Heathrow is planning to charge drivers £5 ($6.75) to drop off passengers outside its terminals, as it battles to survive the crisis facing global aviation.
The airport announced it was “exploring” a fee for vehicle access to terminal departure forecourts on Thursday.
Heathrow chiefs defended the move as a fundraising measure to save jobs, as well as encouraging passengers to use public transport.
The new forecourt access charge (FAC), likely to be set at £5, will replace plans announced last year for an ultra-low emissions zone at their airport. Heathrow Limited did not rule out introducing such emission reduction schemes in future.
“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been severe, especially on the aviation industry with Heathrow passenger numbers down over 80% and the business losing £5m a day,” said Heathrow’s director of surface access Tony Caccavone.
“These changes will help us to protect the business financially and save jobs in the short term, whilst also allowing us to stay on track for our long-term goals of providing safe, sustainable and affordable transport options into the future.”
The airport laid out the impact of the the “near collapse” in passenger numbers, with traffic down 80% and losses of £1.5bn in 2020.
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It also said the pandemic would present a “new challenge” of concerns over public transport, but hopes the new measure will encourage public transport use.
“Revenue raised through the FAC will be used to offset airport costs, including future sustainable transport investments, as well as lowering the charges for passengers,” read its statement.
The plans will be finalised next year, with likely exemptions for blue badge holders and emergency vehicles.
It urged customers with no alternative but car use to get dropped off for free in its long-stay car park, where they can catch a shuttle bus.
It remains unclear how Heathrow workers will be affected. “A colleague strategy will be developed in conjunction with unions, colleague reps and Team Heathrow over the coming months and consulted on in advance of FAC's implementation.”
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