Heathrow T5 Short Stay Car Park

The airport car park that earns £141 million each year

People often cite the deterioration of on-board offerings. Smaller seats, less pitch, more cramped, no free food. The list goes on.

Same with airports. Security, expensive restaurants, lack of outside space.

And, yes, people complaining about these things would be correct. Myself included.

Though one thing that’s often overlooked is not the airport terminals themselves, but the car parks that serve them.

I’m not talking about long-stay offerings, including the increasingly popular off-airport car parks.

I’m talking about the short stay car parks. The car parks family and friends picking up their loved ones must use as more airports remove their pickup points.

Why? The cost. Me and my family easily spent over £300 last year, and that’s during a year when I didn’t travel as much as usual.

I’ve decided to name and shame the UK airports minting their own money from their short car parks.

Methodology

Almost all UK airports publish their own parking charges publicly online. For this exercise I used their short stay offerings — the car park someone would typically use to wait for an arriving passenger.

I selected 9 of the UK’s largest airports, including the 5 major London airports; Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and City.

It is clear airports are targeting pick-ups with short stays. Just look at the range of pricing models (note, not all airports offer these pricing tiers):

  • 0-10 minutes
  • 10-20 minutes
  • Up to 30 minutes
  • 30 to 45 minutes
  • Up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 2 hours
  • Up to 3 hours
  • Up to 4 hours

Results

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 min (2019)

Download chart.

Edinburgh, you win. The only airport to offer a free parking. Albeit for 10 minutes.

I want to hear from anyone who has parked up, collected a passenger, paid for their ticket and left the car park in 10 minutes. I have a lot to learn.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-30 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 30 mins (2019)

Download chart.

30 minutes is more realistic for a pickup.

The budget airports fare worst here. Luton charges £9 for 30 mins and Stansted £8. Some low-cost flights can be purchased for less than this!

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 1 hour

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 60 mins

Download chart.

Stying over 30 minutes will cost you an extra £15.50 to park at London City Airport. Though the £23 cost does buy you up to 4 hours of parking.

You can see there is a large spread of parking charges when we look at one hour stays. Luton and Stansted again come out as second and third most expensive for one hours stay at £16 and £14 respectively.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 3 hours

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 3 hours (2019)

Download chart.

Let’s assume your flight gets delayed, and the person waiting for you has to hang around the terminal waiting. Thanks to all the taxi drivers that have done this for me.

Luton and Stansted cash in. 3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both these airports.

In comparison, the major airports are significantly cheaper. Surprisingly the two major London airports Heathrow (£14.90) and Gatwick (£15) are both almost half the price of their smaller counterparts. They are also cheaper than Manchester (£18) and Birmingham (£16.50). Who said things were more expensive in the south?

Car Park Revenue

Heathrow currently has capacity for 51,500 cars in their car parks.

Let’s assume an underestimate; each one of those spaces brings in an hour of parking each day (£7.50).

If this was accurate, Heathrow would earn £386,250 a day or £140,981,250 a year in car park revenue!

Improvements

I’d like to see how these parking costs compare with other European and American airports.

tl;dr

3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both London Luton and London Stansted airports.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.
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