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Confusion, chaos, controversy... day one of Belfast International Airport's set down fee

By Claire McNeilly

A demand for a Stormont probe capped a day of confusion and anger at Belfast International Airport (BIA) after the controversial introduction of a £1 set down fee.

Motorists were, for the first time, charged for a 10-minute time slot to drop off or pick up passengers in a designated parking zone near the terminal building.

There was chaos for drivers who tried to navigate the roadway into the Aldergrove airport — which last year made a £6m profit — having encountered what many called misleading signs.

There was also a fear of clamping — and with it an £80 release fee — should motorists stay longer than the allocated period.

Law student Tracey Carey (20) from Ballymena had to fork out £2 for twice passing through the parking zone — before giving up and collecting her aunt elsewhere.

“It’s really confusing if you haven’t been here before and you’re by yourself,” she said.

“I went through the drop off zone twice by accident as I missed the sign pointing to the short stay and main stay car parks. After the first time I followed signs to the long stay car park but I was told you had to reserve spaces in there during peak periods.

“But when I tried to find one of the other car parks, I missed the signs again and ended up back in the £1 zone. My aunt finally called to find out where I was and we arranged a place to meet; otherwise I dread to think how much this trip would have cost me.”

Airport bosses expect to generate more than £2m in revenue as a result of the system, which they claim is needed to cover the cost of new security measures required by official guidelines after the Glasgow Airport bombing.

But the move has been heavily criticised by the Consumer Council — which branded the charge unacceptable — and other groups.

Lisburn taxi-driver Alan Singleton (41), who was parked in a layby close to BIA, said the move would most definitely push up fares.

“We simply can’t absorb the new charges,” he said.

“This is my first airport job under the new system and I’ve been sitting here for over 20 |minutes already as the flight is late.”

DUP MLA Jonathan Bell called for Stormont's environment |committee to investigate the matter.

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