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Heathrow introduces £5 drop-off charge

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Heathrow Airport has begun charging vehicles £5 to enter drop-off areas, and failing to pay could result in an £80 fine.

The airport says the charge has been introduced in line with its “long-term sustainability goals”. Similar fees are already levied at the other nine largest UK airports. The drop-off areas are located just outside the terminal and allow drivers to set down passengers about fly.

The £5 fee – initially proposed last year – will be managed using Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems similar to those used for the London Congestion Charge and Dart Charge schemes. The fee will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Drivers entering the drop-off zones must now pay the £5 charge on the day or by 11.59pm the following day. Payments can be made by card, either online or by an automated telephone service.

If you fail to make a payment by 11.59pm the day after your drop-off, you could be charged an £80 fine. This will fall to £40 if you pay within 14 days.

Tony Caccavone, Heathrow’s director of surface access, said: “Covid-19 has devastated the aviation industry and our recovery remains stunted by on-going travel restrictions. With passenger numbers still over 70% down on pre-pandemic figures, this charge, first proposed last year, will help us protect the business financially, whilst preventing a car-led recovery and ensuring we remain on course for our long-term goals of providing sustainable and affordable transport options as passenger demand returns.”

How to avoid the drop-off charge

The fee will apply to all vehicles using Heathrow’s terminal drop-off facilities. But if you hold either a valid UK or European Economic Area “blue badge”, you’ll be exempt from the charge. If you are a passenger and are being dropped off by someone with a blue badge, then the driver is also exempt. You will need to apply for this fee waiver either before travel, the day of drop-off or by 11.59pm the following day.

Those driving can also be dropped off for free at Heathrow’s Long Stay car parks, which all offer free regular shuttle buses to the terminals. Buses take between five and 18 minutes to get to the terminal depending on which car park you’re coming from, so you’ll need to factor in more time. It’s not possible to walk to the terminal from a long-stay car park.

Drop-off charges don’t affect passenger pick-ups, which will continue to take place via the airport’s car parks. You can’t pick up passengers from Heathrow’s drop-off zones.

Roadside recovery vehicles, motorbikes, Heathrow valet parking, buses, coaches and black cabs are all exempt from the fee.

However, the exemption for black cabs is only in place until 1 April 2022 – and it’s not clear what will happen after this date. Other taxis, including Uber and Bolt, must pay the £5 charge.