SHORT term parking costs at airports in Essex are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Southend Airport is the third cheapest for parking, according to a new report.

Parking is free for up to five minutes - putting it just behind Belfast City which is free for ten minutes and Leeds Bradford, where you can park at no charge for an hour.

At the other end of the spectrum is Stansted, which is the second most expensive at £5.50 for 30 minutes. Even a quick drop off outside the airport will cost you £3.50.

The most expensive airport in the UK is Luton, where it costs £8 for 30 minutes.

The analysis by the RAC found that two-third of airports have raised their prices.

Earlier this year, Southend Airport cut the free waiting from 15 minutes to five, but it still remains as one of the cheapest in the country.

The largest percentage increase has been inflicted on drivers using Southampton airport.

Its fee doubled from £1 to £2, although the length of stay has been extended from 10 minutes to a quarter of an hour and the actual rate is still far lower than at many others.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “With thousands of motorists driving to airports to pick up and drop off friends and family members, many will unfortunately find themselves shocked by some of the extortionate parking tariffs operated by some airports. Our advice is to check parking fees and time limits well before setting out to avoid a nasty shock.”

A spokesman from Southend Airport said: “London Southend Airport is one of the only London airports to still provide a totally free drop off/pick up option in its short stay car park, which is just a few paces from the terminal.

“Customer experience is paramount to us.

“Our aim is that during busy periods all airport and rail passengers can benefit from the use of the Short Stay car park to quickly and conveniently drop off passengers as close to the terminal and rail station as possible.”