Belfast Telegraph

Airport car park fiasco all wrong

Editor's Viewpoint

Not for the first time, parking charges have caused anger and frustration among members of the public in greater Belfast. Not long ago there were furious complaints about the high cost of parking in some inner city areas, but obviously the network has spread well beyond the heart of the city.

The latest, and justified, complaint comes from a Belfast businessman who was charged £70 for parking at Belfast City Airport for 24 hours – and all because he was 10 minutes late in returning to his car.

This was not his fault, because his flight into Belfast from London Heathrow had been delayed. Despite this, no leeway was granted under the parking regulations, and he had to pay twice the daily charge of £35. As he noted, this was an outrageous amount for just over a day's parking. Understandably, he felt that he had been ripped off, and he was quite right to publicise what had happened. In doing so, he will have the sympathy of everyone who feels that parking charges at our airports are excessively high.

Clearly the policy needs to be changed to allow people a reasonable period of grace when they are unavoidably late, or there must be some appeal mechanism to permit flexibility when it can be demonstrated that the fault does not lie with the parker.

On the wider issue, the Consumer Council survey underlines that action needs to be taken about the high level of airport charges in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately the travellers are currently at the mercy of the airports, but something must be done to bring down the charges, or to increase competition and to allow even more competitors to operate within or near our airports.

Recently there was more controversy over taxi charges at the City Airport, and the managers there and elsewhere must be careful to avoid any further deepening of the disillusion of Northern Ireland travellers who feel that they are being unfairly penalised compared to parking charges at Dublin and other airports, and at train, bus and ferry stations.

The public clearly dislikes being penalised by institutions which are providing a service for travellers, but not at the cost of goodwill and fairness. Just because people are forced to use airport parking, they should not be unfairly treated for doing so.

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