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.
For more information visit belfastairport.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter