People who already felt marginalised by the ban on smoking in public areas may feel that Belfast Airport is out to get them, after the Irish hub began charging customers £1 for the use of a designated smoking area. The ‘light up’ zone, located beyond the security gates, has polarised public opinion, according to the Irish Times.
“It’s neither beautiful nor welcoming. There is no view and nowhere to sit”, explains the newspaper. “Only the levity of the smokers’ camaraderie, a sort of modern-day Dunkirk spirit, lifts the pall”. While the zone is perhaps undeserving of such a poetic description, one that wouldn’t look amiss in a Second World War diary, beneath grainy photos of deserted, war-torn beaches, the Irish Times’ narrative nonetheless highlights the purely functional nature of the smoking area.
Airport chief, Deborah Harris, intimated that the new zone was borne out of necessity, rather than simple luxury, and that the £1 levy was a means of recouping the cost of building the smoking area. Belfast rarely accommodates people who wish to return to the landside of the airport to have a cigarette, which meant that, prior to the construction of the new zone, customers with cravings were stuck with them until they reached their destination airport.
Reaction to the smoking area has been mixed, but Belfast bosses were quick to note that the zone had been in use for a fortnight before it hit the headlines, and much of the controversy surrounding the area has been created by sensationalist journalists. However, much like the £1 drop-off fee that gained popularity (and infamy) during 2010, the coin-operated door on the smoking area has upset some travellers: “it’s a disgrace, so it is”, said one anonymous holidaymaker.
Belfast Airport’s designated smoking area is located near the hub’s duty-free stores.