Airport parking: Shortchanging the customers

After eight interminable years, the time on the airport parking meters has finally run out.

In early 2006, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority introduced its two electronic pay machines at Owen Roberts International Airport. The system was supposed to make the assessment of parking fees and collection of revenues more efficient.

However, a series of bugs, malfunctions and miscommunications led to a litany of complaints from individual customers, who discovered to their consternation that the government’s “fix” caused more expense, and more trouble, than the original “problem.”

In response to the public outcry, then-senior manager of airport operations Kerith McCoy said, “As I imagine there would be with any new technical installation, there are some glitches.” Mr. McCoy said the new system would be a breeze after “some minor adjustment and familiarity matters.”

If this situation sounds familiar to our readers, reflect on the agonizing delays at Cayman’s Customs Department, which recently rolled out a new system of its own for duty assessment. Customs Collector Samantha Bennett described the fiasco as “teething pains” that would be alleviated with time.

In the case of the parking machines, apparently eight years of “teething pains” were enough, even for government.

Everyone who flies in and out of Grand Cayman regularly has a horror story to tell — usually involving torrential rainfall — about the “Cerberus-like ticket machines,” as one of our editors at Pinnacle Media described the airport’s twin-headed malfunctionaries.

The machines are plastered with motley signs including the declarative “Temporarily out of service” (for how many years now?), and the enigmatically ominous, “Please Ha Exact Ch For This Machine.”

The signs might as well say, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here — or wish to exit.”

Officials say the machines have three main problems: They fail to assess the proper fees. They fail to recognize CI bills. They fail to issue change.
Basically, whatever the machines are supposed to be doing, they aren’t.

Yes, the machines are broken, and are broken in such a way that people are being shortchanged and overcharged. (One social media user shared a photograph of the machine charging her $3,402 for three days’ long-term parking, which by our calculations is approximately $3,381 too much.)

If the already scandal-plagued Airports Authority can’t keep something as simple and important as parking machines in working order, can it be safely entrusted with anything? (“Of course not,” we are inclined to reply. In our experience, the brightest spots at Owen Roberts are the hard-working porters in the arrival area and the splendid curbside baggage attendants.)

The notorious condition of those parking machines indicates the authority’s complete disregard for the experience of their customers — residents and visitors who leave Grand Cayman’s airport with aches in their heads and bad tastes in their mouths. Teething pains, indeed. These teeth are so old that the next step is dentures.

The good news is the Airports Authority says it’s getting rid of the dilapidated automatons and will replace them with human attendants starting in September, until a “new automated system” is installed in December.

If the new parking system resembles the old parking system, maybe Cayman will get an early Christmas present, and the shipment will get held up at Customs, indefinitely.

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  1. I would love to see the Airport Authority rethink the use of the automated machines for airport parking. They represent a cold impersonal money collection operation at a tourist destination that is unnecessary and inconsistent with the Cayman kind theme of the country.
    Another example of Cayman not being Cayman.

  2. Why are we always trying to change things that work well? I remember the old human-attended booths! They took both US and CI money, no problems with the gates opening and closing! No having to hike all over the airport after being tired from travelling, to find someone to let your vehicle out because of whatever nonsense is/was going on at the time! Think about it, yet another tourism ambassador and a nice little job for a not quite ready to retire senior citizen! If we factor in the costs of the new machines and the aggravation of using them, give someone a job, build a nice little booth or two and hire a company who specialises in parking lots. It is time to delegate such issues! Help them out Minister Kirkconnell! They need it. They are clearly not good at making simple decisions.