Heathrow Airport’s new terminal drop-off charge explained
From 1 November, Heathrow Airport is bringing in a new charge for dropping off passengers at their requested terminal – the last major UK airport to do so. Here’s what you need to know about the new charge, and how it will affect private hire drivers.
We’ll look at why Heathrow says it is introducing the drop-off charge, the challenges for drivers, and how Heathrow’s move compares to other UK airports.
This information is correct at the time of writing on 26 October 2021.
Heathrow Airport’s new drop-off charge: At a glance
- From 1 November 2021, all vehicles entering Heathrow terminal drop-off zones will pay a £5 terminal drop-off charge, though discounts and exemptions apply.
- The charge applies to each visit.
- It works through Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) – there are no barriers, and you’ll have to pay a charge once you enter the drop-off.
- You can pay the £5 charge in advance, on the day you drop-off or by midnight the next day.
- There are three ways to pay: online, by autopay, or by using an automated telephone service (the phone service launches on 1 November). There’s no option to pay at airport ticket machines or in the terminal drop-off zones.
- If you fail to pay the drop-off charge, you’ll be fined. The penalty charge notice is £40 if you pay within 14 days, rising to £80 after that.
- The charge will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Pick-ups are not affected, and these can still take place via the car parks. You can’t pick up passengers from the drop-off zones.
Drivers can pay the charge as a guest, or by setting up a personal or business account.
If you’re paying as a guest, you can pay for one or more drop-off charge trips (up to 20 trips at a time) by midnight the next day after you’ve been to the airport.
If you’re buying in advance, pre-paid drop-off charges will be valid for 12 months. Unused charges or ‘trips’ can be refunded before they expire.
Having a personal account means you can buy multiple trips (again, up to 20 trips in one go) for one vehicle. You can also choose to set up automatic payments any time the registered vehicle goes into a terminal drop-off zone (known as autopay).
Business accounts means multiple vehicles (up to 50,000) can be linked to one account. Business accounts required autopay to be set up.
Passengers who are Blue Badge holders don’t have to pay the Heathrow Airport charge, and this includes where they are getting dropped off by Uber or another taxi service.
The Blue Badge scheme allows disabled passengers to park closer to their destination.
To avoid the drop-off charge Blue Badge riders need to apply, which they can do three months in advance or by midnight the day after their drop-off.
Two-wheeled motorbikes don’t have to pay the charge, but drivers of electric vehicles will still have to pay.
The impact on private hire drivers
After the tough times of the pandemic, the last thing drivers need is new charges.
One of the big frustrations is that private hire drivers with Uber and other platforms have to pay the drop-off charge from 1 November, but black cab drivers don’t have to pay until 1 April next year.
Heathrow says this is because Transport for London needs to consult the public first, and this extra time also allows changes to be made to meter charges.
Why is Heathrow making this change now?
The drop-off charge was first suggested last year, as part of plans to cut down on airport traffic.
Heathrow says the charge is coming in now because the airport was hit hard by the pandemic. It adds this will help protect jobs and go towards sustainable transport schemes at the airport.
The charge replaces other planned ideas such as a Heathrow Ultra-Low Emissions Zone and a Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge.
How does this compare with other UK airports?
Heathrow is the last major UK airport to introduce a drop-off charge. Gatwick and Manchester airports also charge £5 to drop off passengers, while Stansted is the most expensive at £7.
Of the top 10 most popular UK airports, Luton is the only one that doesn’t charge a drop-off fee.
Here’s how drop-off charges break down across the top 10 most used UK airports:
|London Heathrow||£5 (from 1 November 2021)|
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