Should airport hotel shuttles charge passengers?
This is a trend I don't want to get on board with.
As a professional travel addict I frequently stay in airport hotels. The best of these are right next to the terminal, so you can walk straight in for your flight. More often, though, they're located far away enough that there's a regular shuttle bus that takes you to and from the airport. In busy locations like LAX, some shuttles service multiple hotels at once.
That doesn't mean hotels using a shuttle aren't well-regarded. Rydges at Sydney Airport topped TripAdvisor ratings last year.
This week I was booked at the Novotel at Stansted Airport in the north-east of London for an overnight stay before a flight to Edinburgh. I'm a Gold Le Club member, so I knew there'd be a free welcome drink in it for me. I also knew that there was a regular shuttle bus connecting to the hotel. What was shocking was discovering that you had to pay three pounds (each way) to get on the bus.
I've not encountered that before. Sure, when I've stayed in LA airport hotels I've tipped the shuttle driver, because it's the US and you need to tip people just so they're breaking even (don't get me started). However, to have an actual paid ticket feels like an imposition, especially in the UK.
It's not like there are any realistic alternatives. The roads around Stansted, like many airports, are decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly and lack footpaths entirely in places. Even though the hotel is just 1.6km away from the terminal, I wouldn't want to risk being flattened by a coach as I walked along the hard shoulder.
The other possibility is a taxi, but whether anyone would accept the fare for such a short-haul trip is open to question, especially on the trip between the airport (which I'd reached by train) and the hotel. Why take me when you could choose a pricier fare going further afield?
I figure that if I've paid for the hotel room, the airport shuttle should come as part of the service. Judging from the complaints I heard on board, I'm not the only one to feel this way. You could only pay in cash, so I couldn't even earn points by using my credit card.
The lesson? Next time I need to stay at Stansted, I might splurge and pick the Radisson Blu, which actually is adjacent to the terminal. No bus required! If I use my back-up hotel rewards scheme, I should come out ahead, even without the free drink.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.
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Pictures: Angus Kidman