South Africa

Park-and-fly valet services in airport row

Park-and-fly valet services in airport row
Durban - Controversy has erupted over park-and-fly valet services at King Shaka International Airport after a complaint about a lesser known firm’s allegedly shocking service led to the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) declaring them “illegal” as they currently operate.

One valet operator said his lawyer had written to Acsa about this statement.

The row started when Shazia Osman and her family used the services of an airport valet service she had previously used. They entrusted four vehicles to the service on December18.

“The business owner collected the vehicles and gave us a professional indemnity and jotted down the mileage. On Thursday, January 2, I called him to let him know that we would be arriving at around 9.30pm and he was quite friendly and said don’t worry, your cars will be ready,” Osman said.

But when the family arrived at the airport, neither the businessman nor his drivers were to be found.

“I called him and he said he had a problem with the gate, can we wait half an hour?” But when he did not arrive as promised Osman called again and he then claimed to be at a funeral in Richards Bay and that his drivers were still battling with the gate.

“He said he was very sorry, can we Uber home and he will reimburse us and we will have our cars on Friday morning,” she said.

However, Osman said she was unable to reach him in the morning.

She said her brother-in-law used an app to track his vehicle (one of the four) and found that it was driving around Verulam at around noon. They found the brother-in-law’s van parked in a driveway, she said, and two others in the area. They were told the valet businessman had apparently owed people money, and given them the vehicles.

Osman said they eventually managed to speak to the businessman on the phone. He gave her a contact number for a woman in Pietermaritzburg to whom he claimed he had hired her vehicle while she was abroad.

“At midnight, my husband, dad and youngest brother drove to Pietermaritzburg to get my car. They took a copy of the log book and spare car keys,” Osman said.

The woman refused to hand over the vehicle, she said, saying she had signed a contract to hire the vehicle for R5000.

“Suddenly one of the lady’s family members started screaming and the whole street came out with pangas and they were in a situation. They were unarmed and not going to get involved in bloodshed and told the lady to meet them at Tongaat police station the next morning,” Osman said.

At 2.30pm on Saturday, the woman arrived at the police station and handed Osman’s vehicle back to her. Osman said she attempted to open a case of theft, but police had advised on a lesser charge because she had consented to handing over the vehicle.

SAPS spokesperson Nqobile Gwala said a case of “using a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent” had been opened for investigation.

Several attempts to contact the businessman for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

Acsa spokesperson Colin Naidoo said it was illegal for park-and-fly valet services to use the airport’s drop-off and pick-up zones to do business. He added that vehicles could not be parked at a National Key Point for an extended period.

“If they want to collect customers’ vehicles they must use the parking lot. If they use the parking lot to meet passengers and pick up cars that’s fine,” he said.

Naidoo said SAPS and metro police had been tasked to remove operators.

“They are not accredited by the airport and we can’t be accountable for what happens to people’s cars when they’re handing cars over. People should use accredited companies at the airport and e-hailing services,” Naidoo said.

However, the owners of established firms not implicated in the complaint said they offered a convenient service and there was nothing illegal about it.

Execupark owner Caleb Iyasamy said he had noted the controversy and was taking action: “We are getting an attorney to deal with the case because just calling a company illegal is not fair, because the whole thing with the valet parking industry is that people are looking for cheaper options to avoid exorbitant parking costs at the airport.”

He said his attorney had sent an email to Acsa and was awaiting a response.

JJ Parking owner Chris Veeranna said it was more convenient to meet customers at the drop-off and pick-up points. But he said he could not comment further until he had spoken to Acsa.

Another firm not implicated in the complaint is Park and Fly. The owner could not be reached for comment yesterday.

SA National Airport Parking Association KZN chairperson Alan Swart advised passengers to use members of the association, which had been established to help self regulate the industry.

“The association lays down its rules for members, they have to have security, insurance and premises. People are leaving their second most valuable possessions in the hands of strangers and people need to be wary,” he said.

The Mercury