Furious taxi drivers say ‘cash cow’ drop-off charges will put many drivers off doing airport runs - and will result in a price hike for customers.
Manchester Airport is axing its free ‘kiss and fly’ drop-off lanes - leaving people having to pay, or park at a new designated spot and hop on a shuttle bus.
Airport bosses say the move is aimed at tackling crippling congestion around the site.
From June, drivers will be charged £3 for five minutes on the forecourts of the terminals and train station, or £4 for a maximum ten minutes.
A free off-site drop-off car park on Thorley Lane is also going to be opened. Passengers will jump out there before taking a shuttle bus to their terminal.
The changes have sparked huge debate. Taxi drivers have now had their say, with one claiming ‘the whole thing is a cash cow’ - and that drop-off charges would inevitably be passed on to customers. There are fears some taxi drivers will simply avoid airport runs.
There will be a discount scheme - for the forecourts and multi-storey car park pick up - for commercial operators who regularly drop off passengers. A similar scheme already exists for current pick up arrangements.
The details - and amount of cash taxi firms will get off - is still being finalised.
Chairman of the National Taxi Association Paul Brent, from Trafford, told the Manchester Evening News: “The decision has been made and whatever we say won’t change anything.
“It’s all about money-making. Whether it’s fair or not is a different matter.”
Paul said many taximeters won’t be able to add airport drop-off charges - and that some drivers may have to pay out of their own pocket. Ultimately, he said, customers will be lumbered with extra fees.
“We are all talking about it and I’ve had many taxi drivers saying they just won’t do airport runs because of the extra charges,” Paul added.
“Ultimately, it will be the customer who pays the charge, which will mean it will probably cost more getting from your home to the airport than a cheap flight to Spain. It will mean in the long term, fewer people will take taxis to the airport and get trams or trains, which will have an impact on taxi drivers.”
Alam Zeb, manager of Oldham taxi firm Startax, said airport runs are a major part of his company’s service. He said: “If someone is parking there for half an hour I can understand why they would be charged. But for literally a few minutes it seems a bit much.
“We aren’t going to be happy doing those runs with these extra charges, it’s just not going to be worth it for drivers.”
The airport’s chief operating officer Tricia Williams said: “As passenger numbers have grown, we have increasingly experienced major congestion problems on our terminal forecourts, exacerbated by a high percentage of visitors repeatedly re-circulating at peak times. This is despite efforts in recent years to increase capacity as much as possible in these highly constrained parts of our site.
“It is clear as we continue to grow that we need to take a more pro-active approach to managing this congestion, which has a knock-on effect on the wider airport estate and a significant impact on our operations and customer service levels.
“The simple fact is our forecourts were not designed to handle the number of vehicles they do today and do not have the capacity to cope with any further growth in the number of people being dropped off immediately outside our terminals. That is why we are investing in a dedicated drop-off site, from where a free shuttle service will operate to all three terminals. It is hoped this will contribute to a major reduction in the number of individual vehicles trying to access the most congested parts of our campus.
“In parallel, an express drop-off charge will be introduced in the areas directly outside our three terminals and ground transport interchange, similar to those introduced at most UK airports in recent years.”