New airport parking system, same problems

A passenger retrieves a parking ticket Wednesday after the car's driver realized the machine on her side wasn’t working. - Photo: Brent Fuller

Some customer service problems that have plagued Grand Cayman’s airport parking facilities for a number of years have not been corrected since the installation of a new automated system, and new problems were temporarily brought on by a recent lightning strike, according to airport officials.

The Owen Roberts International Airport parking system was upgraded in March, with the winning bid of $872,599 going to a U.S.-based firm. However, Cayman Islands Airports Authority officials said Tuesday that the new system appears to have been affected by a lightning strike about two weeks ago.

“All local attempts to repair [the right-hand drive machines] have not been fruitful,” a statement from the airports authority read. “The manufacturers are sending personnel this week to repair. [Parking] operations are still possible as we have two devices at each entrance and exit.”

On Wednesday, both the short-term and long-term parking entrances at Owen Roberts airport on the right-hand drive side were out of service. The right-hand drive ticket collection machine at the exit to the long-term parking area also appeared unable to accept paid tickets.

Both left- and right-hand drive vehicles are allowed on Cayman Islands roads, so the airport parking system has to accommodate both.

The left-hand drive ticketing machines in all locations appeared to be working, although attempts to contact airport personnel via the “help” teleconferencing button on the long-term parking entrance machine were unsuccessful Wednesday morning.

The Cayman Compass witnessed some motorists at the entrance to the long-term parking having to get out of their right-hand drive vehicles, walk around the car and punch the ticketing button on the left side of the car. The driver of one vehicle, a Mercedes SUV, had to dash back around in order to drive the vehicle through while the security arm was up.

“Only in Cayman,” the man said as he drove past.

In the short-term parking area, a woman who pulled up to the ticketing machine realized, after rolling down her car window, that the tickets were not forthcoming from the right-hand side machine. Her passenger got out of the vehicle on the left-hand side, stood up and retrieved the ticket.

When a driver from the Compass tried the machines at the entrances to the long-term and short-term parking, he was unable to receive a ticket from the right-hand drive side and had to run around outside the vehicle to pick up the ticket from the left-side machine. Attempts to use the help button on the right side failed, as the machine appeared to have no power supplied. The left-hand drive side help button was not responded to.

When exiting the long-term parking, it was discovered that the right-hand drive ticketing machine also did not work. The left-hand side machine, after initially rejecting the ticket, did work once the driver walked around the car and put the ticket into the machine, again having to dash back to drive out under the raised security arm.

Long- and short-term parking customers must still pay at one of two machines at the airport terminal. Both of the parking payment machines were working on Wednesday, and change in the form of paper currency (not coins) is available.

However, the payment machines still do not directly accept credit or debit cars. Credit card slots on the machines at the parking exit areas are not functional.

“This is a technical issue that the CIAA is working on between the bank and manufacturer,” the authority noted. “Credit and debit cards are accepted at the point of sale terminal [referring to the ground transportation customer service desk in front of the airport terminal].

“The ground transport officer at this desk provides customer service for any parking or ground transport-related need. The desk is covered from 6 a.m. until the last flight at night. If a person steps away, it is to assist a customer.”

When the Compass driver went to pay the parking fee, a $10 bill was accepted and $3 returned as change. The machine displayed a red warning sign stating “use exact change,” but it was unclear what that meant since change had been returned.

Once the damages blamed on the lightning strike are fixed, airport officials said, they have no intention of upgrading or changing the current parking system. There is also no future plan to place attendants at either the entrances or exits to the terminal’s parking area.

“We moved away from manual collection years ago in order to facilitate a more efficient operation,” the Cayman Islands Airports Authority statement indicated.


  1. A lesson in how to make the simplest process overly complex and inconvenient. How I long for the days when you paid a single person and drove away unobstructed. This automated system has brought nothing but chaos and huge amounts of public funds wasted with no accountability. I have yet to hear another voice on the end of that useless assistance button, most of the time I have to exit the vehicle and go find someone. I’m just not buying the lightning strike story either. Lightning has to be factored in for any system in Cayman.

  2. This is farcical, after 40 years the CIAA still cannot get their automated parking system to work. These systems work fine in the U.S. and Europe, what is the problem here. The latest excuse is also farcical, “right hand drive lightning strike!”.

  3. This may be a surprise to the CIAA, but Cayman is not the only country in the world where there is lightening.

    As such, the vendor should have installed common surge protectors and lightening arrestors into the parking system. Did the CIAA use a qualified person to review the plans to determine if there was a consideration of lightening strikes? If not why?

    Any experienced and qualified parking system vendor should have automatically included such devices in their system. Of course if they did, that tells us the culprit is once again not really what the government says it is.

  4. John Starling, I had to smile at your comments. So true, missed the days to just pay a single person and drove away unobstructed; besides it will give one or more Caymanian a job……….
    It would seem that the system in place is not working, nor pleasing to the public; so if it is not working my thoughts are that the CIAA might want to get it fixed in a proper way to accommodate everyone, or give us back the single person unobstructed way..

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