Bosses at Belfast International Airport came under fire last night after introducing a £1 charge for smokers who take a puff before they board their flight.
The controversial tobacco tax comes less than a year after airport chiefs sparked a storm of protest among frequent flyers by introducing a £1 drop-off fee.
Smokers anxious to sneak a last drag before catching their flight will now have to fork out another £1 coin to get their fix. For just over a week smokers passing through the airport have had to pay to enter a specially-constructed addition to the airport building, which has been built to “meet demand”. Belfast International Airport is the first to introduce such a charge.
Smokers are asked to put a coin into a machine which opens doors to a special smoking area, which passengers access near the main duty free concourse area.
But last night bosses at the airport were slammed for introducing the controversial charge.
Outgoing Assemblywoman Dawn Purvis, a former smoker, described it as “ridiculous”.
She said: “I used to smoke before I got on a flight and it used to calm me down. Most people who smoke know, it’s going to be a long time before they get another smoke, so they go for a puff before they get on the plane.
“I also think they are taking advantage of people’s anxiety before they fly because some people have a smoke before they fly to calm them down. It’s also an extra charge on people at the airport.”
The new smoking area consists of a room walled in by a mesh-like construction which allows smokers to be within a secure area of the airport, but exposed to the outside elements.
A spokesman for the airport said: “It had to be specially constructed off the side of the building and effectively that allows people to be in a secure area of the airport but still be outside.
“Providing a specialist facility is expensive to maintain, so it is not unreasonable that a small charge should be levied.”
This is just the latest extra charge flyers are facing at Belfast International. Passengers being dropped off have being paying out £1 for the privilege. And there is the £1 fee for plastic bags to enable passengers to carry a small quantity of liquids.