Airport Parking Fines Explained

  • 10 Mar, 2014
  • Jurga Sefton


It is unlikely that you will incur a parking fine when using a long-term airport car park, provided you have given the correct information when booking. These car parks charge per 24-hour period, so it is unlikely, even if your flight is delayed, that you will have overstayed your welcome.

In extenuating circumstances, such as the case of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud a couple of years ago, which meant many passengers returned days late from their holiday, a common-sense approach was adopted by the vast majority of car park operators.

As far as short-term parking goes, most car parks operate a pay on exit system meaning that even if the person you are picking up is delayed for hours you will not incur a parking fine.

Most airport parking fines are incurred when dropping off or picking up passengers without using the short-term car park, and stories abound of drivers being hit with punitive fines for stopping on approach roads. Automatic number plate recognition technology makes it easy for the operator to monitor your comings and goings.

Many airports provide a drop-off zone and charge a fee of a few pounds for a short stop. If you decide to leave your car to help your passenger in to the terminal or overstay the allotted time, then fines of £80 are commonplace. At other airports it is forbidden to stop at all, and if you should grind to a halt briefly to read a notice, for instance, you can expect to be faced with a fine.

Drivers should note, however, that not all fines are in fact fines. The only bodies allowed to issue fines are the police and councils. Since airport land is private, the “fine” you are likely to receive will be issued by a private parking company. They are not legally able to fine you and indeed are even prohibited from using the word “penalty” on their notices.

They do their best though to dress their notices up to look like official Penalty Charge Notices, even using the same initial letters, PCN, standing in this case for Parking Charge Notice (PCN). Some even go as far as using the word “enforcement” even although there are legally no powers of enforcement.

These so-called PCNs are in fact invoices for payment for breaching the parking company’s terms and conditions. The relationship between parking company and motorist is governed by contract law, and in cases where the terms and conditions are broken, the parking company can only claim the actual loss of revenue rather than the huge sums demanded by some.

If you have received an airport parking “fine”, have a look at the very useful POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals) website. It will guide you through the procedure of appealing, provided the notice was issued by a member of the Approved Operator Scheme.

A few points to note are as follows:
– You should not pay the charge if you intend appealing.
– It will help your case if you have photographic evidence of poor signage or anything else you are relying on in your appeal.
– Appeals can be made online or by post.

About Jurga Sefton

I love finding bargains online, whether it's fashion, kids products or travel deals. Also into blogging, SEO, digital marketing and all things Lithuania-related!

56 thoughts on “Airport Parking Fines Explained”

  1. My Wife accidently reversed into the Disabled parking bay 1 , she went past the main entrance and reversed in through an exit and parked on the side parking. the side parking bays had no disabled signs painted on them and in the day light it looked just like any other parking place. we had a PCN stuck to the windscreen requesting payment, should I ignore this or what irs the best advice.

    Kind Regards

  2. Hi there, we dropped our mum off (at 6am) at Birmingham airport by a crossing, she was out so quick because she only had a small handbag no luggage or cabin bag at all, but a man came up to us and told us we were caught on camera and will be fined £100, can we do anything even though we are British citizen I’ve just moved back from Germany after living there for 15 years and my sister lives in America so we had no idea this happens here, not even my mum.

  3. Hi

    I unknowingly picked up my mate at drop off point at Heathrow airport terminal 2, when he got it in the car I realised the sign saying drop off only. I’m worried about getting a fine through the post.

    1. I actually did the same today, i was picking up my friend from drop off, when i reached there my friend was already waiting and then i saw a sign no picking up, my friend quickly jumped in and we drive off the road no body stopped us, but then i saw a camera, now i am worried that i may get a ticket or points ? i heard only if police stopped me they can issue ticket there at heathrow terminal 2 drop off. Please let me know.

  4. I picked up my cousin from the drop off point at Manchester airport t2, I left my car for 2 mins to give him a hand with luggage, came back to see a uniformed guy writing my car details, he just said thT I wasn’t allowed to pick up from here and that I would get a fine, but he never stuck a fine on my windscreen, will I get a fine through the post or do they have to fine me there and then?

    1. Hi Tariq

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience!

      I’ve had a quick look online and have found the below;

      “When can the PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) be sent by post?

      The PCN can be sent by post if:

      It was being issued as the vehicle was driven away, or
      The driver or passengers were abusive, or
      Evidence of the parking rule being broken was caught on camera – my guess is that this is why – especially if he was already issuing the ticket before you got back to the car.

      Once you get it through, check that it is legitimate. Once happy with this, it’s advisable to pay the fine ASAP as you usually only have to pay half if paid within 14 days (or 21 days if it’s on CCTV)

      I hope this helps! Good Luck,

  5. I have just sropped smeone outside t3 manchester but could not get into any drop off space so pulled in to bus lane / stop for 30 seconds to drop them off where this guys looked at me smiling and said you have just been fine….are these council or airport laws ? Thank you

    1. Hi Tracy

      They are rules set out by the airport itself, in line with a Road Traffic Order.

      They state that if the drop off areas aren’t available, you should use the short stay parking. If you are concerned about your use of the bus stop, I’d suggest contacting the airport directly on 08713 102 200 to discuss with them.

      Good luck!

  6. Hi ,I drove to Heathrow yesterday evening to collect my son and daughter in law returning from there honeymoon ,I picked them up from the drop off point at t3 ,same place as I dropped them off ,but they were delayed getting there bags and I was waiting approx 45 minutes in that area ,I am now worried that I might receive a fine ,no one approached me to tell me to move but I did notice a camera ,also other people were waiting for that length of time as well ,what do you think ,,,,thankyou martin

  7. Hi, I was on short parking at Stansted, I took my ticket at the barrier. when leaving I tried to pay by pay machine, didn’t work. On machine was sign to pay by exit. So I drove to exit barrier. When I wanted to put my ticket to the machine, there was some ticket I removed the ticket and the barrier opened. I did not know if I can drive or not I panicked and drove. I am now worried that I will receive some penalty. what should I do? Contact stansted,? Thanks

  8. Love it! Thank you so much for sharing this one really well defined all peaceful info,well really like it,Keep it up! –

  9. Hi I collected my stepson from Gatwick airport north terminal collection point, literally for 10 secs while he got in the car, and my numberplate was photographed, by phone. I did’nt want to park the car, I just wanted to collect them, worried I will be fined now? help

    1. Hi Caroline,

      I suppose it would depend on who took the photo – was it an official parking attendant? Gatwicks website states that the collection point is within one of the short stay car parks, so if this was the collection point you were in, you shouldn’t need to worry


      1. Hi i droped my dad off at manchester airport today i left my car at drop off only i came back as a officer booked my car i have read the leaflet in the package it doesnt say anything about getting fined or penalty points im worried will i get penalty point or a fine?

        1. Hello Hafiz

          Not sure with this one – the drop off area is to do just that, just drop off passengers, the fact that you left your car is probably why an officer booked your car – I would contact the helpline in your booklet to determine if you’ll be fined or not

          Good Luck!

  10. Hi i droped my dad off at manchester airport today i left my at drop off only i came back as a officer booked my car 🙁 i have read the leaflet in the package it doesnt say anything about getting fined or penalty point im worried will i get penalty point?

  11. I stopped at a stop junction to a traffic Island at Birmingham Airport, could not cross as there was heavy traffic crossing, my son inlaw and my daughter got in the car. I was’nt parked on any red or yellow lines. Now this APCOA company has sent me an Invoice for £100 saying I pick up in a designated parking area.. if I was parked where I should not have parked I could understand. But it was stop line to a round about.

      1. Hi I have had my appeal refused even with the photos. They keep saying Ive stop on a red route which i have not. What can i do know.

  12. Hello.

    I dropped my wife off outside of the drop off zone to run in a coat to my daughter whom I was collecting from the airport. I then went into the drop off zone and picked up my daughter there and paid the drop off fee as normal.

    I’ve received a ticket for dropping my wife off to run in with the coat. Do I have to pay this?


    1. Hi there,

      You haven’t specified which airport this is, so I can’t comment specifically, but if this fine is a result of a ANPR camera, then yes, you probably do need to pay the fine. Airports are becoming extremely strict with drop offs and pick ups outside of the designated areas. My suggestion would be to contact whoever has sent you the fine and see if you can appeal it.

      Good Luck!

  13. Hi,

    I was picking up a family member at Aberdeen airport and there was some delays in the flight. I ended up waiting longer than usual (around 25 mins as apposed to the advised 15 mins) and have received a PCN of £60 from the private firm. I understand that I could have left the pick up area and driven round but likely would have lost my space (it was very busy).

    My question is: Do I have to legally pay the charge for this or if I just ignore the company all together what is the likely outcome?


    1. Hi there

      I wouldn’t suggest you ignore the PCN as doing so could result in it being taken to court, which you certainly don’t want!

      In this case, I’d say you need to research the company that issued the PCN (ie make sure they’re associated with the airport), bite the bullet and pay the fine I’m afraid. They usually half the fine if paid within a certain time frame, so may not be £60 that you need to pay. Airports are getting hot on people parking for too long, so next time, use the short stay car park to avoid a potential fine caused by a delay

  14. Hi i just dropped my brothers family off to manchester airport t1 in the drop off section. My brother got dropped off the same place by a friend at the same time, he parked 1 bay away from mine. I wentbover to help with the 11 suitcases he had and put them on a trolly for him. Got back to my car and the attendant who saw me doing all this as she was standing infront of me the whole time, said i left the car unattended so ahe did a police call out now ill get a fine through the post. I contested and asked for her name she wouldnt give it so i took her picture. Please can you advise what I should so?

    1. Hi Waqar

      My suggestion would be to contact Manchester Airport and explain what happened – if they have this on CCTV – ie proof you were with the other party and helping them unload – you may be able to use that to contest a postal fine

  15. Hello. I just helped drop my sister and brother in law off at Gatwick – I drive their car home for them to save on parking. As I was getting myself ready to set off again I was having trouble getting the car started – I haven’t driven it before and it’s an odd set up. I had been there less than a minute and an attendant was waving at me and telling me to move in a pretty irate manner – there was no queue for people to park and plenty of space in front of me anyway. I wound the window down and told him to be patient as I was having trouble getting going. He then started writing in his pad and looked like he was writing down the registration number. I’m worried now that there will be a fine in the post – is there a limit on how long you can stop for?

    1. Hi Joe

      I suppose it depends on how long you were in the drop off lane for; they are there purely for a swift drop off to ease congestion at the terminal approaches.

      If you are worried about a fine, I would contact Gatwick directly and explain what happened, but be mindful that it is at Gatwick’s discretion.

  16. Hi. I stopped on double yellow lines on the perimeter road leafing to the various car parks at stansted airport today to drop my son off. Am i likely to incur a parking fine as a result?
    Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

    1. Hi Jackie

      It’s hard to say either way really; Double Yellows are there for a reason and if there are cameras in operation, then you may very well receive a fine.

      Fingers crossed for no fine though!

    2. I did the same last week and was literally stopped for 10 seconds as my wife jumped into the car and I have just been sent a fine. The fine includes a picture of my car on the road and double yellow lines next to it but whose to say that I had even stopped? From the picture it could literally have been take as I was driving down the road. Will I have to pay the fine?

  17. Hi, I did collect my brother in law fro Belfast international airport. I waited in the pick zone for about 40 minutes as the flight was delayed. According to their signs, if I stayed more than 10 min and less than one hour I should pay 5£ , which Iwas planning to do.But on exit the machine allowed me to pay only 1 £, then barrier opened and couldn’t put more coins in the machine as it won’t allow to do so.So I left the airport. Now should I expect a fine, and what can I do to avoid.

    1. Hi Ashraf

      I can’t comment on this as I don’t know how the system is operated other than the way in which you have described (which matches up to their official website). I did notice however there was some disruption to their car parks from June to August due to refurbishment which may have had an impact.

      If you’re worried about a fine, you could perhaps call them on 028 9448 4848 to discuss

  18. I was waiting for my gf to land at Birmingham, I waited outside of JLR car park (who I work for) I wasn’t on double yellow or red lines but still got a fine. Is this legal?? You can even see in the picture no double lines

    1. Hi Warren,

      I’m not too sure about this one; they do say stopping is prohibited anywhere along the Red Route, but you mention there were no red lines?

      My first suggestion would be to contact whoever issued the fine (assuming it was APCOA?) and speak with them. However, it does state on the Birmingham Car Parking page that “APCOA Parking UK Ltd may issue Parking Charge Notices for breaches of the restrictions, including but not limited to:

      Failing to park in a designated parking area
      Dropping off/picking up outside of a designated parking area
      Stopping on double red lines

      The charge payable for a Parking Charge Notice is £100 if paid within 28 days, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.”

  19. Hi, this morning I was collecting people from Heathrow airport T2
    When I dropped them off some ten days ago they suggested I pick them up where I left them (T2 Departures drop off) I thought to myself it would be a good time saver as it can take a while to get a ideal space for my large people carrier and it can take a while to get out of the multi story car park.
    I timed it just right, I just stopped to the side on T3 which is just a couple of mins away and as soon as I pulled over I had a call to say they are just about to leave the building.

    As I drove into T2 departures they waved to me and I pulled in to the layby and got out and the guys quickly dropped their rucksacks in the back, out from nowhere this guy appears wearing one of those yellow shiny jackets.
    He said out to me straight away did you not know you are not allowed to pick here and do you not see the signs? I replied no I had no idea and I did not see the signs (the signs are there if you look up high at the top of the tall posts) and asked how long how long has that been and since when, he replied always and you’ll be getting a forty pound fine in the post.
    Even my passengers commented on how patronising he was, if he hadn’t have come to me for a descussion I wouldn’t have been there for two minutes.
    I could understand it if it was a busy Monday morning and I was obstructing vehicles dropping off but this was 9am Sunday morning.

    Would you say I should be expecting a forty pound fine in the post ? Also if so am I liable to pay it and can I despite it in anyway ?

    1. Hi Ken,

      As per Heathrow’s website, they state;

      “All our forecourts are drop-off only – just follow the signs for departures and use the outside lane (except Terminal 5, where you can use either lane). Please use our convenient Short Stay car parks for picking up travellers (charges apply).”

      So I can’t state that you won’t get a fine and that you shouldn’t dispute it if you do receive one if they have stated you cannot pick up from the drop off lay-bys.

      Fingers crossed one doesn’t drop through your letter box, though!


  20. Hello
    I dropped my girlfriend and her family off at Manchester airport terminal 2 at the weekend. My girlfriend and her mother then parked their car in a pre-booked long term space whilst I helped her sister and father in with the suitcases. When returning to the car a lady then explained to me I would be receiving a £80 fine and said there are signs everywhere, which none of us saw on the way in.. I would estimate I stayed around 5 – 10 minutes at a maximum. Where do you think I stand on this? Should I pay the fine?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Stuart,

      You don’t state where it is that you parked and unloaded the car. They do have a dedicated space at the front of the terminal for drop offs, and their website says “Pull up directly outside departures where you can touch down just long enough to unload luggage at no charge.” – So maybe 10 minutes is too long in their eyes?

      Most fines are halved if you pay them early but we’d never advise not to pay a fine as this could result in further escalation and more hassle for you!

      Hope that helps


  21. Hi, I have just dropped my grandparents off at Bristol Airport.. Our first time with an airport.. There were numerous cars dropping off outside so we did the same.. Literally 60 seconds.. A man drove past shouting I would receive 3 points and a fine due to not using a car park? Is this right?

    1. Hi Meesh,

      They do state they have a car park specifically for dropping off passengers that you should use – at £1 for up to 10 minutes. We haven’t heard of people getting points for this, but a fine is likely if ANPR is in operation. You are within your right to dispute it if others were doing the same and there is evidence of this.

      Hope that helps

  22. I picked up my sister in Gatwick North Terminal this morning.
    I had no idea where i was going and wanted to head to the drop off area but instead went to the short stay car park (too late to reverse!) where i had to get a ticket. I drove around the car park ground floor in a panic and my sister got into the car there. I then went to the exit, I asked a steward where i pay for the ticket and he told me at the exit barrier. Sure enough, there was a pin code pad and card slot for me to pay for my ticket. However as i was at the barrier, it opened without me even putting the ticket in the machine. I am confused?? will i get a fine as i haven’t payed the parking even though it let me out? (surely has number plate recognition and decided to let me out?)

    1. Hi Sophie

      It’s hard to say really – they do offer a pick up location within the Orange Short Stay car park, but they don’t state if it’s free, unlike the bays outside the terminal that you were aiming for! I would suggest contacting the airport directly to ask them about a potential fine – their car parks are monitored by both ANPR and CCTV so it shouldn’t be too difficult to look into if need be!

      Good luck,

  23. Hi, I dropped some family off at Manchester T1, at the departures but pulled up slightly over the yellow do not stop lines? Will I receive a fine? And if so how much are they?? Thanks

    1. Hi Antony

      We wouldn’t know in this instance – if you pulled up in an approved drop off area then it shouldn’t be a problem. If it wasn’t a drop off area, it may be an issue. If you are concerned, maybe contact the airport directly. Fines will vary in cost depending on the company operating / issuing the fine.



    1. Hi there,

      £400 sounds pretty excessive for a fine! I would call them on +44 (0)20 7646 0088/0000 to ask them about this and whether or not you have been implicated as it isn’t clear on their website


  25. Good morning, I am PCO driver and I dropped off my customer this morning in gatwick airport north terminal. There are bays on the right and left hand side of the terminal approach. There was a small qeue of cars. Just before arriving at the bays, the guy in front of me stopped in the middle of the terminal approach to drop off. My customer took the opportunity to do the same thing even though I was telling her not to do so. She stepped out of the car without shutting the door properly and trying opening the boot. I knew i will get a fine so I did not step out of the car, but she did not managed to open the trunk and started banging on the trunk causing damage to my car. I could not drive to the bays as the door was not closed properly and so I was forced to step out of my car in the middle of the approach so ai can give her the bag. As soon as I stepped out of my car the ticketing officers came accross started taking pictures of my cars reg. I dropped of loads of ppl in gatwick but this is the first time something like this happened. Is there a telephone number so I can call gatwick to discuss this? Is gatwick airport also private land? Which authority issues the fines at gatwick?

    Thanks in advance

  26. Hi there,

    A few weeks ago I was picking. Up family from Heathrow airport, terminal 3. Didn’t read the signs properly and accidentally pick up in the drop off zone. A woman approached us and said we would be recievejnf a fine in the mail, we asked if we could have t now but she said it would be mailed out to us. We’ve moved house since then and haven’t received a fine or forward mail of it but we are worried about the fine increasing ect as we both need to drive for our jobs. Is there a contact number or email that we can find out if we have an outstanding fine?

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