Big airports are adding a service for time-pressed travelers: valet parking.
More than a half dozen, including Miami, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Reagan Washington National and Los Angeles, have added valet service in the last year.
Cleveland, Atlanta and others are considering it. Some airports offer extras with it: car wash and detailing, filling up the gas tank and inflating tires.
With a record number of passengers, airports are adding the service to gain revenue, differentiate themselves from competitors and provide travelers with a time-saving convenience.
"It's good for consumers," says Mark Wildman, marketing executive of The Parking Spot, which recently introduced its first on-airport valet service at Dallas/Fort Worth. "People are inevitably running late when catching their flight." Airports benefit because they can pack cars into smaller space as attendants arrange them without concerns about blocking someone in, Wildman says.
Charges for the service and parking typically run $20 to $30 a day. Some airports, including John Wayne in Orange County, Calif., Cincinnati, Oakland and Columbus, Ohio, offer curbside service. For $23 a day, John Wayne passengers drop off and pick up their car at a designated spot on the departure level of the main terminal. At most airports, travelers have to park at a valet lot and walk or take a shuttle ride to the terminal.
At the end of a trip, many airports allow passengers to phone ahead to have the car ready. At Fort Lauderdale, attendants who have been provided returning flight information will place the car in "the get-ready lanes" for faster exit. The airport, which already sells car washes, is considering adding oil changes and dry-cleaning service.
Valet parking is ideal for women traveling alone and for the elderly since they're met by attendants on arrival and can be watched into the terminal, says Greg Meyer, a spokesman at Fort Lauderdale airport.
Miami's valet attendants use wireless handheld devices that issue parking stubs and take digital photos of any existing damage to the car. Its valet lot also has a kiosk where customers can have the bar code on the parking stub scanned to calculate payment.
Steve Nesterak, an executive of a real estate firm in Denver, says he uses valet parking at Denver International to deal with the shortage of spaces during ski season. But, he says, the valet lot is also frequently full, forcing him to search for a regular spot. Airports with valet
Some airports that have on-airport valet parking:
Chicago O'Hare Los Angeles
Columbus, Ohio Nashville
Dallas/Fort Worth Newark
Minneapolis-St. Paul Orange County, Calif.
Fort Lauderdale Pittsburgh
Las Vegas St. Louis
Washington, D.C. (Dulles, Reagan)
Source: USA TODAY research
Free bottled water and newspapers, $9 coupons, carwashes, oil changes and valet parking are just some of the inducements that D/FW and nearby parking-lot owners are wielding this weekend.
Vehicles will be tagged and parked inside the GTAA's Terminal 1 garage, a secure indoor facility that protects cars from snow, ice and rain.
The push to deliver current parking information to travelers comes as airports are increasingly looking to differentiate themselves from competitors: other airports and off-airport parking lots.
Up against heightened security and airline cutbacks, airports try hard to make fliers feel welcome and comfortable.