Birmingham was the first airport to introduce a charge for dropping passengers off, or picking them up. That was quite some time ago and the charge was £1.00 for up to 10 minutes stay. Although it seemed pretty outrageous at the time, the charge has doubled since then and, in general, parking charges at Birmingham tend to be on the reasonable side.

Heathrow continues to allow drivers to drop off their passengers without charge, although picking them up from the drop-off charge is likely to attract a fine. A large number of drivers ignore this rule, which suggests that it is not enforced too vigorously. The cost of short term parking a Heathrow starts at £3.80 for up to 30 minutes, rising to £7.20 for 60 minutes. After that it starts getting expensive. Given that the car parks adjoin the terminals, and you will not get wet, however hard it is raining and blowing, I think this is just about acceptable.

Then, we come to the cowboys; Luton and Stansted. These two airports picked up on Birmingham's lead and introduced "express" drop-off and pick up charges at just £2.00. It has not taken them long to escalate these charges to their current level of £3.00 at Luton and £3.50 at Stansted. For this, you get the privilege of queuing, at peak times, for up to 15 minutes. Their short term parking is modern day piracy; Stansted will charged you £5.00 for up to 30 minutes, (unless you park in the next county), and Luton is an eye-watering £7.00 for 40 minutes. In both cases, the car parks are open and you will have to walk far enough to get properly wet if the weather is so inclined. Further, if you are meeting a client in the terminal, you are hard pressed to find a space, walk to he terminal, find your client and get to the payment point before going on to the next level of payment which immediately ramps up into the the stratosphere. No thought is given to any form of customer service. Even the payment points at the exit barrier have no weather protection so that, in rain backed up by a stiff breeze, (not uncommon around airfields), you will get a wet arm, or worse, just opening the window to feed the ticket into the machine.

It has been argued that the airport wants to discourage clients from travelling to the airport by road. This is clearly nonsense. Stansted actually offer a discount to local taxi drivers. The passengers that they bring to the airport are the ones who could most easily use public transport. The vast majority of the clients I take to Stansted and Luton would face impractical journeys if they were to travel by public transport.

There is no escaping the fact that this is barefaced profiteering from a captive market. I confidently predict that charges will continue to rise at a rate far in excess of inflation or any other price index, and no voice can be effectively raised in protest. I could not imaging any other industry getting away with such blatant abuse of a monopoly without, eventually, the threat of regulation.

We have to suck it up and, where practicable pass these charges on to our clients. I say "where practicable", because I have never actually recovered all of these costs since they were introduced.

Rant over - for now.