London Luton has become the first major UK airport to sell tickets that give passengers a “priority lane” through security.
Passengers pay £3 for a ticket to enter a channel that fast tracks them to the front of the queue, which can cut their waiting time by up to half an hour.The airport follows Bristol, Liverpool and Leeds, which charge up to £5 for the ticket. BAA meanwhile is considering introducing the scheme across its UK airports, which include Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
At Luton, the additional fee enables passengers to enter a separate line, which takes those willing to pay to the front of the security queue. But at Liverpool, the £3 leads passengers to a dedicated scanner for their use only.
Simon Evans of the Air Transport Users Council said the system discouraged airport authorities to reduce queuing times once they started profiting from delays. He told The Times: “There is a danger this could result in a worse service for passengers in the ordinary queue, who will be pushed back by each person who pays the fee. That would be unacceptable.”
The Civil Aviation Authority has recently come down hard on BAA for breaching queuing times by issuing fines.
Liverpool introduced a £2 fee for fast tracking in 2007 and has since raised it to £3. But there, the £3 leads passengers to a dedicated scanner for their use only. Leeds-Bradford also charges £3 and Bristol £5.
A spokesman for Luton Airport insisted that other passengers were not put at a disadvantage by the new arrangements.
He said: “Some people choose to pay extra for valet parking or access to the executive lounge and we think they would appreciate the choice to bypass the queues at security. People may want to treat themselves.”