The Issue

Photo: Mick Garratt

There has been huge criticism surrounding the £1 drop off charge introduced by Belfast International Airport on 7th July 2010.

What’s it all about?

In order to adhere to UK government airport guidelines, Belfast International Airport has undertaken significant renovation to the drop off area outside the terminal building.

Changes in the guidelines are a result of the attempted terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport in 2007, when a car containing gas cylinders was driven into the front of the terminal building.

At Belfast International Airport changes have been put in place to increase the distance between the terminal and the drop off zones. The new area has been doubled to incorporate a further lane, four rows of spaces, a longer kerb length and larger bays for passengers with mobility problems.

The Airport’s official website says the changes will “reduce congestion and improve traffic flow” however, the general public and local councils are angered by the costs shouldered by the general public. Belfast International Airport is expected to make £2 million in revenue from the new system.

Why all the fuss?

First and foremost people resent the fare, many claiming the airport is charging for a basic public service.

Reports by the BBC stating Belfast International Airport published profits of over £10.5 million in 2008 has further angered their critics.

Jonathan Bell MLA DUP, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s environmental committee has begun investigations into the new charges on the grounds they are discriminatory to the elderly, disabled and young children.

Since the charges have begun many have reported problems with signposting at the airport. People aiming to park in short stay areas have found themselves accidentally entering the drop off zone and forced to pay charges.

Airport taxi companies may also be forced to increase their fares as a result of the new charges.

What are the alternatives?

The airport has dropped the charges in short stay car parks. Customers can now park for up to an hour for £1. According to a WHICH? survey of airport parking in May 2010, Belfast International Airport provided the cheapest service out of the15 busiest airports in the UK.

A free drop off zone remains operational at the long stay car park, a short walk from the terminal building. Customers are allowed a 10 minute grace period at this area.

What next?

The main concern is people who try to avoid the drop off areas may decide to park illegally or away from the airport, causing congestion on approach roads.

Alternatively, with many customers opting to use the short stay facility, the terminal building itself could become extremely busy creating security risks: the very problem they aimed to combat.

Have your say…

What do you think of the changes? Is it a necessary precaution? What problems have you encountered? Where would you like to see the profits invested?