20 Minutes Of Airport Parking Costs HOW MUCH?!?!

Filed Under: Travel

Yesterday I returned from my long weekend trip to Madrid, and Ford was kind enough to pick me up from LAX. He was even waiting in the arrivals hall. Initially I attributed that to him being sweet, but it may also have to do with the fact that I was in the customs hall for about 30 minutes without cell phone reception (more on that later, but I’m sure you can guess what it involves).

He was there when I exited customs & immigration, and said he had been waiting for about 15 minutes. Not too bad!

He had parked right across from the terminal, and upon exiting handed the ticket to the attendant operating the booth.

The cost for 20 minutes of parking?



At first we both laughed out loud, thinking that it was some error which could easily be fixed. Perhaps the decimal point was off on the screen, and the real cost was maybe $1.50, or hell, maybe even $15?

Nope. She insisted the cost was correct. Apparently he had been parked there since October 29. Which clearly wasn’t the case. Ford explained the situation to her, and she got on the phone for a few minutes. A few minutes later a “manager” appeared.

Usually it’s easy to have a reasoned discussion when a conflict arises. But there’s not much you can say here other than “um, no, I’ve only been here for 20 minutes.”

We asked to see the ticket itself again (usually they print the time you entered on it), but he refused to give it back unless we paid. When Ford explained he wasn’t paying and that it was an error, the guy asked for his driver’s license and took down his license plate, saying that if he refused to pay he could just report the debt to the county, and then he could take it up with them. He presented that option as if he were doing us a favor. Because nothing sounds more pleasant than trying to fight the county over $150 of parking fees.

The irony is that each toll booth has a big sign asking how customer service was, so it was very tempting to pick up the phone and call. 😉


Ford kept a hard stance and said “I’m not paying $150 and I’m not giving you my driver’s license, since I haven’t been parked here that long.”

Then it seems the problem became apparent. Ford had a trip last week whereby he parked at the airport for a few days, though he paid that. And it was a different parking lot altogether. But the date overlapped with the date he claimed the car was parked. Ford pulled up his credit card statement through his phone, and showed it had been paid for.


The guy still didn’t buy it. At this point he called over his supervisor (how many freaking levels of supervisors can there possibly be there for an airport parking toll booth???). Ford explained the situation to her — “I’ve been here for 20 minutes, and it seems they’re trying to charge me for the last time I parked, but I already paid that and just showed him the credit card statement indicating that.”

She looked at the guy and said “if he showed you the statement then what’s the problem?”

And with that, we were on our way. 20 minutes later. And I guess we actually saved money, since we weren’t charged at all (though that was probably simply a system limitation of them not being able to charge the correct amount).

Does anyone understand the technology behind these parking garages, and what was going on? The ticket was presumably printed correctly, but do cameras somehow track the license plates and charge based on that? If so, what’s the point of the tickets?

So strange!

  1. Sheesh, LA! Why would you pay over $100 to park at the airport? Take an Uber or God forbid, take public transportation.

  2. At my local airport in the UK (BHX), if you park in the car park immediately outside the terminal is as follows: 10 mins: £1
    20 mins: £2
    30 mins: £7
    EACH 15 minutes after that: £5. Needless to say, every so often a story surfaces of someone who thought it would be a handy place to park for their two-week holiday and end up with a bill running into the thousands of pounds. (Inevitably this is waived or reduced by the airport authority to avoid the bad press).

  3. Damn.That much 400Qar. Thats a lot.

    In Hamad Airport my friends keep there cars in Office places for week or sometimes months when they go for vacations.

  4. As a long time reader I find these posts both entertaining and frustrating; Entertaining that I got a 3 mins break from real life and frustrating that I got no real knowledge or value out of the post. I guess that’s how my wife feels about the Kardashians! Everyone’s got their addictions…..

  5. This is very strange and no they do not track your license plate number to charge you for parking. That would be a horrible way to do it. Did Ford maybe hand over an old parking ticket?

  6. The DC Airports (DCA/IAD) scan your plate when you enter… if you loose the ticket or if something goes wrong, they just look at the cameras for your entry point. Lost tickets happen all the time,

  7. Too bad I cannot avoid airports since I have to travel but I avoid anything else related to them. I never, ever park my car at an airport parking, I don’t buy anything on their stores, I go to TSA mute and leave it mute, etc… I take Uber in and out as fast as I can. Airports overall became a very unpleasant place for me with TSA rules, airlines personnel feeling entitled to make your life miserable and deciding if you can fly or not based on their feelings of being threatened, outrageous prices on anything you buy, etc…

  8. believe it or not, this used to be a travel blog with actual useful info before it was a reality show on the Logo network …

    Stopping following in 3, 2 …

  9. The dual ticket-license plate scan system is also in place in many parking garages in Sweden. They usually use the license plate scan as the primary system and the ticket as the backup. In other words, most of the time, the reader will scan the plate upon exit and process the parking without using the ticket. If the plate doesn’t scan there is a ticket reader where you will insert the ticket.

  10. It seems that Ford must’ve given them an old ticket. It’s strange though that they wouldn’t give the ticket back to you so you could inspect it.

  11. An absent-minded professor I once knew was late for his flight, so he pulled up to the passenger drop-off zone at the front of the terminal, took his bag, and left his car there. His logic was that the authorities would notice the car at some point and tow it, and he would rather deal with the hassle and expense of recovering the car later than with the hassle and expense of missing his flight and whatever meeting he was attending.

    I’m guessing his parking fees were far in excess of $150!

    (This was pre-9/11, of course.)

  12. I’m used to the plate scanners in Asia, I’ve just never heard of any US airports being that sophisticated. But, then, I can definitely see them trying implementing a plate reading system so badly that it confuses trips to the parking lot like that. Never knew that’s how IAD dealt with missing parking tickets. I always thought the plate readers were to keep uber out 😛

  13. Ben,

    You must park at Lot C at LAX, as well.
    I don’t know who runs the personnel division for the Parking at LAWA, but every transaction with the booth attendants is usually a Kafka nightmare.

  14. @Daniel

    If you live in a place like New York City, where you have to move your car a couple of times a week for street cleaning, then paying to park at the airport for 2 or 3 weeks is a no-brainer (although I usually use near-airport parking found via Way.com). Otherwise I have to find someone to take care of my car during that time. If I park at/near the airport, I save around $50 each way on transportation plus have more flexibility plus don’t have to worry about finding a babysitter.

  15. Now that you didn’t pay for that 20 mins, they may think you are still on the clock. Good luck for your next visit.

  16. They probably scanned the plate and accidentally associated the car with some other car with a close license plate. Just don’t sign the receipt and dispute the charge. If you do sign write “not valid” on the receipt.

  17. Computers can’t think. Well, that is understandable.

    Humans can’t think? Man, then why are they hired? Both the junior staff, and the first supervisor.

    They are hired to be humans, not robots.

    Thankfully, Ford stood his ground.

  18. $101.00 to park a for a couple days at the airport? Sheesh. Economy parking at MCI is $7/day, and the airport’s website has a coupon for one day off 2 days or more.

  19. There are definitely cheaper parking options at LAX (even provided by the airport–Parking Lot C w/ a shuttle). Where he parked though is literally across from where you exit the terminal. It’s extraordinarily convenient. On trips of a weekend or less I ALWAYS park there (I think $30/day or something like that), because you grab your bag, walk out the doors, cross the street and hop in your car. The only thing you have to wait for is the crosswalk light. That being said, I’ve always had super good luck with the Parking Spot on Century (NOT SEPULVEDA). I get a car was and valet parking. Their shuttles are pretty easy to grab, too.

  20. I have noticed that some parking lots will give you a receipt that looks like the same original parking ticket. Could Ford have given the receipt for the first time he parked?

  21. LAX definitely has license plate cameras. Whenever I pulled up to pay the attendant had to leave the booth to note down my plate or asked me to back up since the plate was outside of the camera view (it’s a Fiat 500).

  22. TL;DR Airport Parking systems are globally flawed. And when they lose money they try to make it back by overcharging others and calling it a system glitch.

    So this actually makes me laugh. I work as an Data Analyst for a professional services firm. One of our clients happens to be an airport in an Australian city.

    One of teams was working on reviewing the parking and other revenue for the airport and brought me a data set from the airports parking systems.

    The system is shot, beyond a doubt, theres a lot of problems. There were missing records, miscalculations, over and under charges, you name it, I saw it.

    What was best though is that when you math’d it out, there was millions and millions of dollars of lost revenue from the system being terrible. Which is then counterbalanced by overcharging in the system and people just sucking it up and paying it.

    Needless to say, airports globally pull this kind of rubbish all the time and hope they dont get caught. Which in Bens and Fords case, thank god they did!!

  23. Charge shows as pending. So from their systems perspective it hasn’t been paid yet since it hasn’t cleared. Don’t park at this company more than once over a few days or this could happen.

  24. I think American takes so long with baggage in customs at LAX because the no global entry lines are insane. I got through in 5 min (yeah, global entry) but my friend didn’t have it so it took her 45 min. Most of the time I saved was wasted waiting for my bags.. Which is doubly bad because there is no cell reception or wifi down their (or windows), it’s like a giant tomb. A great welcome to LA..

  25. @Daniel:

    “Why would you pay over $100 to park at the airport? Take an Uber or God forbid, take public transportation.”

    You’ve clearly never lived in LA. Public transit is a joke and, from many locations, an Uber would be as much or more. Remember, LAX’s catchment area is about the size of Belgium.

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