Tuesday, October 05, 2010

3% plastic surcharge at Belfast airport car parks

Are you aware that it costs extra when you pay for airport parking by debit/credit cards at Belfast International or Belfast City Airports?

Having conquered my previous compulsion to get up ridiculously early to catch flights to England and arrive at meetings in time for breakfast, I’m now a much less frequent visitor to Belfast’s two airports. (Though blog readers may wish to disagree!)

So as I pulled up to the short term car park barrier at Belfast International Airport I felt smug as I reached out the car window to put my credit card into the entrance machine and noticed the message about using your credit card rather than taking paper ticket. I hadn’t forgotten all the old tricks!

Half an hour later, Cheryl had landed, raced through customs, and we headed back down the long corridor to the door. I paused at the parking payment machine, shoved in my credit card and out of habit (normally for expenses) pushed the receipt button.

Parking receipt showing credit card surcharge from Belfast City Airport

Bit of a waste for £1 ... but then my eye caught the screen.


Where did the 3p come from?

Pretty sure the signs in the car park all said £1 for an hour. Then I looked up and spotted the sticker up in the top left hand corner of the payment machine (above the card slot, the screen and the buttons) which explained that debit/credit card transactions attracted a 3% surcharge. A 3p charge for following the airport’s advice and using my credit card?

It turns out that Belfast International Airport (or perhaps more properly, Q-Park who manage the car park) introduced the 3% plastic surcharge back in May 2010. It’s a handling fee passed on by card companies.

Parking machine at long term car park at Belfast International Airport

BIA assure me that “signs are placed on ALL entrance and exit barriers as well as ticket machines ... the most logical place to alert drivers to the change” so I must have missed it on the way into the car park.

But strange that I noticed the messaging about using plastic for convenience and missed the signage about the surcharge? I doubt it was as obvious as the example photo from the long term car park.

Strange that I didn’t notice the above eye-level sign when I stepped up to the pay machine?

BIA also highlight that they’re not alone: Belfast City Airport also charge 3% extra for the convenience of using your flexible friend. Though travellers using City of Derry Airport suffer no such penalty.

Long term car park tariff sign at Belfast International Airport

Belfast City Airport have for some time mentioned the surcharge on the parking pages on their website. Belfast International Airport have just added details of the surcharge to their website, but don’t mention it on the outdoor tariff signs.

Given the city centre rates to park at local airports and the high ratio of cars to staff, you’d have to assume that it’s not a cost-recovery business and that there’s quite a high profit margin that feeds money back into the operation of the airport.

Maybe some of that will be spent on rationalising the mass of signage that now greets car owners as they arrive at BIA: short term ... drop off ... £1 for an hour ... 10 minutes and the screaming “no U-turn” signs.

Pay by plastic, pay a little bit extra. You have been warned!

(Particular thanks to @szlwzl for the crowd-sourced photos.)


belfast cabby said...

Nothing ether airport does would surprise me

Guy Phenix said...

I am shocked its only 3%.