Travellers taking a taxi to or from the terminal doors at George Best Belfast City Airport pay a surcharge of £2, we can reveal today.
The news comes after Value Cabs secured an exclusivity contract to provide a front-of-house service. It has sparked fury, with Ukip MLA David McNarry warning the airport against getting the reputation of "being a rip-off" because of the hidden fee.
Other taxi providers can only use the short stay car park – which permits a grace period of 10 minutes' free parking – to pick up and drop off.
However, Value Cabs can no longer use the airport's short stay facility to collect or wait for fares under the rules of the new collaboration.
The £2 levy means a passenger commuting to Belfast city centre with Value Cabs would spend around £10 compared to £8 with a rival firm.
The £2 per pick-up goes to the airport.
An airport spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph that "a surcharge has always been included in these front-of-house pick-up fares".
But Ukip MLA David McNarry (right) has warned the airport against getting the reputation of "being a rip-off" because of the hidden fee.
Meanwhile, the Consumer Council said people needed to know that there were various transport options to and from the airport. An insider told this newspaper that, under the new contract, it was more expensive for commuters to opt to travel with Value Cabs.
"The airport charges the taxi firm £2 for every pick-up and drop-off and the drivers add a £2 supplement on to the customer's bill," the source said.
"If you were to take a taxi from the City Airport to the Belfast Telegraph (in the city centre) it would cost around £10 with Value Cabs compared to £8 with another company."
The airport spokeswoman said the new service was cheaper than its predecessor, George Best Belfast City Airport Taxis Ltd.
"The introduction of Value Cabs as front-of-house taxi service at Belfast City Airport has seen overall fares decrease, which means passengers can benefit from fares that are considerably cheaper than with the previous provider," she said.
Mr McNarry said that taxi prices to and from the airport should be uniform, regardless of the service provider.
"Charging people an extra £2 is an extortion and they shouldn't be allowed to do that," he said.
"George Best Airport is a remarkable success story and it doesn't want to get a bad reputation where people are saying that it's a rip-off. The airport should consider putting up a sign that tells the truth by informing people they will pay more at the terminal doors."
He added: "The reputation of Belfast is at stake here."
George Best Belfast City Airport is situated three miles from Belfast city centre. It shares a site with the Short Brothers/Bombardier aircraft manufacturing facility. The airport began commercial operations in 1983. Previously called Belfast City Airport, it was renamed in 2006 in memory of George Best, the world-famous footballer. The airport handled over 2.7m passengers in 2010, a record total for the airport, though that fell to around 2.2m in 2012. The airport is a major base for Flybe, which began operations at the airport in 1993 and is now the largest operator at Belfast City.
Travellers caught in catch-22 situation at terminal
By Claire McNeilly
The cost of car parking has long been a bone of contention at Belfast's two airports – particularly as the rules and rates differ.
And now that the airport seems to be cashing in on cash-strapped consumers by imposing surcharges, the row has reached another level.
As one frequent traveller told the Belfast Telegraph: "Short of walking to the airport with my luggage, there seems to be no way to get round the system."
The observation came after it emerged taking a taxi to or from the terminal doors at George Best Belfast City Airport will add an extra £2 to your bill.
There is, however, a drop-off and pick-up area in the short stay car park, where other taxi drivers and motorists are permitted 10 minutes of free parking.
After the grace period, it costs £2.70 for up to 30 minutes, £5 for an hour and the maximum fee is £35 for 12-24 hours.
So, if you're picking up someone whose plane is running late, you'll have to pay to hang about.
At the airport's long stay car park there is a £1 fee for the first 15 minutes and it costs £23 for a day, while 14-15 days will set a user back £100.
Meanwhile, in July 2010 there was furore when Belfast International Airport (BIA) introduced a £1 charge for dropping off or picking up passengers.
It only allows motorists to wait in the designated zone for 10 minutes, after which they have to park – and are then subject to much heftier levies.
In the short stay it costs £2 for up to 30 minutes, £3.50 for an hour, while six to 24 hours is priced at £35.
However, in its long stay counterpart, motorists can avail of 15 minutes free parking, with prices hitting £12.50 for a day and £105.50 for 14.