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10 charges to avoid at the airport


Extra costs when you fly can put a dent in your holiday budget. We explain how to avoid them.

mother and child

Airports are expensive places. First up there’s duty free to tempt you into spending your holiday cash, not to mention plenty of sneaky rip-off charges before you make it to the departure gate. Here are 10 to avoid.

Drop-off fees

Drop passengers outside the terminal and you’ll pay £1 for a 10 minute slot at airports including Luton, Belfast, Bristol and Edinburgh. 

There’s no charge at Heathrow, Manchester, Stansted or Southampton but there’s no easy way to avoid this at fee charging airports as any free parking, if it exists, may be a considerable distance away.

Trolley charges

Need a trolley to get your bags to check in? You’ll have to stump up £2 at Luton and Bristol and £1 at Stansted and Manchester, and unlike at the supermarket, these charges are non-refundable. 

Trolleys are free, however, at Heathrow, Edinburgh, Belfast & Southampton. Take cases with wheels so you don’t need a trolley.

Plastic bags

Forgot to pack your toiletries in clear plastic bags before airport security? 

You’ll need to pay £1 to buy them at Luton, Bristol, Belfast, Manchester and Stansted but you can get them free at Heathrow, Southampton & Edinburgh. 

Better still, take your own as you can buy packs of 50 resealable bags for around 60p at most supermarkets.

Fast-track fees

The option to jump the queue at security means a £3 fee at Luton and Edinburgh, £3.50 at Manchester (plus a £1.50 booking fee), or £5 at Bristol. 

Bigger airports like Heathrow don’t do this but have family lanes to help those travelling with children get through quicker. 

But there’s little risk of missing your flight even if you don’t pay as officials will generally escort you through if you’re late and stuck in a slow queue.

Currency charges

Poor rates and commission charges mean you lose out changing money at the airport. Shop around on the high street for fee-free commission deals from places like M&S, the Post Office or Halifax. 

Or pre-order currency online for airport collection to bag the best rates.

The cost of smoking

Most airports won’t let you out of the building for a cigarette once you’re airside but Belfast recently introduced an outdoor smoking zone for passengers. The downside? It costs £1 a time.

Snacks & drinks

Buy a Boots ”meal deal” on the high street and it costs £3.29 yet the same deal from Boots at Luton Airport is 50p more at £3.79. Retailers blame high airport rents for the higher prices, so shop around for snacks or fill up before you travel.

Airport development fees

Blackpool hit the headlines charging passengers £10 a time for mandatory contributions to upgrading airport facilities: unless you’re under 16 you can’t avoid this one. 

There are two machines taking cash or cards and if you don’t pay, you won’t get through security, simple as that.

Speedy boarding

This costs over £10 each way with easyJet but you need to get to the gate early or you may miss your slot. 

And if there’s a shuttle bus from the terminal to the plane, you may be first on the bus, but if it loads up with other passengers who haven’t paid extra, you still may not be first on the plane.

 Don’t pay if you’re travelling with children as airlines have a duty to sit kids, (up to around age 12), with one of their parents even if it means moving other passengers.

Cash machine charges

Stock up before the airport or you may be forced to use those stand alone cash machines that charge up to £5 a time. If you run short of cash just pay by card to avoid any fees.


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