Heathrow Airport to bring in £5 passenger drop-off charge from October

Heathrow introduces a £5 passenger drop-off charge for cars AND taxi drivers at departures which must be paid online or over the phone – in desperate bid to claw back £2billion pandemic losses

  • Heathrow chiefs say new £5 drop-off charge will be introduced from October 
  • The move will apply to all vehicles, including taxis, entering terminal forecourts
  • Bosses say the move is aimed at ‘improving air quality and reducing congestion’
  • They also say the airport has suffered £5million-a-day loss during the pandemic
  • It will bring airport into line with others airports such as Gatwick and Manchester
  • However taxi groups have rallied against plans, saying drivers should be exempt 

Heathrow Airport is to introduce a £5 passenger drop-off charge outside its terminals – as it desperately attempts to claw back more than £2billion in pandemic losses.

The new charge will be brought in from October and will apply to all vehicles – including taxis and private hire cars – entering the forecourt areas outside the airport’s four terminals.

The fee must be paid online or over the phone, with number plate reading cameras, instead of barriers, being used to enforce the charge.  

Heathrow chiefs say the move, which brings the airport’s drop-off policy in line with the likes of Gatwick and Manchester, is aimed at ‘improving air quality and reducing congestion’.

Bosses also admit the money will help the airport recover after losing around £5million-a-day throughout the Covid pandemic.

However the move is likely to be another headache for holidaymakers hoping for a stress-relieving getaway after months of Covid cancellations and confusion.

Meanwhile taxi unions have rallied against the move, urging its drivers should be exempt from the charge. 

Announcing the decision, which comes after the launch of a review in December last year, Heathrow bosses said: ‘From October, Heathrow will be introducing a charge for vehicles dropping off passengers at its terminal forecourts. 

The charge will be brought in from October and will apply to all vehicles – including taxis and private hire cars – entering the forecourt areas outside each terminal. Pictured: The charge will apply to drop-off areas outside the airport’s terminals

‘We have always said that we would consider introducing a form of road user charging and several other approaches to improve air quality and reduce congestion at Heathrow.

‘This charge forms part of our updated Surface Access strategy and sustainable travel plans. 

‘We updated these plans after reviews were conducted of all airport projects in light of the collapse in passenger numbers experienced at Heathrow due to the impacts of the pandemic and the subsequent loss of £5million a day.’  

Heathrow bosses (pictured: CEO John Holland-Kaye) say the £5 charge is less than the up to £15 fee it had planned to charge under its ‘Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge ‘HVAC’ plan

The charge will apply to all vehicles entering the drop-off forecourts of Heathrow’s terminals – though blue badge holders and emergency vehicles will be exempt. 

Heathrow chiefs say the areas will be marked up with ‘clear signage’ on roads in and around the airport to ‘ensure drivers are fully aware’ of chargeable areas.

The charge zones will be enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, with the charge being paid online, via mobile phone or an automated telephone service.

Parking fines will be handed out to those who do not pay the charge, Heathrow bosses warned.

But the move has today been criticised by taxi unions, who warn it could inflict further damage on an industry which has already been hit badly by the Covid pandemic.

Dave Lawrie from the National Private Hire and Taxi Association said he understood why airports implement such charges, and that others already had similar schemes in place.

But, speaking to MailOnline, he said: ‘With the Covid situation, I think our industry should be exempt.’ 

The charge zones will be enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras (like those pictured here), with the charge being paid online, via mobile phone or an automated telephone service

Mr Lawrie said the charge would be passed on to customers – which could drive business away from taxi and private hire vehicles. 

Heathrow bosses meanwhile say the £5 charge is less than the up to £15 fee it had planned to charge under its ‘Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge ‘HVAC’ plan. 

Airport bosses say they had hoped to introduce the charge, of between £10-15, ahead of the opening of its third runway, along with a Heathrow Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (HULEZ) by 2022.

However they say the £5 drop-off charge replaces these proposals. 

Airport chiefs say the car parks will continue to operate as normal and that a free drop off option remains at its long stay car parks, where passengers can take a free bus transfer to the terminal.

Heathrow said: ‘This move will not impact passenger pick up, which should continue via the car parks, as picking up passengers is not permitted on the terminal forecourts.  

‘More details on the scheme, registering your vehicle, and making payments will be published in due course,’ the airport said in a statement.

The move comes after Gatwick Airport introduced a drop-off charge at its terminals earlier this year.

The airport introduced the £5 drop-off scheme at its North Terminal in March, followed by its South Terminal in April.

Manchester Airport introduced a similar charge in 2018 and has since increased its prices from £3 to £5 for five minutes, with ten minutes costing £6 and more than ten minutes attracting a staggering £25 charge.

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