Nashville airport’s 333 percent fee hike is unfair to off-site parking lots

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Parking
An excellent piece from the Tennessean calling out Nashville Airport Authority’s Rob Wigington on his faulty logic on the unfair fee hike imposed on off-site parking businesses.
 
Written by
Gail Kerr
The Tennessean
 

Nashville International Airport head Rob Wigington defends an outrageous jump in the fees charged off-airport self-parking businesses for access to drop off and pick up passengers as “their fair share.”

Exactly how much is fair?

Airport authority officials use revenue, including fees paid by those businesses and hotel shuttles, to pay for physical improvements to infrastructure. Fair enough.

But the airport on Friday bumped the fee charged each time an off-site parking company enters the airport from $1.50 to $6.50 — a whopping 333 percent increase. It left the hotel shuttle fees at 25 cents. That’s not fair.

“We’re not being unfair, and we’re not trying to put them out of business,” Wigington said.

That’s not what it smells like. Obviously, the airport wants as much revenue as possible from its own parking lots. Anything it can do to discourage people from parking off site helps meet that goal. Small parking businesses drain millions in potential parking revenue from the airport every year.

Many people like the off-site parking businesses because they are convenient. Your luggage is loaded for you into a van or limo, and a courteous driver takes you to the airport and drops you off curbside. When you come home, you’re met at the airport doors and taken back to your car.

The airport has plenty of parking, thanks to expansion in recent years, but the lots are sprawling. The farther away you park, the cheaper it is. There are shuttles, but you handle your own luggage. Airport parking costs between $9 and $19 a day.

Off-airport lots charge $8 to $11 a day plus taxes. The increase means those charges will probably go up.

Ron Thrasher, general manager of Fly Away parking on Murfreesboro Pike, said his phone has rung off the hook since The Tennessean did a front-page story about the jacked-up fees.

“I have gotten so many phone calls from our regular customers,” Thrasher said. “They are all extremely upset about it.”

He said airport officials defend the fee as a way to recoup maintenance costs for wear and tear on roads at the airport.

“One of my customers called me and said that’s crazy, because we are keeping cars off there,” Thrasher said. “We’re sending one van filled with people instead of six cars. I think that’s a good point.”

The increase, he said, could cost jobs.

“I’ve been here nine years. I’ve got 50-something people that work for me. They are like family. I don’t want these people to be unemployed.”

When the off-airport lot owners and operators tried to negotiate, using the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce as a go-between, Wigington wouldn’t even meet with them. That is not negotiating in good faith.

The Nashville airport is a well-run, secure, clean and efficient operation. Fliers get a clear sense of place — from restaurants to music to prerecorded greetings from country stars, you know you’re in Nashville. Fee increases are expected over time. But 333 percent? The airport authority, which is autonomous, made a bad call on this one.

Bad. And definitely unfair.

Gail Kerr’s column runs on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. She can be reached at 615-259-8085 or gkerr@tennessean.com.

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Comments
  1. […] squeeze on the travel parking industry, citing a few examples across the country in addition to the numerous instances I have covered in this blog. This week, we’re going to examine the motivations […]

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