/ Motoring, Travel & Leisure

Airport parking – are you driven by cost or convenience?

Cars in an airport car park

Would you pay £38 to save 10 minutes of your time? This is the type of question many holidaymakers face when choosing where to park their car at the airport.

What’s the most important consideration for you when choosing airport parking? For me it was always price. That was until I spent half an hour in the cold waiting for a shuttle bus to take me back to my car after a nine-hour flight.

Now, I’m not for one minute suggesting that price is always an indicator of quality of service, but my chilly experience did make me change the way I choose my car park. I now pay much closer attention to the other car park features, such as frequency of transfers and journey times.

And it seems that I’m not the only one, as some of you highlighted the importance of price vs convenience the last time we asked you about airport car parking.

Spoilt by convenience

I live a 40-minute drive from Gatwick Airport – too far away for an affordable taxi ride, but too close to warrant taking the train into London before travelling back out again. I also like the convenience of driving to the airport and the benefit of having the car ready for my return, especially when arriving on a late night flight when public transport can be less reliable.

However, I always find myself wrestling with the decision of where to park. Typically, but not always, you’ll pay a higher price to park at an on-site car park (which are usually closest to the airport terminal). Off-site car parks are typically cheaper (but can be quite far away).

When did car parking get so complicated?

Am I the only one who thinks that choosing an airport car park used to be much simpler?  Yes, the mix of long-stay, mid-stay, short-stay, on and off-site car parks has been around for a while. But at the last count I found over ten different types of parking available, including the options of indoor, outdoor, valet (with or without a car wash!), premium and business. And that’s before you even consider ‘meet and greet’ services or airport hotel park-and-fly packages.

In our recent research into airport parking, I even found packages that include the use of airport Fast Track security lanes, porter services, plus £25 in food and shopping vouchers!

And the answer is?

So would I spend £38 to save 10 minutes of my time? The answer is probably no. £38 is the price difference I found in Which? Travel’s latest airport car parking research. It’s the extra money you would pay for choosing Gatwick’s valet parking (a five-minute walk to the terminal) over their long-term car park (five-minute bus transfers that depart every 10 minutes).

I’ve used, and have been impressed, with both services. I loved the ease of the valet service, but have also found the cheaper long stay car park convenient, with regular and quick transfers. For me, I think the price difference would need to be a maximum of £15 for me to even consider using the valet again. I have, however, made the choice to pay extra to park on-site in the first place, in this case an extra £4 to do so. With the benefit of more regular and faster transfers, it’s a price I feel is worth paying.

Are you prepared to pay more to be closer to the terminal or do you value money savings over time savings?

Sophie Gilbert says:
10 April 2013

Whenever I have needed airport parking I have also needed an overnight stay at an airport hotel, so I have used the hotel car park, always included in the price so far. As long as I can lug my own suitcase over a certain distance, including from the hotel to the shuttle stop (though some hotels operate a shuttle service from their front doors), price will be the deciding factor, not so much convenience.

As I recall, Kate, you once posted a convo re blankets being provided for free on the plane to cover your legs. I accept from experience that it is sometimes problematic, but I would recommend packing clothes to wrap up in for when you arrive back in Blighty. :0) Even a woolly hat and gloves can make a big difference.

I tend to use an overnight Hotel + Parking deal, takes the stress out of the 2/3 hour travel time I have here in the NW, but always choose hotels where I can walk to the terminal even if its 5/10 mins walk.
If I use a car park up here I’m happy to spend the extra for an on-site one again within walking distance; allowing for 30 mins or so transfer time just adds too much to the time I have to allow “just in case”.
With 2 of us taxis even for the 125 mile trip to Manchester Airport isnt much more than public transport and a godsend when arriving back tired in the dark.

I’ve tried the cheapest and nearest car parks to the airport ( mainly LGW/LHR ) with price being pretty important, one I’ve used twice has a postcode not recognized by most satnavs and is in the middle of nowhere, albeit the transfers are pretty good to LGW. I now use what is described as “on airport” but it’s still a good 5 minutes by transfer bus to the terminal with regular transfers and worth the extra cost especially in bad weather. As for LHR I always use one on the A4 which is great for terminals 1,2 & 3 and provides efficient 10 minute transfers and service. Some companies have had extremely bad press as seen on programs like Watchdog, especially meet and greet where the car has been used for private purposes and in extreme cases driven to excess. I’ve stopped using the LGW park that used my car whilst I was away, the evidence, fast food wrappers, were left in the car, their excuse? Needed to take car to over-spill park. Top tips, take a note of the mileage when you park, research the company’s feedback before booking and check the transfer times if you don’t want to be kept hanging around!

I regularly park in the long stay car park at Stanstead and that is very convenient and if booked early enough is also very reasonable. It is a very busy car park, even in the middle of the night, so you never feel vulnerable or at risk. Now I used an off airport car park at Luton a few years ago. It was in the middle of nowhere, with very few people around at 4am and the bus transfer took forever. I crossed that off my list for future use and will use personal recommendations and reviews in future.

john whatling says:
20 April 2013

I’ve just dropped off a relative at Luton airport.The drop off charch (15 mins max) has just doubled to £2.This on top of a non refundable £2 for a baggage trolley.If you use these services both ways you are talking £8.Are the airports trying to dissuade people from travelling abroad?

Airlines – even sometimes the full service ones – are just trying to iintroduce a new income stream. They are just putting the extra charge on and seeing if Joe travelling Public will accept it, or if there is an uproar. If there is a huge uproar then they might dump the extra charge – or if they have invested in equipment, then it stays.

Case in point – LBA my closest airport – charges £2 to drop off anyone in front of the terminal. They do not have a rail link there. Thus I am not using that airport, as I am not prepared to have anyone pay £2 to drop me off. I am just 1 passenger that now makes the journey to Manchester or LHR by rail that LBA airlines have lost.

There was a huge fuss when this started, but due to the investment it has stayed. As long as it stays I will not be using LBA.

Armands Gelins says:
3 June 2013

Stansted airport.
I might be proven wrong here but I found it a bit outrageous. I entered their “orange car park” at 05:03 AM and paid at the site machine (was printed on the ticket) at 06:00. The fee I had to surrender was £10. On the entrance it said £5.50 for the first hour, yet, their website quotes completely different timings and prices accordingly. Shouldn’t there be some kind of consistency?

We’re 12 miles from Manchester airport. Return taxi inc tip is £60 (and in our case, very reliable – the same person each time).

In Dec 2012, I tried a cheap but ‘official’ airport car park with transfer bus. Hell. Nightmare to find (one-way road works). On return, 40-minute wait instead of 15 max as promised.

Late last year I tried a meet-and-greet over 10-day period. I was a bit worried when no-one turned up for 10 minutes, but otherwise it went fine.

In late spring 2013 I tried a different meet-and-greet mentioned favourably on another consumer website. 9-day period. This was cheaper than booking it direct myself, even if factoring in a cash-back site refund of about £7-10. This was fantastic!
They were there already when we arrived (you remind them you’re on the way 20 mins before arrival). And they were there when we got back. (They keep your flight number and you phone just as you get your suitcases.)
Having said that, we flew out and arrived back at off-peak times (1300hrs Friday and 2230 hrs Sunday) and they ask for a 15-min ‘window’ at busy times.
I found online reviews very helpful, if read carefully and with a hint of suspicion. 80% is NOT a good score – you need 95%+ !

I would like to add another element to the topic. That is “Safety” most of the time we compromise safety of our vehicles for the cost or the convenience. We try to give more priority for either cost or the convenience. What i found out is if you book well in advance there is a high chance of getting the car parking specially the airport parking for a cheaper rate.

Although the safety of the vehicles matters, i believed parking will always at our own risk. as customers we have to bare any losses. I follow these things when i choose a parking so i like to share it with you all. when you choose off site airport parking, look for the reviews they publish. if you can find independent sites then its better cause who would publish bad reviews on their own website.

I would always choose a comparative site rather than a one car park. There are many advantages of choosing a comparative site than an individual car park. you can check rates of different car parks at the same time. Also these comparative sites publish all the reviews of the car parks. They do not have to highlight one particular car park as they act as an agent which allows advertising on their site. so choose a car park which has positive and negative reviews and more towards positive. Nobody is perfect! so there is room for mistakes.