Abertis, the Spanish infrastructure group currently focused on non-core asset sales, has found another way to raise some money. However, passengers at Belfast International Airport fancying a quick cigarette to calm pre-flight nerves may not be entirely happy with this particular revenue generator. The Abertis-owned airport recently started charging £1 per smoke.
Those hankering after a sneaky puff have, since the beginning of May, been forced to search their pockets for a £1 coin which must then be inserted into a slot machine in order to open the slide doors to a designated smoking area, located near the airport’s duty free concourse.
In a statement, the airport said it was responding to demand and that “providing a specialist facility for a relatively small number of users is expensive to build and to maintain so it is not unreasonable that a small charge should be levied for the use of the facility”.
Not everyone appears impressed by this argument. Quoted in the Belfast Telegraph, Northern Irish politician Dawn Purvis – a former smoker – described the charge as “ridiculous” and accused the airport of “taking advantage of people’s anxiety before they fly”.
If the smoking charge is an additional source of anxiety, it’s not the only one – £1 charges are also being levied for the dropping off of passengers and for the use of plastic security bags (not charges unique to Belfast International Airport, we should point out). However, contrary to rumours, breathing the air inside the terminal building remains free of charge.