Belfast International introduces smoking fee

As previously reported in Business Traveller (see In Focus, February 2011)  there is a growing trend amongst regional UK airports to charge passengers for services which used to be provided free of charge. These ancillary charges have become a useful way for these airports to raise extra cash.

Now comes news that Belfast International airport has started to charge passengers a £1 fee should they wish to have a smoke before taking their flight. It is believed to be the first UK airport to introduce such a charge.

The fee is charged airside. Passengers wishing to have a last puff before their flight put a coin in a machine which opens doors to a special smoking area situated near the main duty-free zone.

The move has come in for criticism from at least one local politician. Quoted in today’s Belfast Telegraph, outgoing Assemblywoman Dawn Purvis, a former smoker, described the fee as “ridiculous.”

She said, “I used to smoke before I got on a flight and it used to calm me down. Most people who smoke know it’s going to be a long time before they get another smoke, so they go for a puff before they get on the plane.”

In a statement, Belfast International says, “We recognise that there was a demand for a smoking facility from some customers given that all public places (including airports) are now, and have been for a number of years, non-smoking.”

“We are responding to that demand. However providing a specialist facility for a relatively small number of users is expensive to build and to maintain so it is not unreasonable that a small charge should be levied for the use of the facility.”

The airport points out that passengers who do not wish to pay can smoke in the front of the terminal building. But this location is landside (whereas the £1 zone is airside) so unsuitable if you need to smoke shortly before boarding.

Belfast International (not to be confused with Belfast City airport located close to downtown) already charges passengers a £1 drop-off fee when arriving by car. It also charges £1 the provision of clear plastic bags to clear items through security.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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  • I have had the misfortune of having to use Belfast International on several occasions this year. I have actually made a decision to do my best to travel from one of Ireland’s other airports so I can avoid the misery of traveling from the International! Recently picked up a fantastic lady who is a peace ambassador & was disgusted to have to pay £1 for stopping at the side of the road considering the ever hiking fuel prices, she seemed embarrassed for having asked for the lift and asked me why the charge?

    Before the smoking area was designated passengers where not permitted to smoke before their flight, passport control was brought even closer to the front doors just to ensure a last smoke before a long haul flight was impossible. The charge? I think you will find that the number of smokers is relatively high and even those who don’t normally smoke will take a courage puff before take off to calm the nerves. This is not a payment to ensure this section is maintained I think in fact it will generate quite a high revenue for the airport.

    Areas in an airport should be provided to all manners of persons to ensure a comfortable journey.A journey for many that has perhaps taken them a long time to save for don’t spoil travel by charging unjustified fees we have already paid enough when we bought the ticket! ps At long last you caught up with the rest of the world Belfast International by actually providing a smoking area!

  • Another classic example of the pilfering of passengers, no longer customers to be cared for but cash cows to be milked at every corner.

  • How about not smoking in the first place? Take a valium and make the passenger sitting beside you happier by not having to smell your clothes.

    The £1 drop – off fee is however outrageous!

  • BFS, did used to be a pleasant experiance, but recently it has gone all low cost and low quality. Last time I used BFS the tolits were filthy, no tolit paper in the cubicales, and the once confortable seating was replaced by hard metal seating (like seating in a rail station) and the lighting had went from soft and abbient to harsh and bright, so bright in fact that I couldent see the airfieldd from the windows (I was traveling at night).

    Oh to go back to the friendly experiance it once was.

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