly indicates this. People looking to stay for longer durations are encouraged to use Car Park 2, which is £3 for 20 minutes."

  • A Newcastle Airport spokesperson said: "The recent increase in price is the first increase in the Express 10-minute tariff in nine years... Revenue from car parking supports maintenance and operation of the car parks, whilst providing funds to reinvest in the business to improve our services and support the attraction of airline routes to many destinations."

  • A Southend Airport spokesperson told us the airport would be changing its tariffs over the next few weeks – removing the five-minute free grace period, but also reducing charges for a 10-minute drop-off from £5 to £3.