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Airport Parking Websites Necessary Service or Scam?

By Ari Marcellino

Weve all experienced what its like to try to park at an airport. Sometimes you get lucky and there are available spots on the first floor that you try. But other times you can drive for 20 minutes or more just looking for any spot big enough to wedge your vehicle into.
In acknowledging this predicament, many companies have started up online parking websites that enable you to pay for and reserve a parking spot online. The question is, Do we really need this service, or should we just be able to find a spot?
Looking around, I find that the opinions on this are quite mixed. In examining this service, I want to give an equal description of both sides of the coin.
I have spoken with a few people who feel that the service is unnecessary, and I believe the summary of this opinion was best worded when it was called a solution in search of a problem. For many people, that is just what these websites seem to be. For people looking to fly on slow weekdays or people catching a red-eye, a parking spot can be easy to find. The same holds true for people traveling from smaller airports.
I have heard many people say that airport parking websites are promising convenience when, in truth, finding a spot on your own is not overly difficult. I have also heard it said that the need to visit a website and reserve a space in advance is simply added hassle for travelers, and that it is simply easier to drive onto the lot and park your vehicle. The naysayers seem to have a rather cut-and-dried approach to the entire issue, but I find that most people who think the sites offer benefit are rather adamant in their opinions, as well.
Many people do believe that airport parking websites provide a beneficial service to travelers. For off-airport operators and airports that see a great deal of traffic, these people feel that the websites help to make travel easier. They also believe that offering a guaranteed parking spot and a clear definition of where a traveler will be parking makes the travel experience run more smoothly, rather than adding an unnecessary hassle.
In major cities with large airports, such as LA, Chicago and NYC, people often spend a great deal of time searching for parking or even driving from one lot to the next comparing parking prices. Using a parking website offers a greatly reduced search time and even allows parking owners to offer discounts, something that customers will never receive when paying at the booth. Many people feel that the service also helps to contribute to the green movement by sending travelers directly to their assigned spots, rather than forcing them to drive around searching. This of course reduces emissions, and while it may seem minute for a single vehicle, the cumulative savings is significant when many people are utilizing the service.
Having examined both sides of this argument carefully, I tend to walk away with a bit of a mixed opinion. If forced to choose sides, I am certainly in favor of airport parking websites, but I am able to see both sides of the coin.
In smaller airports and in places where parking is simply never an issue, it may truly be faster and better to simply seek out a spot on your own. Even in this event, however, with parking websites offering discounts on spots it is something worth considering. When it comes to busy cities and major airports, however, I am certainly in favor of the online sites. Having tried on many occasions to find a spot at JFK or LAX before missing a flight, I can appreciate what these websites have to offer.
For most of us, a trip to the airport is already rushed and hectic, and being able to avoid the stress of parking is far more of a convenience than a hassle. I dont see these websites as a solution in search of a problem, but I also think they are not needed at every airport. Ultimately, they are needed for the places where parking is an issue and simply welcomed elsewhere by travelers who would rather pay in advance than risk battling other travelers for the last great parking spot.
Ari Marcellino is with the Airport Parking Connection (www.AirportParkingConnection.com). He can be reached at ari@airportparkingconnection.com.

Article Abstract from April, 2010




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