Fear not, holiday travelers.
There's plenty of parking for everyone, say officials from some of the largest airport parking lots in the Metroplex.
As the year's busiest travel period kicks into full swing Thursday, officials at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and Dallas Love Field expect that their on-airport parking lots will be slightly more than half-full this Christmas.
Even the Chicago-based Parking Spot, the chief parking rival to D/FW Airport with almost 4,000 spaces near the airport, says it's unlikely that any of its three lots around the two airports will have to turn away customers.
Love Field attributes its parking surplus to the addition of 4,000 parking spaces to its garage two years ago. It now has room for 7,000 cars.
"Since we built the new garage, we have plenty of parking," said Allan Kennedy, general manager for Parking Company of America, the contractor that manages Love Field's parking. "We were in bad shape out here for so many years in the late '90s. We don't experience those problems any more with the new garage."
There is a similar story about eight miles west at D/FW Airport.
"We've had in the past situations where we've been 100 percent occupied," said Ken Buchanan, executive vice president for revenue management at D/FW.
That hasn't been the case since July, when D/FW opened an 8,100-space garage at Terminal D and boosted its capacity on airport land to 39,988 parking spaces.
Of that, about two-thirds are expected to be full during the peak time, said Dean Ahmad, manager of revenue management at D/FW.
But that doesn't mean there still won't be battles for parking spaces.
The airport's 4,800-space remote lots, which are just outside the north and south entrances and go for $6 per day, are expected to fill up by the middle of this afternoon, Ahmad said.
The remote lots are the cheapest spaces in the 18,000-acre airport.
The express lots are the next closest in, and more expensive at $9 and $10. They're expected to be near capacity, Ahmad said.
Starting today and running through Christmas Day, the airport will hand out one- and two-day parking passes to cars pulling at the remote lots. The parking passes are redeemable for free parking at the most expensive and closest lots, those next to the terminals.
The idea for the promotion, which was also offered during Thanksgiving, is to encourage travelers to park in one of the 25,800 terminal spaces, Buchanan said.
But John Van Horn advises just the opposite.
"I've often thought that off-airport parking is better than on because they pick you up in a van and drop you off at the gate, rather than you having to schlep your bags with you %by parking in the center," said Van Horn, editor and publisher of Parking Today, a Los Angeles-based monthly trade magazine.
The terminal parking is most popular with business travelers because they care more for the convenience and are more likely to pay the higher rate, Buchanan said.
Terminal parking is more readily available during the holidays because business travelers aren't flying as much as the more price-sensitive leisure travelers.
If the outer lots fill up today, don't expect them to open up any time soon. Christmas travelers park for an average of five to seven days at D/FW, Ahmad said.
It's a similar scene at other airports across the country, Van Horn said. People are gone longer during Christmas than at Thanksgiving.
David Wethe, (817) 685-3803
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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.
Both the 18,000 parking spaces in the airport's garages and economy lot, as well as 18,000 spaces in private lots surrounding the airport, are often full, especially on holiday weekends.
At a cost of $1,800 per vehicle, the message would mirror the airport's television, radio and print ads that urge Southwest to move its flights to D/FW Airport.
DFW's nationally recognized Holiday Helpers program debuted in International Terminal D, heralding the first major holiday season celebrated in the Airport's 2-mil. sq.-foot facility.