Answer Man: AVL parking ‘hustle’ or ‘glitch’? Parking there credit card only? – Citizen Times

Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:

Question: Is this a new airport hustle or just a glitch in the AVL system? I recently had a 7 a.m. flight, and I pulled into the parking lot at 5:45 a.m. to find the Daily Lot entry had a large, red “Full” sign above it. I drove through the airport and from the road could see there were available parking spots in the Daily Lot. So, I circled around and entered via the Hourly Lot gate, pulled my ticket, and passed through the hourly lot and parked in the Daily Lot overflow area. Though the airport seems busier than ever, there are still no humans working in the parking area (aside from the shuttle driver). Maybe they are having trouble finding staff like all other area businesses. With a flight leaving soon I decided I would get the issue resolved when I returned. After my trip and still no people around, I decided to call the number on the Fly AVL website. The parking company is apparently called LAZ. I have left several messages with them over the past week, and crickets. On the website it says: All vehicles are counted and the license plate recorded each night between midnight and 4 a.m. This would suggest they know my car was in the Daily Lot the whole time. Is this normal procedure? We have so many early morning flights that it seems someone should be managing the gate errors during early morning times when travelers are arriving to park. I am almost sure nothing nefarious is afoot, but if I ran those lots and wanted to occasionally double my revenue, this sure would be a good way to go about it. Please let me know if you learn any more on this issue. 

My answer: Ironically, “Nothing nefarious afoot” has been my column slogan since 2005. Also, I’m trying not to read this company’s name as “Lay-Zee” parking. … It’s not working.

Real answer: Asheville Regional Airport spokeswoman Tina Kinsey responded to this query, noting that the airport is “incredibly busy, and yes, the Daily Lot and Garage are full at peak travel times.”

“There is an issue sometimes with our digital counting system that does require a manual reset,” Kinsey said via email. “The biggest issue is that passengers enter a full lot, and then park in undesignated areas, like the grass. This skews counts.”

“Also, in very busy times, passengers will sometimes ‘piggy back’ behind other customers into the parking area, while the gate is up, and this skews the car count,” Kinsey continued. “The parking operator resets the display as quickly as possible when the count is off.”

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The airport realizes the system is imperfect, but Kinsey said the positives outweigh the negatives.

“First, customers can waste valuable time driving through a full lot, especially if they are running late for a flight,” Kinsey said. “With the counting system, customers can make better parking decisions upon their arrival.”

“Second, the digital display has no bearing on the parking rate,” Kinsey continued. “Parking rates are determined by the ticket pulled upon entry to each lot. It is possible to enter one lot, and access a different lot from there, such as entering Hourly, and then moving on to Daily at a pass-through gate.”

Kinsey noted that if a different lot is accessed within 10 minutes or less, when the customer’s parking ticket is scanned at the new lot’s pass-through gate to open the gate, that customer’s ticket is reset to the new lot’s rate.

And yes, AVL, like just about everyone else in America is dealing with the staffing shortage.

“The parking operator does count cars and records license plates; however, there is a staffing shortage that has caused some delays in processes,” Kinsey said. “Also, we have implemented a fully automated payment plaza, so there are no parking attendants at the booths.”

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She added that the airport has some good news about parking.

“The airport opened a remote Shuttle Lot recently, directly across the street from the airport, and this 300-space lot has yet to be full,” Kinsey said. “Shuttles run continuously to and from the front curb of the terminal, and this is a very convenient option for passengers.”

Question: I like to slip in and out of the AVL parking deck with as small an electronic footprint as possible. Can’t do that anymore. The AVL parking lots are CREDIT CARD ONLY! What’s wrong with U.S. currency? What is this country coming to? The seats in the arrival area have been rearranged so it is difficult to sit and watch the people pass through the arrival gate. They used to be in a much more convenient configuration. Why can’t things be like they used to be? Why do things always change for the worse? The Arrival/Departure displays at AVL are so small you can’t see them from the sitting area. You have to get up and approach within 10 feet to see them. The ad section takes up more than 50% of the screen. Are they really that desperate for money that they can’t design a decent Arrival/Departure display?

My answer: Every time my wife wants to paint a room or, even better, switch out all the brass door hardware for a bronze tone, I ask that age-old question, “Why can’t things be like they used to be? Why do things always change for the worse?” In my case, I also add, “After 27 years of marriage, why do you still think I’m handy?”

Real answer: AVL spokeswoman Tina Kinsey gets bonus points today, as she also handled this question.

“While we know change can be hard for some, the airport is changing because we are growing, which is great news for our region,” Kinsey said. “This growth means excellent connectivity for our area’s air travelers, as well as for those visiting WNC, and significant economic impact in our region.”

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Before the pandemic walloped travel in 2020, the airport in 2019, saw a 43% increase in passenger traffic over the previous year. In 2021, it’s back to that level of utilization again, Kinsey said.

With that, the airport has implemented operational changes to increase efficiency, and that includes “Credit Card Only” parking areas.

“Our TSA security screening line’s footprint has expanded, and we have reconfigured our main lobby area to accommodate this need,” Kinsey added. “And our flight information displays at the airport are located in many places, in several different sizes, including a very large 72-inch display dedicated to the flight information.”

One of the sets does indeed display advertising.

“It is required that airports strive to generate revenue to cover operational expenses, and in-terminal advertising is one way we accomplish this directive from the Federal Aviation Administration,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey noted that “more changes are coming that will provide more space for travelers, and for airline operations.

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“The airport is in the last year of the design phase for a new airport terminal that, when constructed, will be twice the size of our current facility,” Kinsey said. “We will expand from seven gates to twelve gates, and the airport will be modern, spacious, and thoughtfully designed to promote excellent experiences for travelers.”

The changes will take years to complete, Kinsey said, and when the airport has more detailed information to share, it will launch a public information campaign.

This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or jboyle@citizen-times.com