If you’re in a hurry to get to a London airport, expect to pay through the nose. With single fares from Paddington priced at £21.50 in economy class, the Heathrow Express is, pound-for-pound, Britain’s most expensive, above-ground, rail journey, clocking in at nearly £1.50 per mile. A return journey costs £35 – slightly cheaper, but still more than £1 for each of the 15 miles travelled.
The Gatwick Express from London Victoria is almost as costly, particularly given that First Capital Connect and Southern services from London Bridge actually get to the airport in less time – and cost half as much.
And special mention must go to the so-called “Stansted Express”. The service – from London Liverpool Street – is the ONLY TRAIN that goes to Stansted. To call something “express” would suggest that there is an alternative, slower, service. This isn’t the Stansted Express, it’s just “the train to Stansted”.
2. Parking your car
To avoid those rip-off rail fares, you decide to drive. But a couple of years ago, it was discovered that parking a car at many of Britain’s airports is more expensive than parking a plane. The most expensive was found to be Heathrow – with charges of up to £51.80 for 24 hours.
3. ‘Kiss-and-drop’ fees
So you ask a loved one to ferry you to and from the airport. But even that comes at a price. Research last summer found that just six of Britain’s 24 airports allow drivers to drop off and pick up passengers directly in front of the main terminal building free of charge.
Among the most expensive is Luton. It charges £2.50 for up to 15 minutes outside the main terminal. Drivers who stay beyond 15 minutes must pay £5 (no prolonged weepy goodbyes then); those who hang around for more than 30 minutes must pay £11.
4. Wi-Fi charges
Last year Skyscanner revealed how Britain’s airports are lagging behind their European counterparts when it comes to offering free Wi-Fi. None of the UK’s six busiest airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Stansted, Edinburgh and Luton – were found to offer unlimited free internet access. By contrast, almost half (24) of Europe’s 50 busiest airports – including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Munich, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Prague and Rome – were.
The situation has improved slightly since then: Heathrow began offering unlimited free access in July. But at Edinburgh you only get two hours before charges apply, at Gatwick it’s 90 minutes, at Stansted and Manchester it’s an hour, and at Luton it’s just 30 minutes.
5. The £1 fag fee
Back in 2011, Belfast International Airport introduced a £1 charge for passengers wishing to access the dedicated smoking area, angering fliers in need of a pre-flight cigarette.
6. Charges for plastic bags
Remember to pack a clear plastic bag for your toiletries next time you’re heading to Luton Airport. It persists in charging passengers £1 to obtain one from a vending machine at security – despite almost every other airport providing them free of charge.
7. Costly food and drink
The liquids rule also means passengers must purchase water and other drinks after they’ve passed through security (very few airports have installed drinking fountains, despite calls from MPs, and in those that have they are very hard to find). And the price of mineral water is truly staggering, with one US retailer recently slated for charging $5 (£3.20) for a 12 ounce (340ml) bottle. Food can be equally costly.
8. Mini toiletries
Yet another way that retailers have cashed in on heightened airport security post 9/11. Those tiny toiletries might beat the 100ml liquids rule, but they cost a small fortune. A couple of years ago the price comparison website Travelsupermarket.com found that travel-sized toiletries cost up to 750 per cent more. For example, a 150ml can of Dove anti-perspirant spray was found to be available on the high street for just £1, but a 35ml travel-sized version costs £1.99 from WHSmith’s airport branches – around 750 per cent more expensive per millilitre.
9. Currency exchange
Research by the Post Office last year found that 1.6m Britons still persist in buying their holiday money at the airport each year, despite the notoriously bad exchange rates on offer. Each lost out on an average £12.56 by doing so.
10. Excess baggage fees
Those costly baggage fees don’t end when you get to the airport. If your case is over the weight limit, things are about to get even more expensive. Ryanair, for example, charges £10 per kilo for bags that exceed its maximum limit (15kg or 20kg, depending on what you opted for when booking). British Airways charges a flat fee of £65 for all bags over its 23kg limit. Virgin charges £40.
11. Boarding pass reissue fee
Forgot your boarding pass? Ryanair will print out that piece of paper for you at the airport – at a cost of £15.
12. Air Passenger Duty
George Osborne has finally started addressing the issue of Air Passenger Duty – cutting the amount paid on long-haul flights in April. But each time a family of four boards a flight in the UK they are still handing over between £52 and £284 to the Government. No country in Europe charges passengers so much for the privilege of boarding a plane.
13. “Airport development fees” and “passenger service charges”
On top of landing, security and ground handling charges, Norwich Airport – since 2007 – has levied an “airport development fee” of £10 per passenger (paid by the airline, passed on to the passenger). Blackpool, Newquay and Durham Tees Valley all make similar charges.
Heathrow has what it calls a “passenger service charge”. It rose to £24.55 in 2013 so it could – in Heathrow’s words – “attract passengers from other airports”.
“These airports seem to believe they have a right to dip their hands into our pockets whenever they feel short of money,” said Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s Consumer Editor, at the time.
14. The “breathing” tax
This oddity is specific to travellers from Venezuela’s Maiquetia International Airport, which announced last year that all passengers will now have to pay a 127 bolivar (£12) tax upon departure to cover the cost of a newly-installed air purification system.