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Gatwick meet and greet parking, how safe is your car?

After your house your car is probably the most expensive item you own, so you wouldn’t consider handing your car keys over to just anyone and expect them to treat it with respect. So why would you consider using a non-approved meet and greet parking company when travelling from Gatwick?

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of Gatwick’s Approved Operator Scheme for meet and greet parking companies. Take Phil Cockrell for example, who left his £34,000 Mercedes with RS09, an unapproved Gatwick meet and greet parking company.

According to the Daily Mail, Mr Cockrell left his car with RS09, believing it was parked in RS09’s ‘secure compound’, however, when he returned from holiday it had an extra 800 miles on the clock. Following Police checks it became apparent that his car had been spotted by cameras on 20 separate occasions in four different counties on seven different days.

When Mr Cockrell contacted RS09, the company refused to admit liability and tried to claim there was a problem with his car as their CCTV showed the vehicle hadn’t moved.

This story just highlights the problems that can arise from using a non-Gatwick Approved meet and greet parking company, and has generated many comments on the online article.

A quick survey of the relevant comments on the Daily Mail’s website revealed that of those commenting, 49 people believe that the company’s CCTV footage should able to identify which driver took Mr Cockrell’s car – Uncle Bill from Germany said in his comment:

“OK- if RS09 does have CCTV, does that not show the employee who drove off in the car? The cameras only seem to work when it suits them.”

Almost a third of those commenting believes the company should be prosecuted, sued or pay compensation for failure to uphold its contract – that of securely parking the car.

The company’s lack of proper procedures that allowed all employees access to car keys and led to a member of staff taking the car on a joyride was highlighted by 37 of the commentators.

13 people cited problems that RS09 has had in the past – Kev from Hampshire said:

“Taken from a BBC investigation into airport valet parking companies: ‘We then sent a car into a company called RS09 UK Services LTD, also operating out of Gatwick Airport. They promised a “safe and secure storage area” and stress that “you can be sure your pride and joy is in safe hands”. Our car was immediately driven to a place with a fence, a gate, and a CCTV camera, but 24 hours later, our car was driven by what we can only assume is an RS09 employee to a residential address in Crawley. It then stayed there for eleven hours overnight, before being taken back to the car park.'”

Suggestions to prevent problems in the future included recording the mileage when handing over a car, fitting a tracking device or dash camera, or using another type of parking where keys are retained by the owner, or using another mode of transport to get to the airport.

31 people recommended boycotting RS09 or getting rid of the company altogether, although concerns were raised about the ease with which the company could close and reopen under a different name.

The police also came under criticism with 43 people highlighting lack of action in investigating who took the vehicle, and not being willing or able to prosecute the company.

24 people reported similar experiences with meet and greet parking (not all of those taking place at Gatwick).

Surprisingly, just one person suggested reporting RS09 to Trading Standards; only one suggested that all meet and greet parking companies should be licensed, while another thought meet and greet should be regulated.

What does come to light when reading the comments is the number of people who are confused about what meet and greet parking actually is. Some seem to think meet and greet companies are licensed, while one person thought that RS09 was the only official meet and greet parking option available at Gatwick.

Meet and greet parking is largely an unregulated industry, although Gatwick Airport has attempted to change this by introducing their Approved Operator Scheme – currently there are eight approved operators.

When the Approved Operator scheme was introduced, Gatwick estimated that there were in the region of 150 meet and greet parking companies operating at the airport.

Although Gatwick has yet to ban any meet and greet parking companies from operating at the airport, it’s important for the travelling public to be aware of the risks involved in not booking an Approved Operator for their meet and greet parking.

While Gatwick is the only airport to have introduced an approved operator scheme, if you’re parking at another airport, always book with a company that has the Safer Parking ParkMark Award and look for the Trading Standards Buy With Confidence Award which means the company has been vetted, approved and monitored by Trading Standards.