Airports Lose Out As Travelers Cut Back On Parking

fromWPLN

As airline passengers pinch their travel pennies, more are hitching rides or taking public transport to catch their flight. That's good news for those looking for a spot but not so good for airports. At many facilities parking fees are the largest revenue source.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

As airline passengers pinch their travel pennies, more are hitching rides or taking public transport to catch their flights. That's hitting airports right where it hurts.

From member station WPLN in Nashville, Blake Farmer reports.

BLAKE FARMER: More air travelers are acting like Mandy Walden(ph).

Ms. MANDY WALDEN: Will you call me when you're out front please?

FARMER: Walden's boyfriend dropped her off last week for her flight out of the Nashville Airport. Now she's waiting, somewhat impatiently, for her ride home.

Ms. WALDEN: I wish I had my own car parked somewhere in the parking lot because I wouldn't be standing here in these high heels.

FARMER: But she says the slight delay is worth the $50 she'll save not parking her car. At the baggage carousel, Stephanie Cook(ph) says flying with a family of four is expensive as it is.

Ms STEPHANIE COOK: We have to pay for the luggage also, so anywhere we can cut back, we try to do that.

FARMER: But where travelers are choosing to cut back is causing trouble for mid-size airports, from Raleigh-Durham to Jacksonville, Florida. Parking is their largest source of revenue.

Mr. RAUL REGALADO (CEO, Nashville International Airport): There seems to be a paradigm shift taking place.

FARMER: Raul Regalado is CEO of Nashville International Airport, where parking has dropped 16 percent. To be more competitive, the airport is now matching coupons to off-site parking lots. If that doesn't fill the spaces, Regalado says the airport could start charging airlines more, which would ultimately be passed on.

Mr. REGALADO: If this is a long-term situation, it could have a negative impact on the service provided to the community.

FARMER: Empty parking lots, Regalado says, could lead to higher ticket prices and fewer flights.

For NPR News, I'm Blake Farmer in Nashville.

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