In 2010, more airports than ever before have been charging passengers for vehicle drop-offs, luggage trolleys and compulsory departure fees. Is this really an outrage or a financial necessity to keep local airports alive?
It’s been a big year for stealth airport fees. Belfast International, East Midlands and Edinburgh airports have each brought in a £1 charge for vehicles dropping passengers off at the terminal. Bristol and Luton have raised their baggage trolley fee to £2.
And then in November, Durham Tees Valley airport introduced a mandatory £6 charge for all adults passing through security. That’s another £6 on top of the airport fees already on your flight ticket. But is it fair that everyone who goes through the airport has to pay another fee?
However, as I was researching the subject for a report on airport fees in the January issue of Which? Travel, I found that it may not be quite the penny-pinching scandal it appears.
Small airports struggling to survive?
Airports receive no state funding. Instead, they charge airlines a fee to use their premises and services – this is then passed on to us in the flight ticket price. Airport operators say times have been financially tougher since the abolition of EU duty free shopping and the decline in passenger numbers.
It’s the regional airports in particular that have been struggling with lower passenger numbers (and profits). If the airline industry is having a tough time, routes may be dropped or airlines may pull out of certain airports entirely.
These airports say they must keep charges to the airlines (especially no-frills carriers) low in order to persuade them to operate there. But the cash-strapped airport has to recoup money elsewhere, especially if it’s embarking on large improvement projects.
A price worth paying?
Assuming it’s true that smaller airports genuinely need to add extra charges like these to survive, then I think it’s a price worth paying.
If the same charge had instead been added to the overall flight ticket price, few passengers would be angered by that – most of us probably wouldn’t even realise anyway. At Durham, they’re simply paying their airport fees in two instalments, rather than one at the time of buying the ticket.
More airports mean more choice for us. I’d rather pay £6 every time I fly from my local airport than not have this option at all because it had closed down through airline pull-outs.
As long as the airports, airlines and tour operators ensure that people are aware of any compulsory charges in advance, and the amounts don’t soar extortionately, I don’t have a big issue with these terminal fees. Do you?