Airports hike 'kiss and fly' charges to as much as £7 for a five-minute drop-off – how to beat them
Many airports' fees to drop off passengers have doubled since before the pandemic, a MoneySavingExpert.com investigation reveals – and one now charges a whopping £7 for a five-minute drop-off. But if you don't want to pay, most airports have free drop-off areas, often in long-stay car parks with shuttle buses running to the terminal – we've full airport-by-airport help below.
Since the pandemic, three airports – Gatwick, Heathrow and Norwich – have introduced charges to plonk a mate down outside the terminal. A further 16 have increased fees since we last ran our investigation in 2019.
Stansted hiked its fee for drop-offs of up to 15 minutes from £4 to £7 – the highest initial charge we found. Bristol's charge for a five-minute drop-off is up 400%, from £1 to £5. Meanwhile, several airports have at least doubled their charges, including Aberdeen, Exeter, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.
A few airports still don't charge, including London City and Newquay.
Which airports have introduced or increased prices?
Here are the airports we found have raised prices since we last collected data in July 2019:
- Aberdeen Airport has doubled the price of an up to 10-minute stay – it's up from £2 to £4.
- Bristol Airport has hiked its drop-off fee for a 10-minute stay from £1 to £5, a huge 400% increase.
- Cardiff Airport still lets you drop off for free if you can do it in less than five minutes. However, stay for 10 minutes and you'll pay £3 (it used to be free) and £3 more for every 10 minutes thereafter.
- Doncaster Sheffield Airport has increased the price of drop-offs of up to 10 minutes from £3 to £4.
- East Midlands Airport has hiked the cost of a 10-minute drop-off from £3 to £5. (Though if you linger for 30 minutes, it now costs slightly less – £20 instead of £23.)
- Edinburgh Airport. The minimum charge was £2 for a five-minute drop off – this is now £4.
- Exeter Airport has tripled the cost of drop-offs of up to 30 minutes, from £1 to £3.
- Gatwick Airport has introduced a drop-off charge. You'll now pay £5 for up to 10 minutes and £1 for each additional minute after that.
- Glasgow Airport has doubled the price of a 10-minute drop-off from £2 to £4.
- Glasgow Prestwick now charges £3 for up to an hour's wait, up from £2.
- Heathrow Airport has brought in a £5 charge to enter the drop-off area. Waiting is not allowed.
- Leeds Bradford Airport has hiked its charge for an up to 10-minute drop-off from £3 to £5, a 67% rise.
- Liverpool Airport has upped the cost of an up to 10-minute drop-off from £3 to £4.
- Luton Airport has hiked the charge for a 10-minute drop-off by two-thirds, from £3 to £5.
- Manchester Airport now charges £5 for five minutes and £6 for 10 minutes, compared with £3 and £4 respectively.
- Newcastle Airport has doubled the price of an up to 10-minute drop-off from £2 to £4.
- Norwich Airport has introduced a £3 charge for drop-offs of up to 30 minutes. (10-minute drops-offs used to be free.)
- Southend Airport, which previously charged £3 for up to 10 minutes, now charges £5. Drop-offs between 10 and 30 minutes have risen from £5 to £7.
- Stansted Airport has upped the cost of drop-offs of up to 15 minutes – they now cost £7, not £4. This is the highest minimum charge we found.
'Costs have soared – but there's usually no need to pay anything'
Oli Townsend, assistant deals & features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "The cost of dropping people off at an airport has soared since the pandemic. Many passengers will rightly be shocked when hit with a charge as much as £7 just to set someone down outside the terminal.
"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:
|Doncaster Sheffield||£4||£4||N/A (1)|
|Guernsey||Free for up to an hour|
|Heathrow||£5 (no waiting allowed)|
|Isle of Man||Free||Free||£1|
|Jersey||Free to drop off (but no waiting allowed)|
|London City||Free to drop off (but no waiting allowed)|
|Newquay||Free for an up to 30-minute drop-off|
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 22 UK airports that charge:
- Aberdeen. Its long-stay car park is free for up to 30 minutes, and there's a free shuttle bus to the terminal. Those with electric vehicles can drop off directly outside the terminal for free if they pre-register. 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 20 minutes, and is a 10-minute walk from the terminal. There's also a free bus service which runs every 15 minutes. 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 email@example.com.
- Bristol. There's a free one-hour waiting zone by the 'Silver Zone' car park to the south of the terminal, with frequent buses to 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 2' car park is free for up to an hour. It's a 15-minute walk to the terminal or a bus gets you there in two minutes. See East Midlands airport info.
- Edinburgh. Its long-stay car park is free for up to 30 minutes. It's an eight-minute walk to the terminal. See Edinburgh airport info.
- Exeter. Unfortunately we can't find a free option here – let us know if you know of one in the comments or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. See Exeter airport info.
- Gatwick. Free drop-offs are available in its long-stay car parks with free shuttle buses. It takes 10 to 20 minutes to reach the North Terminal and 7 to 12 minutes to reach the South Terminal. Buses run every 10 to 12 minutes. See Gatwick airport info.
- Glasgow. Its long-stay car park was free for up to 30 minutes, but unfortunately it's currently closed. Please let us know if you spot another way to drop off for free by emailing email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Heathrow. Drop-offs of up to 30 minutes are free in Heathrow's various long-stay car parks for the different terminals. Passengers can take a free bus transfer to the terminal.
- Leeds Bradford. There's a one-hour free parking zone, which is a three to four 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 five to 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 to 15 minute walk to the terminal, or alternatively there's a shuttle bus which takes five minutes. See Luton airport's free drop-offs.
- 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.
- Norwich. Unfortunately we can't find a free option here – let us know if you know of one in the comments or by emailing email@example.com.
- 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 was free for up to 30 minutes, but unfortunately it's currently closed. Please let us know if you spot another way to drop off for free by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 recoup losses from the pandemic or reduce traffic outside the airport – 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 Bristol Airport spokesperson said: "Like other UK airports, Bristol Airport has been significantly impacted by the pandemic and the [Drop & Go] price increase is a commercial decision to reduce financial losses. 'Kiss and fly' journeys to the airport are the most inefficient form of transport and the highest generators of car traffic."
- An East Midlands Airport spokesperson told us: "Few sectors have been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic than aviation. East Midlands Airport was not immune. Airports generate revenue from a number of sources, including car parking fees.
"East Midlands Airport, like the vast majority of airports in the UK, charges a fee for the convenience of dropping passengers off at the front door to the terminal. This aims to reduce the number of vehicles travelling around the busiest area and encourage people to consider more sustainable transport options."
- A spokesperson from Luton Airport said: "We have a range of options for picking up and dropping off. We also strongly encourage the use of public transport to and from the airport wherever possible."
- A Heathrow Airport spokesperson told us: "The [drop-off] charge was introduced to help prevent a car-led recovery from the pandemic and reduce airport-related traffic. Heathrow was the last major UK airport to introduce such a charge, with similar drop-off charges in place at the other nine largest UK airports."
- A spokesperson from Liverpool Airport told us: "Whilst we continue to recover from the significant impact on our business of the pandemic, it has been necessary to review charges across all our parking facilities. However, we have not increased our drop-off/pick-up car park charges since spring 2020 and have continued to offer passengers the option of free parking for up to 40 minutes in our 'Drop Off 2' car park."
- A Stansted Airport spokesperson said: "The express set-down charge increased from £5 to £7 in November 2020. This increase was a direct result of the devastating impacts of the pandemic on the airport."
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