Airport parking warning: How being too precise can cost you £££s

Airport parking can be cheap if booked ahead. But you risk big charges if you overstay due to a delayed return flight – though there’s a trick to get round this.

Update 4 July 2017: Although this was first published in October 2016, the principles in this blog still apply.

The problem, as I found last week, comes when you’re too precise when picking your car drop-off and pick-up times. This is because you could be charged the expensive ‘pay-on-the-day’ day-rate if you drop it off just a minute too early or collect it a minute too late.

Most airport parking rates are done per 24-hour slot, so make the most of it. If you’ve wiggle room, use it – particularly at the end of your trip, in case your return flight is late. See our Cheap Airport Parking guide for help getting the best deals.

Say you plan to get there at 7am, why not 6am, to be safe?

And when choosing your pick-up time on your return, you may as well use the remainder of the 24-hour period in case you’re delayed.

Say your flight is due to land at 10pm, don’t automatically arrange pick-up at 10.30pm. If you originally dropped your car off at 6.30am on your departure day, you’ll probably be able to pick it up at 6.30am the day after your scheduled arrival back home, without paying any extra. So you could extend the parking till then.

If your departure and arrival are at similar times of day you may not have this luxury, but hopefully this tip can help.

I nearly got stung

I had booked parking to go away for a long weekend last week but the flight was brought forward by an hour and a half.

The flight was due to depart at 7.30am but Easyjet moved it to 6am. As I’d booked my parking to begin at 6am I had to change it so I’d be allowed to enter at 4.30am.

I rang the firm I booked with and the operator of the car park, and to cut a long story short, I was told neither could move the booking, but everyone gets an hour’s grace anyway so turning up at 5am would be fine.

Yet if I turned up at 4.59am I’d be charged about £60 for a day’s parking, more than double what I’d paid to book three days’ parking.

I actually arrived at about 4.45am and sweet-talked them into letting me in without extra charge.

I got lucky but the moral of the story is not to make the same mistake I did by being too precise.