IRL Travel Planning

The Good, Bad & Ugly About Parking With Flightcar

Late last year I was leaving town for the holidays and going for a solid 15 day stretch. Normally, I would park in the Austin Airport Long Term lot for $7/day but that would have gotten pricey being away for so long. Eating breakfast a few days before my trip, I looked through my phone wondering which friend I was going to give my best “pwetty please” impression to get a ride to the airport when a story on the local news caught my eye (and ear). Enter Flightcar – the car sharing service touting “FREE AIRPORT PARKING” – had just launched at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS).

This was their pitch: drop you car off, get taken to the airport, get picked up upon arrival and taken back to your car, freshly washed and vacuumed. They had me at “Free Airport Parking”. I’ve used the service 3 times now and I’m pleased to report that I’ve earned $155.10 from my car being rented and saved $287 in parking fees. 

Before I get into the details, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce my grading scale which I will fondly dub “Irritation Index”, corresponding to the following impressions:

Mild: That long walk on the beach, something you wish you could do everyday.

Par: One or two mosquitos biting you on that walk on the beach, annoying but manageable.

Ugh: Several mosquitos biting you in places you have trouble reaching, making it look like you are doing the Macarena on the beach.

CAN’T EVEN: A swarm of insects (not only mosquitos) eating you alive causing you to run into the water for cover, after which you realize you are not wearing appropriate swimwear and lose your flips flops. You can’t even.

Got it? Let’s go.

Signing up & listing your car

Easy, took about 5 minutes, and my 2014 Ford Escape was now available to rent on the days I was planning to be gone. Irritation Index: Mild

Before dropping your car off

Your car is cleaned out before it is rented, with Flightcar storing a few things as a courtesy, but it is expected that you remove larger articles (such as camping chairs), that are normally left in the car, before it is dropped off. Also, it is in your best interest to remove everything as Flightcar is not responsible if such items get damaged or stolen. Spend about 30 minutes before you leave taking everything out of your car, and don’t forget your sunglasses from the compartment above the rear-view (if applicable!). Irritation Index: Par

Dropping your car off

You will receive a reminder email a few days prior confirming your reservation and the drop off point to rendezvous with a representative. In Austin, this takes place at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Austin Airport (map it) where I met the representative who did a walkthrough of my vehicle and took down mileage, asked for my autograph on an iPad before being whisked away to the airport by an airport shuttle. This whole process took less than 15 minutes. Irritation Index: Mild

Getting back to your car

Hooray, you had a great trip, feeling like a million bucks walking towards baggage claim when you get a text from Flightcar instructing you to call 1-844-PICKUP-0 (844-742-5870) for a pickup. Easy enough, right? Sorry, I don’t think so. In my case, pickup has been an increasing hindrance with each go around, with long hold times (longest was 35 minutes) to speak to a dispatcher, and another 20 – 25 minutes for the shuttle to show up. This needs to be addressed soon either by adding more dispatchers or creating a mobile web service for pickup using GPS. Irritation Index: Ugh, bordering on Can’t Even

 Once, I got picked up in an one-of-a-kind Nissan Leaf stretch limo!
Once, I got picked up in an one-of-a-kind Nissan Leaf stretch limo!

Check out

Cleanliness isn’t next to godliness for Flightcar. The first very time, I came back to a brand spanking new looking car with garbage left in the glove box, and another, I came back to a car with bird poop residue here and there after the representative confessed to leaving my car under a tree that was inhabited, leading to a savage aerial poop attack, by a flock of birds, and not completely removable after running my car through the wash twice. Irritation Index: Par bordering on Ugh

If your car gets rented, how much do I make?

For every mile your car is driven, you will receive a flat rate of $0.10, or $0.40 per mile if it is driven for more than 75 miiles/day on average of the rental period. My car was driven for a total of 1,551 miles whilst rented, netting me a cool $155.10, but most importantly $287 in parking fees savings (Long Term lot, $7/day for 41 days). Irritation Index: Mild. However, you will receive these earnings with a check in the mail that took, on average, 6 weeks to arrive. It’s 2015, have they not heard of direct deposit? Irritation Index: Par

After all is said and done, the value proposition of Flightcar is why I will continue to use their service, and the savings (as well as earnings) is a nice icing on the cake. This service is wonderful for solo travelers like me who don’t want to bother friends for a ride, especially for 6am departures, but not so good for folks who are in a hurry to get home after returning from their trip, and/or don’t like strangers driving their cars, and/or those expecting their car to be spotless all the time.

Flightcar is currently available at the following airports, with many more on the way:

Austin Bergstrom
Boston Logan
Dallas Love Field
Los Angeles
Portland (OR)
San Diego
San Francisco
San Jose
Washington Dulles

If you think this review was helpful and are considering signing up for Flightcar, I’d really appreciate it if you use my referral link and receive a cash parking bonus as well!