Airport parking tickets

Many airports in the UK enforce no stopping zones on airport roads.  Airports often have byelaws that allow fines to be issued, but in many airports these are not used, instead employing private parking firms to issue private parking tickets. This relies on the motorist not understanding the difference (which typically they won’t), and just paying up. Airports do this since this business model can generate revenue – either by parking firms paying the airport for a licence to operate, or by the airport receiving a percentage of the ticket revwnue. On the other hand, a fine would not be collected by the airport itself, and so they would not make any money from it.

If the ticket is issued as a Penalty Charge Notice or Fixed Penalty Notice, the parking company may be trying to enforce it under the byelaws. See our separate article on byelaws.

The parking companies operate using both parking attendants and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology. If a car is found to have stopped, then a Parking Charge Notice will be issued, demanding up to £100. It is a very lucrative business for private parking companies, such as Vehicle Control Services (VCS) who operate at a number of airports, with them standing to make hundreds of thousands of pounds from tickets every year.

As readers of this site will know, Parking Charge Notices are not fines, as issued by the council or the police. They are more akin to an invoice, since the parking companies rely on contract law to enforce parking restrictions. More on that here. From the motorists point of view, private parking fines are much easier to fight. If you have received one, you should:

  1. Learn what a private parking ticket is
  2. Understand how they are issued and enforced
  3. Learn the appeal process
  4. Find out how to make sure you win your appeal

Appealing an airport parking ticket

When appealing an airport parking ticket there are some important points to consider, and possibly use as part of your appeal.

Firstly, if the airport does have byelaws governing the land (as most do), then this has a signicant impact on how it can be enforced. The Protection of Freedoms Act (POFA) introduced the concept of keeper liability. The key point is that POFA only applies on relevant land; and that excludes land where there is statutory control (e.g. byelaws). As a consequence, the parking firm cannot enforce keeper liability – meaning that if they have not identified the driver, liabilty will not automatically revert to the registered keeper. If the parking ticket does mention POFA, AND the airport is covered by byelaws, then you should complain.

No Stopping Zones are very much a grey area (of the already grey area of private parking enforcement). This is since parking is not the same as stopping. As a result the following issues arise:

  • Private parking firms have access to the DVLA database on the basis of parking enforcement. They are not enforcing parking in this case, so arguably they are using your data in ways they should not be (complain).
  • Private parking firms are required to adhere to their industry Code of Practice, and that does not cover No Stopping Zones, so arguable they are acting outside of it. Again, another reason to complain.
  • If they are following the Code of Practice, then that requires them to allow a grace period, making no stopping rules unenforceable. If you have stopped for say, 2 minutes, and they have ticketed you without warning, they are not abiding by their code of practice.
  • Given private parking tickets are issued based on a contract communicated by signage, how can the contract be adequately read and understood without stopping to read it? Certainly a driver cannot be expected to read it when they whizz by at 30mph! If you have not been able to read the sign, then arguably you are not bound by it, and therefore you cannot be liable to pay the charge.
  • The Protection of Freedoms Act specifically discusses parking, and not stopping. Therefore it is arguably not covered anyway (in addition to the relevant land argument above).