When off airport car parks emerged their main attraction was the price compared to the airport. Even now there are passengers who are still unaware of the existence of these car parks, and pay over the odds for their airport parking although these people are now probably in a minority.
In the early years, some of these car parks were little more than a patch of rough land surrounded by a creaky wire fence and a fairly unsubstantial entrance and run by owners of the land who had just taken advantage of being lucky enough to own land close to an airport.
Over the years this type of operation has been weeded out and the land taken over by professional companies who have spent considerable sums on fencing, CCTV, purpose built reception areas, modern shuttle buses that meet local authority licensing and technology both to operate the car park and to promote the business online.
These car parks have built up a loyal customer base and despite being further from the airport are considered more personal and most importantly less likely for your car to be damaged by third parties.
Taking convenience factor first, clearly it takes longer to transfer to the terminal and off airport car parks will never be able to match this and for those who want fast access parking; on airport or a Meet and Greet cannot be beaten.
Having said this, the time difference is not that great because you have to take into account the time taken to get to the airport in the first place. Also the good thing about using an off airport facility is the driver will drop you right outside the terminal saving you having to drive round a busy airport.
When you arrive at an off airport car park you will park near reception, book in and take your baggage to a shuttle located bus close by whereas on the airport you have to drive round and round looking to find a space and hope that it is fairly close to one of the bus stops dotted around the car park.
Lastly but most importantly, is the potential for damage to your car which concerns a lot of people because the airport is unfortunately, something of a lottery and dependent wholly on the ability of those parking around you while you are away.
Cars are coming and going all the time and accidents are more prone to happen because some of the drivers are stressed, tired or simply running late. Also you have the problem of passengers dragging baggage through narrow gaps taking short cuts to reach the bus stops not to mention children doing the same with even less care.
Whilst there is CCTV, its getting someone willing to trawl through hours of video in the hope that you can identify the culprit and this is simply not going to happen whilst because the off airport the car is parked for you and it is their responsibility.
As a result the off airport car parks feel more able to attract customers not just on price but on the service that they offer and because they have been taking a larger slice of the off season market, the airports have responded with more aggressive pricing.
So the next time you book Manchester airport parking you will probably notice the prices are much closer than before so it is just down to personal preference.
By David Cook