A frequent air traveller has spoken of his fury after he was charged a staggering £70 for parking for just over 24 hours at Belfast City Airport – because he was 10 minutes late.
Andrew McQuillan, a company director, was left angered after his £35 fee to park in the short stay area at George Belfast Belfast City Airport (GBBCA) was doubled when his plane was late.
His shocking experience comes as research exclusive to the Belfast Telegraph found that passengers parking cars at Northern Ireland airports are paying substantially more than many of their counterparts in the Republic.
Leaving a vehicle at GBBCA may cost more than four times as much as at Dublin Airport.
Belfast International Airport (BIA) can charge more than double for just 24 hours.
Mr McQuillan left his car at the City Airport to embark on a day trip to England, where he often teaches at a college.
"This is an outrageous amount for anyone to be expected to pay and I feel like I was completely ripped off," he said.
"I travel for work up to four times a week and I use the City Airport mainly because its east Belfast location is so convenient for work.
"Usually I arrange for one of my colleagues to drop me off but on that particular day there was no-one available and I had no option but to take the car."
Mr McQuillan, who runs Select Security, said he knew there was a £35 gate price per 24 hour stay.
But problems arose when his BA flight from London Heathrow to the airport was delayed.
The short stay car park charges £35 per day once a ticket exceeds the 24-hour period. Even though Mr McQuillan was only 10 minutes late, this took him into the second 24 hour period.
"I knew I was going to have to pay £35, which is very expensive, but I was prepared for it," the 27-year-old said. "What I didn't expect was to be charged another £35 on top of that – or £70 in total – for being ten minutes late.
"I tried to explain my situation to a man who looks after the machines at the airport but I was told there was nothing he could do."
With a workforce of 240 employees, many of whom frequently use the airport, Mr McQuillan said he felt the car parking charges were extremely unfair.
"In my opinion Belfast City Airport seems to be using its locality to have a monopoly on car parking in the area and that's just not on," he said.
"The current pricing structure penalises people using the airport for business trips and that can't be good for the local economy. These days everyone expects to get value for money and the cost of parking would definitely make me think twice about flying from City."
A GBBCA spokeswoman last night said that the airport was prepared to look into Mr McQuillan's complaint.
George Best Airport hit the headlines at the end of last year after it emerged there was a £2 surcharge for taking a taxi to or from the terminal doors after a local firm, Value Cabs, secured an exclusivity contract to provide a front-of-house service.
And there was more controversy when Antrim businessman Pat Boal was recently refused permission to run a cheaper off-site car park for air passengers.
In 2011, Mr Boal leased the top level of the nearby Ikea furniture store's car park and began offering cut-price parking and a free shuttle service to the nearby airport.
However, this month he was told by the Planning Service that he had failed to demonstrate the need for a stand-alone car park – despite his facility attracting 300 cars each week.
This decision, which was backed by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, has raised concerns that no-one can set up an alternative parking service for customers of the east Belfast airport, prompting claims that it is afforded a virtual monopoly and allowed to maintain higher charges.
Airports in Northern Ireland are today being told by a leading business organisation to re-examine their "extortionate" car park pricing policies.
The demand comes after one man was charged a whopping £70 for leaving his vehicle for just over 24 hours at a short-stay facility.
It also follows a recent Belfast Telegraph expose that revealed the punitive price of parking in Belfast city centre when a consumer was billed £6 for 42 minutes at Montgomery Street.
The private multi-storey, run by NCP, responded by slashing tariffs following public outcry, with other operators urged to follow suit.
Wilfred Mitchell OBE, policy chair of the Northern Ireland Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), has called for immediate action from the airports.
"Frequent business flyers from Northern Ireland are already adversely affected financially when booking flights through Northern Ireland airports, in comparison to airports located in Ireland, which have completely cut Air Passenger Duty (APD)," he said.
"This, coupled with extortionate car parking costs, is detrimental to the purse of business owners.
He added: "We would call on all three Northern Ireland airports to consider the loyalty of their frequent flyers and reduce car parking costs."
Ukip MLA David McNarry said that Belfast "can't afford to be seen as a rip-off city".