The recent introduction of drop-off levies at various airports throughout the UK has met with complaints from much of the travelling public.
This week, however, the introduction at Belfast International Airport of a £1 toll for those dropping off or picking up friends or relatives has provoked an accusation by Democratic Unionist Assembly Member, Jonathan Bell, that the charge may in fact be of dubious legality.
His case rests on the grounds of possible discrimination against the elderly, disabled and families with young children who are less able to stick to the 10-minute limit allowed in the new zone. Anyone staying longer than the ten minutes allowed by the levy runs the risk of being clamped and having to pay an £80 fee to have their vehicle released.
Mr Bell said that there could be great risks involved if people started dropping off outside the zone to avoid paying the fee. A public representative has said that he intends writing to the Equality Commission and the Children’s Commission. The airport cites security issues following the Glasgow bombing three years ago as the main driver for the new provisions. It is expected that a staggering £2 million a year will be raised in revenue from the charge, equivalent to one third of the airport’s profits last year.
It transpires, however, that for cash-strapped travellers there is a way round the fee. The Consumer Council has announced that there is a 10-minute grace period in the long-stay car park and has urged motorists to take advantage of this, criticising the airport authorities for not having brought this into the public domain earlier.