More than half of the UK's major airports now charge you if you spend 10 minutes dropping off a loved one outside the terminal building, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal and some add as much as £1/minute if you take any longer.
Our investigation found 19 of the UK's 30 busiest airports including Manchester, Stansted, Luton and Edinburgh make you pay for a 10-minute drop-off, with fees ranging from £1 to £4.50.
In early July Manchester Airport became the latest to charge for setting people down by the terminal, with a £3 fee for a five-minute drop-off, £4 for 10 minutes and an outright ban on staying any longer.
You'd stump up £4.50 for a 10-minute drop-off at Southend Airport, though it's free for the first five minutes. At Luton it's £3 for 10 minutes, and stopping for longer will set you back an eye-watering £1/minute if you were to stay for an hour, it would cost more than £50.
Some of the biggest players, including Heathrow and Gatwick, do still let you drop off for free though and at the airports that do charge there are often little-known free drop-off areas, albeit a bus ride or short walk away from the terminal.
This is one of several airport MoneySaving tips also see:
- How to find free water at airports.
- Make 'em pay you to show your boarding pass at airport shops.
- How to slash airport parking costs.
- Avoid hefty fees for checking in at the airport.
- Don't buy currency at the airport use our TravelMoneyMax tool to find it cheapest.
- Grab cheap or free access to airport lounges.
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Which airports charge the most?
We compared 'kiss and fly' charges at the UK's 30 busiest airports, looking at how much it costs to set a passenger down directly outside the terminal. We've listed those that charge for a 10-minute drop-off below, ordered by how much they charge.
'Kiss and fly' charges at UK airports
|Airport||Charge for 5 mins||Charge for 10 mins||Charge for 15 mins||Charge for 30 mins|
|Manchester||£3||£4||n/a (1)||n/a (1)|
|(1) You're not allowed to stay longer than 10 minutes.|
Which airports let you say goodbye for free?
The following let you stay for free for 10 minutes if you stay any longer, you may still be charged, and some forbid drivers to hang around waiting.
- Belfast City Airport free for the first 10 minutes
- Cardiff free for the first 10 minutes
- Gatwick free to drop off (no waiting allowed)
- Guernsey free for the first 10 minutes
- Heathrow free to drop off (no waiting allowed)
- Inverness free for first 10 minutes
- Isle of Man free to drop off (no waiting allowed)
- Jersey free to drop off (no waiting allowed)
- London City free to drop off (no waiting allowed)
- Newquay free for 30 minutes
- Norwich free for 15 minutes
How to avoid 'kiss and fly' charges and drop off for free
Always do your research and check how much the airport you're going to charges, as many give you a 'cheap' first five or 10 minutes at the terminal drop-off area. After that, prices really can shoot up, so aim to be out before then.
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 10 minutes not ideal if you're 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 charges at (most of) the UK's 19 busiest airports that charge for a 10-minute stay:
- Aberdeen. Drop off free for up to 15 minutes in the long stay car park. There's a free shuttle bus to the terminal. Full info.
- Belfast International. Rather than using the paid-for drop-off zone, head to the long stay car park, which is free for up to 15 minutes it's a six-minute walk to the terminal. Full info.
- Birmingham. Its drop-off car park is free for 30 minutes. It's a five to 10-minute walk, so no shuttle required, though there is a bus if you've lots of luggage or young kids. Full info.
- Bournemouth. There's no free option.
- Bristol. Unfortunately we couldn't find a free alternative here. You can drop off outside the terminal for £1 if you stay less than 10 minutes if you want to stay longer, try the short stay and pick-up car park, which is £1 for 20 minutes. It's a short walk to the terminal. Full info.
- Doncaster Sheffield. The short stay car park is free for 15 minutes and is a few minutes' walk from the terminal. Full info.
- Glasgow. You can use its long stay car park free for up to 30 minutes. A free shuttle bus runs every 10 to 15 minutes and takes about five minutes. Full info.
- Glasgow Prestwick. The pick-up area is free for five minutes if you can get out in that time unfortunately we couldn't find a free alternative if you need longer. Full info.
- East Midlands. You can park for free for up to one hour in its 'long-stay one' car park. Full info.
- Edinburgh. Head over to the long stay car park, which is free for the first 10 minutes. The shuttle bus takes seven minutes and runs every 15-20 minutes. Full info.
- Exeter. You can do a free 10-minute drop-off in car park four it's a four-minute shuttle bus ride away. Full info.
- Leeds Bradford. The one-hour free parking zone is located a four-minute walk from the terminal. Full info.
- Liverpool. Dodge charges by using the 'drop-off two' car park, a 10-minute walk from the terminal. It's free for 40 minutes. Full info.
- Luton. You can drop off for free in its mid-term car park. It's a five-minute bus ride to the terminal and it runs every 12 minutes on average. Charges apply after 15 minutes. Full info.
- Stansted. You can park free for up to one hour in its mid-stay car park follow the signs for 'free set down'. The free shuttle to the terminal takes five minutes and runs every 10 minutes. Full info.
- Manchester. To beat its minimum £3 charge, use the free drop-off area, with free shuttles to the terminals that take five minutes. Full info.
- Newcastle. To avoid the £1 charge, head to the medium-stay car park. Free for 15 minutes, it's a two-minute walk from the terminal. Full info.
- Southampton. The long stay car park offers 30 minutes' free parking. The free shuttle takes five minutes, running every 10-12 minutes. Full info.
- Southend. If you can drop off in less than five minutes, it's free. Otherwise head over to 'long-stay three', which is free for 15 minutes and a five-minute walk away. Full info.
If you know a different way to drop passengers off for free at these airports, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or posting in the comments below or on the Avoid Airport Drop-off Charges forum thread.
What do the airports say?
We contacted several of the airports above but only received a response from Stansted Airport.
A spokesperson told us: "The express set-down charge is designed to help manage congestion in a capacity-restricted area and limit the environmental impact of drop-off and pick-up journeys by private vehicles.
"Revenue generated from car parking is used to develop new passenger services and facilities, and keep air fares low for our passengers."