Smokers flying from Belfast International Airport are being given the chance to light up one last time before boarding the plane – but they’ll have to pay for the privilege.
To smoke or not to smoke? That’s the dilemma facing nicotine addicts at Belfast International, who are quite chuffed that there’s now somewhere to light up after clearing airport security.
What they can’t be so keen on is being charged £1 when they want to step outside for a puff.
The excess faggage charge
At most airports, smokers have to savour one last cigarette before entering the terminal, and then abstain until they’ve passed through customs at their final destination. But at Belfast, people who want a last-minute fix can now drop a pound coin into a machine, which opens an automatic door to a simple outside smoking area.
The airport claims it’s simply responding to demand, given that there was previously nowhere else to smoke after security. In a statement Belfast International said:
‘Providing a specialist facility for a relatively small number of users is expensive to build and to maintain, so it is not unreasonable that a small charge should be levied for the use of the facility.’
Should airports butt out?
It’s still free to smoke outside the entrance to the terminal, but is it really right to ask people to pay once they’ve passed security?
Of course, it makes sense for smoking to be banned indoors. But as long as cigarettes are still legal, taxed and sold by airport shops in packs of 200, shouldn’t someone be making sure that there’s a free outdoor area for smokers to retreat to?
There’s also a wider question here about airport fees. Like some other airports, Belfast International charges drivers £1 to drop passengers off at the terminal. And then there’s the £1 charge for the plastic bags you forgot you needed to get your liquids through security.
It’s easy to dismiss these things as ‘rip-off charges’ but, as this earlier Conversation by Which? Travel researcher Jonathan Mitcham suggests, some airports may actually need to impose these extra fees to survive.
What do you think? Is it wrong to charge smokers the £1 fee? Or should they just be thankful they have somewhere new to smoke?