The Trouble With DFW Airport Parking

DFW airport from air

Air travelers using DFW Airport are faced with high parking costs and needless inconvenience, while the airport parking garages remain mostly empty. You’d think there’d be a solution that benefits both the airport and air travelers, but thanks to DFW’s stubbornly backwards thinking on parking and revenue—you’d be wrong.

Meanwhile, despite airport management strategy that actually called for the demolition of several airport parking garages which were replaced with even more expensive structures, in just one DFW terminal garage today (Terminal D, the largest garage) there were over 2,000 empty spaces on the rooftop and nearly as many on the bottom two floors.

DFW parking garage 1

During the busy holiday season, most of DFW Airport’s parking garages are sparsely used.

At $24 a day for regular parking, that’s a revenue loss to DFW Airport of at least $150,000 a day. And these figures are for the busiest travel time of the year: late December. That’s a staggering financial loss when multiplied by the month or god forbid, fiscal year of lower average air travel numbers.

Nevertheless, most of the year, the DFW Airport Parking is a ghost town, with good reason.

First, if you depart from DFW Airport, your flight might leave from any of 5 separate terminals. You may park near your departure gate, then find yourself returning to DFW at one of the other terminals. If you only have hand-carried luggage, you might be able to find your way via the SkyLink train to your original terminal’s parking garage.

DFW airport skylink

If you only have hand-carried luggage, you can use the Skylink to get from your arrival gate to the terminal where your car is parked.

But if you’ve checked a bag, you get to endure the DFW parking hassle: exit the secure area (sorry, no SkyLink for you), claim your bags, then go outside and wait for an airport shuttle bus going to the terminal where you parked (don’t get on the wrong one!). Heft your luggage on and off the shuttle bus, sit through the airport traffic (the shuttle buses all drop off upstairs, in among the passenger pick-up congestion), then drag your bags to your car—if you can find it.

dfw airport link bus

To get from your arrival terminal back to where you parked your car, you’ll need to find the correct shuttle bus, outside, after you’ve collected your luggage from baggage claim.

The cheaper, more efficient alternatives? There are several, and they all make more sense than spending $24 a day for the typical DFW Airport multiple garage-bus bag drag.

dfw parking spot

First, I use The Parking Spot because there’s no problem with any terminal: they’ll pick you up at your car’s covered parking space in their secure lot, hand you a newspaper and a bottle of water, handle your luggage, and drop you off at your departure gate—all for less than half of the DFW Airport parking rate. Even better, it doesn’t matter what terminal your return flight arrives at, because their constantly circulating shuttle buses will pick you up anywhere (they have a cool app that shows you where your ride is) and take you right to your car in their lot. They handle the congested exit toll booths with slow, often balky automatic tag readers while you relax.

DFW parking gate

There are two Parking Spot locations north of the airport and one to the south, so they’re actually on your way home, which saves you even more time. There are several other off-site parking systems just like the Parking Spot, all at a fraction of the DFW Airport terminal parking rate, all without the post-flight bag drag, bus ride and hunt for your car.

But the most obvious solution, if your trip is longer than two days: Uber or Lyft. A driver will pick you up at your home, drop you at your gate. Same going home, only the reverse and depending on where you live, Uber saves you a ton compared to the flat $24 a day airport parking rate, which will require you to endure their shuttle bus bag-drag hassle in most cases.

Uber 2

Yes, there are “reduced rate” lots on the airport, but they’re all uncovered and expose your car to the elements—including the frequent hail storms for which the DFW area is famous.

DFW airport employee parking

The DFW Airport employee lots are crowded and unprotected.

The DFW Airport employee parking as even worse. The lots are jammed, the employee buses crammed and inconvenient and the lot uncovered, guaranteeing extreme weather damage to employees’ cars. Meanwhile, the airport has more than enough excess terminal parking to accommodate employees’ cars, sitting empty, while they pay for lumbering shuttle buses that drivers get to dodge on the airport roads. The irony is, they’ll probably build even more uncovered employee parking and have to pay for even more employee buses instead.

DFW airport employee bus

When will the shortsighted DFW Airport management step into the modern era and use variable parking rate software (think: variable rate toll roads) rather than the outdated, failing flat rate that’s totally uncompetitive with the other great parking or driving alternatives? When will they step up from the miles-away, bare bones employee lots, bus expense and increased traffic congestion in favor of more productive, first rate terminal parking in some of the already existing excess capacity?

DFW parking bus 1

It’s well past time. But until they do, parking at any DFW Airport garage is a waste of money and comes with needless hassles due to the DFW Airport’s shortsighted management. That’s the trouble with DFW Airport parking.

dfw airport night




One Response to “The Trouble With DFW Airport Parking”

  1. I must admit, I “lost” a car one time at DFW Airport. All the parking garages at the terminals look alike and I mistook which one I had parked the car in. American Airlines is in so many different terminals that it isn’t as hard to do as it may sound. But even if nobody else hears that it took you more than two hours to find the car you parked yourself, it’s still embarrassing to admit it to yourself!

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