Airport Car Park Safety and Security Tips

Written by Kate Goldstone

In August this year the Birmingham Mail newspaper ran a story about luxury cars being stolen from a Birmingham airport car park. Worst of all, the car park owners’ insurance policy didn’t cover the theft, and the firm had to recompense punters from its own coffers for offering a less-than-secure valet parking service.

Of course the majority of people who use airport car parking find it perfectly safe. Most of us don’t have any problems. Having said that, with the best will in the world, stuff sometimes happens. So how do you reduce the risk of things going wrong while your car is parked at the airport?

Gatwick Airport Car Park

Gatwick Airport Car Park – from

Luckily BBC1’s Watchdog programme, with support from the British Parking Association, offers some common sense advice about how to make sure your airport car park ‘meet and greet’ services are as safe and secure as possible. It’s good advice, considering the number of British meet and greet airport parking services is increasing fast.

How to ensure meet and greet airport parking is secure

No wonder meet and greet is such a popular way of parking at airports. You avoid all the hassle of finding your own parking space. Instead, an employee meets you at the airport, in a designated place, and does everything for you. And they’re there, with your car ready, when you get home. It’s a brilliant idea, a hugely convenient service that can save you a lot of time and hassle.

Your car is supposed to be kept secure while you’re away. That’s the idea. But it doesn’t mean the meet and greet firm always keeps their promises. There have been a few horror stories in the press, where former meet and greet airport car park staff have been spotted giving lifts to fellow staff, eating in the cars and even damaging them.

Meet and Greet Parking

Meet and Greet Parking – from

Obviously when you leave your car at an airport car park, you do so at your own risk. But there are a few common sense checks you can carry out to cut the likelihood of something going wrong.

  1. Check the member of staff who greets you is wearing an ID badge and/or wearing a uniform. If not, hang onto your car keys and call the car park operators to check you’re not being ripped off by a stranger.
  2. Does the badge they’re wearing match the car park you’re in and the airport you’re flying from? If not, ask for extra reassurance or more evidence that they are who they say they are.
  3. Are you arranging your meet and greet car parking at an official kiosk in the airport? If there isn’t a premises and the person is just hanging around the airport or car park, don’t let them have your keys.
  4. What does your ticket look like? Check it isn’t just an expired one that the scammer has picked up off the floor.
  5. Do you know where your car is going to be kept while you’re away? It will probably be off-site, away from the airport, but if the representative can’t describe the location and point out the direction, be suspicious. Can they show you a photo or a map? If not, why not?
  6. Does the car parking operator own the premises where your car will be stored? Or are they renting it? Ownership can mean they really do have a vested interest in delivering a genuinely good, honest service, but bear in mind some will rent car parking space for perfectly legitimate reasons.
  7. Can you see a special Park Mark? The Park Mark is only awarded to airport carparks that have had an annual inspection by the police.
  8. Can the staff member confirm there are CCTV cameras in the car park, and tell you where they’re sited? CCTV is always obvious, rarely hidden, so anyone who has been to the car park will know where the cameras are.
  9. Don’t leave your car without getting a receipt. Check the receipt includes the company’s address details, and that the company name and address match.

There’s more you can ask. What about finding out whether or not the gates are locked at all times, or do they habitually leave them open? Are they insured for car theft? Do they ever subcontract car parking to another company? As a general rule the more questions you ask, the less likely you are to fall foul of a scammer. Most people get flustered when they’re forced to lie for any length of time, and it’s often obvious they’re fibbing.

The BBC’s Your Money Their Tricks series on airport parking

The BBC’s series Your Money Their Tricks has also looked at airport parking services. The programme acknowledged that most car park meet and greet services were perfectly legitimate as well as extremely handy. But they decided to find out how many meet and greet providers were actually tricking punters into thinking their cars were safe when they weren’t secure at all. They booked six cars in with six different companies, over three major UK airports, and each car was fitted with a special  tracking device.

You can follow the link above for the full story, but suffice it to say the results were variable. Some meet and greet airport car park services operated exactly as they should, others failed in various ways, some more spectacularly than others.

YouTube Preview Image

Obviously we do our level best to check that every service we offer through our site is the best it can be. But the BBC’s research highlights how it’s always wise to check, do your homework and be adequately observant when you get there.

What about other places phony parking attendants and scammers operate?

If you need to park in an unfamiliar place, it makes sense to beware of phony attendants, uniformed or not. One common scam is to hand you a ticket that, unless you check, you don’t realise is simply an expired ticket thrown away by someone else.

If you come across something that looks like a stand-by car park, perhaps someone’s driveway or a commercial parking lot, check very carefully before parking there. You might find your car gets towed away because despite what the ‘attendant’ claimed, you don’t actually have any right to park there. Worse still, your car could end up stolen.

You’re being extremely careful… but all the same, you somehow manage to hit another car on the way in or out of the car park. If the other driver either tries to get you to shell out cash, refuse. If the incident was ‘real’, not a scam, motor insurance should cover it.

Official Car Park Attendant

Official Car Park Attendant – from

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