Heathrow airport has confirmed that its £5 drop-off fee will start this October, following the introduction of a similar charge at Gatwick earlier this year.

As reported in December, Heathrow had been considering what it dubbed a ‘Forecourt Access Charge’, and this page on the airport’s website confirms that the fee will be introduced “from October 2021”.

London Heathrow mulls ‘drop off’ fee

All vehicles including taxis and private hire services will be charged £5 to use the designated drop off zones located directly outside the airport terminals, although there will be exemptions “for blue badge holders, operational vehicles, emergency services, motorcycles, coaches, and colleague buses”, with more details set to be announced ahead of the launch of the scheme.

Heathrow said that £5 charge will be applied “per vehicle for each entry into the charging zones”, and can be paid online, via a mobile phone or through an automated telephone service – again more information on this will be published ahead of the launch date.

The airport said that “There will be clear signage on roads in and around the airport to ensure drivers are fully aware of chargeable areas”, and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras will be used to enforce the charge, with Parking Charge Notices (PCNs) issued to vehicle owners if payment is not received.

Free drop-off options will remain available at Heathrow’s long stay car parks.

In February Heathrow reported an annual loss of £2 billion for 2020, with passenger numbers dropping to 1970s levels as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Heathrow airport reports £2 billion annual loss

The airport posted the following statement in explanation of why the new charge is being introduced:

“We have always said that we would consider introducing a form of road user charging and several other approaches to improve air quality and reduce congestion at Heathrow in our 2.0 Sustainability Blueprint and in the Airport Expansion Consultation documentation.

“This charge forms part of our updated Surface Access strategy and sustainable travel plans. We updated these plans after reviews were conducted of all airport projects in light of the collapse in passenger numbers experienced at Heathrow due to the impacts of the pandemic and the subsequent loss of £5 million a day.

“This review included looking at Surface Access projects with the aim being that environmental impacts will continue to be prioritised and reduced, whilst we also protect the business and jobs. This charge goes some way in helping us to achieve this.

“The Terminal Drop Off Charge replaces our previous plans to introduce a Heathrow Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (HULEZ) by 2022 and a Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge (HVAC) ahead of the opening of the third runway, which would have incurred a £10-£15 charge.

“The revised Surface Access plan ensures Heathrow remains able to meet its long-term public transport goals, which includes reducing congestion on the roads around the airport and improving local air quality. Revenue raised through the charge will be used to offset airport costs, including future sustainable transport investments, as well as helping to lower passenger charges.”