DennisBeaverSeptember 15, 2012 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

Unless we are familiar with parking rates at major airports, airport parking is often one of the last things most of us think of when planning a vacation. Then, our anticipation of a nice trip takes a dive south when we arrive at LAX, SFO, Oakland International or some other big city airport and discover rates which can exceed $38 a day at some locations

But if you know where to look online, it is possible to pay much less for safe, secure parking, shuttled to and then picked up from your terminal when returning, at no extra charge. But sometimes a lower price can mean real disappointment, as Central California readers Anne and her husband discovered after a recent trip to Vancouver, Canada.

A parking adventure

After booking hotel parking near LAX for $11 a day on, the couple’s airport parking adventure began July 25.

“We walked to the shuttle area and waited, and waited, and waited — not the 15 to 20 minutes stated on the website, but almost 40 minutes later — before our shuttle arrived, and it is uncomfortably warm inside. The driver had not turned on the air conditioning and had to be repeatedly asked by passengers to do so. We were unsure of what language he spoke well, but it wasn’t English. That was just a hint of what was to come upon our return,” Anne told us.

On July 29, they returned to LAX at about 9 p.m., walked to the hotel shuttle island and with one other couple, waited for their shuttle. “Suddenly, after more than half an hour and seeing shuttles from every other LAX hotel and major parking facilities, two from our hotel appear! This was so strange. Where had they been?”

‘Oh, did you hurt your wittle hand?’

“The first shuttle stopped and then, without opening the doors, amazingly began to pull away! We all began pounding on the windows. Finally, the driver stopped and opened the door. The normal procedure is for passengers to place large suitcases near the steps and the driver picks them up. That’s what my husband did. But this driver wasn’t content with almost leaving everyone waiting — she clearly had no intention of doing her job.

“In an arrogant, sarcastic tone of voice, she yelled at him, ‘Did you hurt your wittle hand beating on the window?’

“We four were the only passengers and experienced the same, completely unacceptable treatment by not just the driver, but the company she works for. The other two passengers stated that they had waited over 40 minutes and counted almost 10 shuttles from Wally Park, and Park ‘N Fly , during that time.

“I am never staying at this hotel again. Those wonderful online reviews for parking? Nonsense! Something is wrong,” the elderly, tired and visibly upset gentleman stated.

“Then, when we arrived at the hotel, my husband calmly asked the driver her name. It was very noisy, yet she replied in a whisper. He had her repeat it twice and finally spell it. We have made a formal complaint with the hotel, and were very surprised at what we learned,” Anne told You and the Law.

We spoke with the hotel’s general manager and were even more surprised by what we discovered about airport shuttle service at the major LAX hotels.

Guilt by association

We ran the facts of this story by Tony Paalz, CEO of Park ‘N Fly, and Bryan Gusdorf, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Wally Park. Both used the same term to describe what results from this completely unacceptable customer service: guilt by association.

“When you have a bad experience with a shuttle service, it’s normal to think the hotel is responsible,” Paalz stated. “But at many airports — including LAX — most of the hotels do not operate their own shuttles.”

So who does? A company called Destination Shuttle Services currently provides airport service for 13 major LAX hotels, including our reader’s.

Wally Park’s Gusdorf is highly critical of claimed hotel shuttle times:

“Airport hotels are in the hotel business, not the shuttle business, but that’s all we do, and why we can guarantee 5 minutes or less. Hotels which contract out their shuttle services lack dedicated vehicles. So a shuttle which flashes XYZ Hotel at 4 p.m. might show ABC hotel at 4:30.

“This partially explains very long waiting times both at the hotel and being picked up when you return, often tired, when every minute counts. You want to get to your car quickly and just drive home, not waste time waiting for the shuttle.”

Like anything else, you get what you pay for — sometimes, a lot more, as will become clear next week when we continue our look at airport parking.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.