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Before you book Gatwick meet and greet read this

Are you heading abroad for the half term holiday? If so, have you booked your parking yet?

If you’re flying from Gatwick and about to book meet and greet, take a read of the following before you part with your cash:

Gatwick Airport operates an Approved Operator scheme for meet and greet parking companies. In order to become a member of the scheme, a company has to have ParkMark awarded car parks and be Trading Standards Buy With Confidence accredited.

While these are not easy to obtain, it may surprise you to know that there are only 12 meet and greet companies that have met Gatwick’s requirements for membership!

When the Approved Operator Scheme was introduced in 2013, an estimated 150 companies were offering meet and greet parking at Gatwick.

Although there is no way to determine how many companies still operate at Gatwick, it’s safe to say that the only way you can ensure the safety of your car when using valet parking, is to book with an Approved Operator – don’t worry, there’s a list of approved parking companies at the end of this article.

Book with an unapproved operator and your car could end up being parked in a trading estate, by the side of the road, in a muddy field or, as in the case of one lady, abandoned in a Gatwick short-stay car park, racking up a bill of £400!

If you’re car isn’t parked in a secure car park, it could end up stolen or vandalised, as in the case of several holidaymakers recently where damage totaling thousands of pounds was caused.

Here’s a few of the recent horror stories:

Abandoned in the short-stay car park
Liz Hosford booked eight days’ parking with Air Fly Limited at a cost of just £44, but things didn’t get off to a good start. Firstly, after a long wait dropping her car off – she phoned Air Fly 53 times before someone finally turned up. She wasn’t the only one kept waiting, five other families were waiting, one of whom had been waiting eight hours!

On her arrival back at Gatwick, no one was there to meet her with her car. After attempting to contact Air Fly (47 calls were made), her car was spotted in the short-stay car park where it had been abandoned for her entire holiday, racking up a £400 parking bill.

Unfortunately, Air Fly had the car keys and Miss Hosford was forced to take a taxi home, at a cost of £65.

After tracking down Air Fly’s offices – “a pokey little office down an alleyway with just one of their drivers there, who claimed he knew nothing” – four crates containing bags of car keys were searched before finally finding the correct key.

Fortunately for Miss Hosford, Gatwick Airport waived the £400 parking charge, otherwise, a cheap £44 parking booking could have cost more than £500.

Scratched cars

Best Meet and Greet
On Christmas Day, Laura Kanareck left her brand new BMW for two weeks with Best Meet and Greet, the Sevenoaks Chronicle reports. On her arrival back at Gatwick, her car was returned with around 30 huge key marks on the side – an estimated £4,000 worth of damage.

A spokesman from Best Meet and Greet Gatwick told the Chronicle: “Best Meet and Greet have a contractual agreement with First Choice Parking Ltd for the collection, storage and delivery of all vehicles that are booked via our website.”

It is understood that the police is investigating. For more reviews on Best Meet and Greet check here: https://www.facebook.com/bestmeetandgreetgatwick/reviews/

Gatwick Sky Parking
Many customers of Gatwick Sky Parking have also reported that their cars were returned covered in mud and with deep scratches; scratches that will cost thousands of pounds to repair.

On its website, Gatwick Sky Parking offers to “take the hassle out of airport parking by meeting you at the airport and parking your car safely and securely for you” in its “secure compound”

However, Ian Mullen would disagree. He said work to repair the scratches would cost £7,000 and that both back doors and the driver’s seat was “caked in mud”. He told the BBC: “I’m almost certain it was not parked in a secure environment like they say it was with CCTV cameras etc., and I also have some deep suspicions it had been used by individuals.”

When Mr Mullen contacted me, he told me “42 cars were vandalised in a field behind a derelict pub mine being one of them. They told me they had obtained a crime Id. This was a lie. When I called Sussex police they had no reported crime.”

Another customer, Mirriam Nichols, said she faced a repair bill of more than £2,000 with four scratches on the bonnet.

Yet another customer who contacted me, Shirley, said: “My vehicle is scratched all over and needs the passenger door repainted because of masses of scratches, along with the bonnet, also door window needs replacing because it us scratched to bits. The cost of repairs in excess of £600.”

Shirley, who booked her parking through the Mobit website, said of the site: “It looks excellent and the description of service provided looked perfectly OK. I have used meet and greet many times and have never had this problem.”

When the BBC contacted Gatwick Airport about the issues with Gatwick Sky Parking, it said: “it had no relationship with Gatwick Sky Parking, the company was not part of its Approved Operator Scheme and it was therefore unable to comment further.” However, Gatwick does sell these companies pre-pay proximity cards, which allow them easy access to the short-stay car parks.

Safe, secure meet and greet

It has become apparent, when discussing the issues about dodgy meet and greet parking companies, that very few people know about the Gatwick Approved Operator Scheme, and while details are available on Gatwick’s website, they’re not easy to find – the link is here: http://www.gatwickairport.com/parking/other-parking-options/Operator-Scheme/

There are reliable meet and greet parking companies at Gatwick, and incidents like those above should not deter you from using Approved-Operator meet and greet.

The companies below are part of the Approved Operator Scheme:

If you’ve had problems with any of the non-approved meet and greet parking companies at Gatwick, you should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service (CACS) on 0345 040506, or via their website https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/ which also contains template letters if you wish to complain in writing to a trader.

Feel free to leave details in the comments below too.