Airport parking

How to cut costs on airport parking

valet parking iconHow often have you spent hours scouring websites for savings on airfares and hotel rooms only to get dinged with sky-high costs for parking at the airport.

If you know where to look, you can often find deep discounts, free parking and, in some cities, even get paid for parking your car at or near the airport.

Near the airport

Private parking lots with airport shuttle services ring just about every airport but can differ in price, security, convenience and added perks provided.

To get an overview of deals and discounts on lots near your airport, check comparison websites such or

Discount coupons for airport parking lots also can be found online, in newspapers and travel magazines, on Groupon-type sites and through membership clubs such as AAA, AARP and Costco.

Many lots will offer discounts for reserving, and in some cases, paying for your parking spot ahead of time. But even if you’re only shopping by cost, be sure the lot you choose is well-lit, secure and offers 24-hour on-call shuttle service to and from the airport because you never know when a scheduled afternoon flight arrival will end up delayed until 2 a.m.

Some off-airport parking lots compete by offering extra services, such as complimentary jump starts and tire change or inflation. Others, such as The Parking Spot, with lots near more than 20 major airports, offer customers free newspapers, bottled water and valet service.

Many off-airport lots also have frequent parker programs that offer everything from preferential spots and fast check-out to free days after a set number of paid ones.

Beyond traditional off-airport lots, many hotels near airports offer stay-n-park deals which can be both economical and convenient for early morning departures. Other options include driveway-sharing apps, such as JustPark and ParkingPanda, and peer-to-peer car-sharing services such as FlightCar and RelayRides, which let you park your car for free near an airport in exchange for making your car available for rent to another driver while you’re out of town. If your car is rented out, these companies will also give you a cut of the fee.

parking lot


At the airport

Revenue from parking fees plays an important part in airport operating budgets.

Airports reported making approximately $3.1 billion, or 41.2 percent of their non-aeronautical revenue, from parking and ground transportation fees, according to the most recent concessions survey conducted by Airports Council International–North America.

So while the price to park closest to the airline terminal is generally higher than at off-airport lots, many airports offer discount coupons, frequent parker programs and other perks in an effort to stay competitive.

Weekly parking rates in the garage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, for example, are currently $130. But a quick search of the airport’s website brings up a coupon for a full week of parking, including taxes and fees, for just $99.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airpor
t, which earned $78 million from parking fees in 2013, offers early bag check-in for those parking in its East Economy parking facilities and discounts for prepaid parking reservations.

At Nashville International Airport, where parking fees represented 34 percent of the airport’s fiscal 2013 operating revenues, the frequent parker program offers fast access in an out of a reserved section and free parking days for earned points.

Sometimes what you drive or where you’re going can make a difference.


witch on motorcycle - Halloween

Long Beach Airport, for example, offers free parking for electric vehicles and throws in a free car wash for travelers who pay the $24 daily fee for valet parking.

Bicycles park for free at Portland International Airport, while in Milwaukee (home of Harley-Davidson), motorcycles park for free at General Mitchell International Airport.

Parking is always free at some smaller airports such as Chicago Rockford International Airport and Peoria International Airport and a promotion currently underway at Pittsburgh International Airport offers up to seven days of free parking for travelers flying non-stop on JetBlue or Southwest Airlines to Ft. Lauderdale between Nov. 1, 2014 and Jan. 31, 2015.

My story about saving money on airport parking first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior

A visit with Ray the Parking Robot at Dusseldorf Airport

Ray alone _Harriet Baskas

Travelers rushing to fly out at Germany’s Düsseldorf Airport can now pay a robotic system named Ray to park and retrieve their cars.

After a driver leaves a car in a designated spot, Ray uses sensors to photograph and measure the car, then picks it up and gently transports it to one of 249 close-in parking spots.

RAY automatic parking

On a nearby touch-screen, passengers confirm to Ray that no one is still in the car and share details of their return flight.


Ray then monitors flight schedules to calculate when a car should be retrieved for its owner and spends any off-time rearranging the cars to maximize use of available parking spaces. If a traveler’s itinerary changes, Ray can be contacted via an app.

“Some people think it’s too space age, but we think busy business travelers, especially, are ready for Ray,” said Thomas Nagel, a software engineer with Bavarian-based serva transport systems which is testing the system at Dusseldorf Airport with air transport IT company SITA.

“German people are very proud of their cars, but there’s insurance in case something goes wrong and we haven’t ruined a car yet,” he said.

The new parking robots (there are three “Rays” at work) are entertaining and convenient.

But they are not cheap.

The airport purchased the system for more than a million dollars. (A good introductory price, Nagel said), but PremiumPlus robot parking with Ray adds about $6 per day to the self-parking option in the close-in garage, which already tops $33 a day.


Flight schedules reviving; relief efforts rewarded

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey tweeted this photo of Teterboro Airport and said while water is receding, “in this photo, you can see debris, and even fish, on the taxiway.”

In the New York area, JFK, Newark-Liberty and LaGuardia airports are all expected to be open on Thursday morning, although on reduced schedules, and passengers “displaced” by Sandy throughout the country – and the world – are slowly making their way to their destinations – or giving up altogether and making plans for another time. Buses in New York seem be running, Northeast train service is still suspended but, according to this Washington Post article, subway service may resume in New York City sometime on Thursday.

Meanwhile, United Airlines and American are offering bonus miles to those who donate to programs raising money to help those in need after the storm.

United Airlines Foundation is matching up to $50,000 of donations by United customers to the American Red Cross, Americares and Feeding America. The airline is also offering MileagePlus bonus award miles for cash donations of at least $50 to these organizations. MileagePlus members who give a minimum of $50 will receive 250 bonus miles; those who contribute $100 or more will receive 500 bonus miles. Find details about United’s Superstorm Sandy Relief efforts here. The airline has put aside 5 million bonus miles for this program.

American Airlines is also offering bonus miles for donations to storm relief efforts.
Through Nov. 30, 2012, AAdvantage members will earn 250 AAdvantage miles for a minimum donation of $50, or 500 AAdvantage miles for a donation of $100 or more to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Find more information here.

Boston Logan International Airport is offering a parking fee rebate for customers delayed returning to Boston Logan as a result of Hurricane Sandy. The rebates will be made for the period of time that exceeds the customer’s original ticketed date of return.

And, whenever there’s a long delay at an airport, it’s always really helpful to have complimentary access to a wireless Internet signal so you can take care of business. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, a major airport that still charges for Wi-Fi access, is now moving closer to offering free Wi-Fi access.  The day rate to access the Internet at ATL will drop to $4.95 on November 1, 2013 and be eliminated entirely by the fall of 2013.


Sea-Tac Airport offers discount parking for “greeters”

Here’s a great idea!

From now through December 31, 2010, Seattle’s Sea-Tac International Airport is offering a discount short term parking coupon for greeters.   Better yet: the coupon includes a 2-for-1 offer for coffee.

Any other airports doing something like this?  Let me know!

Find the Sea-Tac discount parking coupon here.

SEA-TAC airport discount parking coupon

Ripple effect of the volcano: airport parking bills

Having paid a small fortune recently to park in an airport garage for a few days, I was wondering about the bills some of those volcano-delayed folks would be facing when they finally got home and went to retrieve their cars.

So I was pleased to read Roger Yu’s USATODAY Airport Check-in column last night and learn that some U.S. airports are offering to refund the additional parking charges for passengers whose flights home got waylaid by the volcano.

So far, says Yu, JFK, Newark Liberty, and airports in Las Vegas and Denver have offered to refund the extra parking fees.  I bet other airports will do the same.  Good for those that do.

Let’s hope some British airports offer a parking refund as well. According to an article in The Independent, “[a]s many as 50,000 British travellers remain stranded abroad this weekend because of the volcanic ash crisis, some being told they face delays of up to a month before they can return home.”