While there are lots of great things about flying from Stansted Airport – the award-winning terminal, big choice of shopping and dining, and lots of cheery low-cost flights – the drop-off charge is not one of them. In fact, it’s the most expensive minimum airport drop-off charge in the country, at £7.00. By contrast, the cheapest minimum charge is £1.00 (Belfast International), whereas other airports don’t charge a fee at all (Belfast City, Cardiff, London City).
Drop-off charges have been gradually introduced at the UK’s airports since 2007 but recent price hikes have brought the issue back into focus. Stansted first implemented charges in 2012. In 2020, owner MAG (Manchester Airports Group) announced an increase of the minimum fee from £4.00 for 20 minutes to £7.00 for 15 minutes. This contrasts with other London airports such as Luton, Heathrow and Gatwick at £5.00, while there is no drop-off charge at all at London City.
The airports that have implemented drop-off charges tend to justify them as a deterrence: to ease congestion, limit environmental impact and encourage more passengers to use public transport. Admittedly, at Stansted, the public transport options are pretty good – strikes permitting! – with a dedicated train and bus station within easy walking access of the check-in desks. The main rail and bus/coach options are outlined in a bit more detail below.
In the meantime, if dropping off or picking up is definitely what you need to do, let’s look at your options. Including any exemptions or discounts that might be in place, for local residents, for example.
Express Set Down
This is your minimum £7.00 option. You do get to park as close to the terminal entrance as possible, however. The Express Set Down is in the orange and green zones of the Short Stay car parks.
Express Set Down parking charges:
- up to 15 minutes £7.00
- over 15 minutes £25.00
Don’t be tempted to leave the car for a quick dash into the terminal building to say your goodbyes, though; vehicles must not be left unattended at any time. And if you are doing more than one drop-off in a day, note that you will be charged £20.00 if you return to the Express Set Down area within half an hour of leaving it. All payments must be made by card or exact change upon exit.
Blue Badge spaces
Look for the dedicated Blue Badge parking pays at the front of the Express Set Down area, in Zone C. These bays are the nearest to the terminal building and the special assistance desk. The fee is £7.00 for 15 minutes but if you require longer, use the intercom button at the exit barrier when you leave to contact the car park team.
Local resident discount
If you live within a 10-mile radius of Stansted Airport, you can apply for Express Set Down Local Resident Discount Scheme, which reduces the charge as follows:
- Residents living within 5 miles of the airport pay £0.50 for up to 10 minutes.
- Residents living within 10 miles of the airport pay £1.00 for up to 10 minutes.
Normal charges apply if you stay longer than 10 minutes, as does the £20.00 fee if you return within half an hour.
Short Stay car park
This is your next drop-off option, which is the better choice if you plan to stay for more than 15 minutes, as you will pay £10.00 rather than £25.00, for stays of up to 30 minutes.
Short Stay parking charges:
- up to 30 minutes £10.00
- up to 1 hour £18.00
- 1 – 2 hours £22.00
- 2 – 4 hours £35.00
- up to 24 hours £62.00
Free drop off
Here’s the good news! You can avoid the Express Set Down and Short Stay parking charges by using the Mid Stay car park, where you can park for free for up to one hour. All you need to do is allow a little extra time, as those who are flying will need to take a shuttle bus transfer to the terminal. These depart every 10 minutes and take around seven minutes.
Mid Stay parking charges:
- up to 1 hour FREE
- 1 – 2 hours £5.00
- each additional 24 hours or part thereafter £30.00
Any returns within one hour will be charged £30.00.
Here’s how to reach the Mid Stay car park:
If you are coming up the M11 from London and the south, exit the motorway at Junction 8a. After a mile or so, take the Stansted Airport exit and branch left. At the Bassingbourn roundabout, take the 3rd exit and follow the signs to the Mid Stay Car Park. At the next roundabout, take the first exit and you’ll see the Mid Stay car park right in front of you.
If you are coming down the M11 from Cambridge and the north, exit the motorway at Junction 8. At the Priory Wood roundabout, take the 3rd exit and merge onto the A120. Then the branch left. At the Bassingbourn roundabout, take the 3rd exit and follow the signs to the Mid Stay Car Park. At the next roundabout, take the first exit and you’ll see the Mid Stay car park right in front of you.
You’ve got two simple choices for picking up at Stansted. Either use the free hour in the Mid Stay car park or pay the charges in the Short Stay car park, as above. The Express Set Down is not recommended for pick-ups, as you just don’t know exactly when your passengers will emerge from passport control and baggage reclaim, so you could end up paying a lot more than the Short Stay parking fees.
Parking at Stansted
There is a wide variety of airport parking options at Stansted and if you book in advance, you can be sure of the best prices. So driving your own vehicle to the airport is well worth considering. It will save your friends and family a journey – and fuel – too!
You can avoid the traffic close to the terminal altogether by booking the APH Car Park, which is located just over a mile away, near to the Holiday Inn. It’s easy to access and bus transfers to the terminal entrance take just five minutes.
Alternatively, the Long Stay car park also offers great value, with the transfer time of around 10 minutes. Or, to be within walking distance, the Short Stay car parks are a maximum seven-minute walk.
For the utmost in convenience, I Love Meet and Greet is a premium valet service, where you can leave your car just a couple of minutes’ walk from the check-in desks. Simply let your parking valet take care of your vehicle once you’ve unloaded your luggage.
Getting to Stansted Airport – by road
You can get to Stansted Airport by road quite easily from any direction. From London or the orbital M25, it’s straight up the M11. Then heading north from Stansted, the M11 skirts Cambridge to join the A1(M) to Peterborough, Doncaster and beyond.
To the east, the A120 takes you to Braintree, Colchester and Harwich; to the west, it takes you to the A10 and Stevenage, which is around 27 miles. Luton is 52 miles and Milton Keynes is 72 miles.
The airport is well-signposted from all routes.
Getting to Stansted Airport – by bus or coach
Alternatively, leave the car at home and hop on a bus or coach. There are regular local bus services from Harlow and Bishop’s Stortford, as well as the First Essex X10 and X30 from Basildon, Chelmsford, Southend and other destinations in Essex.
From London, the Airport Bus Express A21 travels between Liverpool Street and Stansted via Stratford, and the A20 between Victoria Coach Station and Stansted via Baker Street/Gloucester Place.
The National Express A6 travels between Portman Square and Stansted via Marble Arch, Paddington, Baker Street, St John’s Wood, Finchley Road and Golders Green; the A7 between Victoria Coach Station and Stansted goes via Victoria Train Station, Waterloo, Southwark, Whitechapel, Mile End and Bow; and the A8 takes you from Kings Cross/St Pancras to Stansted via Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green and South Hackney.
Getting to Stansted Airport – by train
On the rails, the Stansted Express whisks you from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport in 50 minutes. Or join at Tottenham Hale, which is on the London Underground Victoria Line – the journey from here is 47 minutes. The Stansted Express carriages are specially designed for airport journeys with plenty of room for luggage.
Other services to Stansted from Cambridge, Norwich and Birmingham New Street are operated by Greater Anglia and Cross Country.
Stansted Airport railway station is right underneath the terminal building, to which it is linked by lifts, escalators and ramps.
So, a drop-off by family or friends is just one way to start your travels at Stansted Airport. And it’s always worth knowing what other options are out there, to save them the journey. Just remember that if parking your own vehicle for the duration of your trip, the best prices are when you book in advance.