Protecting customers against rogue airport parking firms and bad practices in airport parking.

Approved Operators

The ‘Approved Operator Scheme’ at Gatwick Airport


Gatwick Airport Limited (“GAL”) commenced a consultation on its proposals for an Approved Operator Scheme at Gatwick Airport in February 2013. The proposals were set out in a document entitled Consultation Paper for Approved Operator Scheme at Gatwick Airport (“the Initial Proposals”). These proposals were revised following the first phase of consultation, and a second round of consultation followed in April 2013. The consultation exercise invited comment from all stakeholders, including all meet and greet operators (“MGOs”) currently operating at Gatwick Airport. We received in excess of 350 responses to our consultation across both the phases. As a result of comments received in both phases of consultation, a number of changes to both the initial and final proposals have been made. A summary of changes made is annexed as Annex 1 and a summary of main feedback themes which have not resulted in changes with reasons is annexed as Annex 2.

It is, of course, not possible to accommodate all stakeholders differing views in formulating final proposals which meet the objectives we set out in the initial proposal. We believe this final proposal seeks to balance the need to meet the stated objectives of the scheme, whilst addressing as many of the points raised in feedback as possible.

This document outlines the scheme details we intend to proceed with, with a view to the scheme becoming fully operational on 1st July. Whilst the consultation has now closed, we recognise there will be a number of questions or clarifications around implementation, we will aim to respond to any such questions these via a Q&A document maintained on the website, so that all interested parties will be able to see the response. Any such questions should be sent by email to

Objectives of Scheme

As set out in the Initial Proposals the Scheme has three objectives, namely:

  • to reduce forecourt congestion by limiting MGO operations to specific and controlled areas, enabling effective enforcement of the forecourt ‘drop-off’ only policy
  • to ensure that operators using the airport’s infrastructure comply with the ‘user pays’ principle
  • to afford recognition to the operations of MGOs at the airport that meet minimum customer service standards, and to ensure that passengers can identify these operators

Approved operator scheme and membership criteria

The Gatwick Airport ‘Approved Operator’ scheme will be open to all MGOs who:

The scheme has been developed by Gatwick Airport Limited in partnership with West Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council Trading Standards and stakeholders from associations of Meet and Greet operators at Gatwick.

Gatwick will recognise the ‘Buy With Confidence’ scheme, and will also maintain an up to date list of all approved operators on its website. Members of the scheme may make reference to this in their marketing, however this must be done within the terms stated in the licence agreement.

Any MGO not in the Approved Operator scheme will not be allowed to use the dedicated areas on which we are also consulting, and will have to operate from the non-dedicated areas in the Multi- Story Car Park (“MSCP”) paying the regular tariff.

Location of proposed operator scheme

Please note for clarity, the terms drop-off and pick-up are used from the customer’s perspective, i.e. for general kiss and fly traffic, ‘drop-off’ refers to when the customer arrives at the airport and is dropped off by a driver and ‘pick-up’ refers to when the customer returns from their trip to the airport and is picked up by a driver. When used in the context of meet and greet operations, ‘drop-off’ refers to the customer dropping-off their car with a MGO, and ‘pick-up’ refers to the customer collecting their car from a MGO. It is important to note that in the context of MGO operations, both ‘drop-off’ and ‘pick-up’ movements are essentially ‘pick-ups’, in the sense that in both cases one driver arrives with the car and another driver leaves. It is for this reason that the distinction is made between general public operations and operations from MGOs.

In view of the response to the consultation we have decided to vary our preferred scheme on a 6 month trial basis to allow approved operators to pick up as well as drop off from the designated forecourt area. We will monitor the operation of the scheme and reserve the right to revert to drop off only for congestion or other operational reasons.

We are therefore now proposing three alternatives to operators within the Approved Operator scheme.

  • Drop-off (i.e. where the passenger drops-off the car with the MGO) takes place in the dedicated area on the forecourt with pick up in the MSCP only
  • Drop-off and pick-up both take place in the MSCP
  • Drop-off and pick-up both take place on the forecourt

The dedicated areas on the forecourt are:

  • South Terminal: far end of lower forecourt, both lanes (lanes are 78 and 109 metres providing space for between 15 and 20 vehicles)
  • North Terminal: right hand lane of outer forecourt (total bay length 109 metres, which will provide space for between 10 and 15 cars)

Whilst all ‘pick-up’ operations may take place in any part of the MSCP open for general use (i.e. not on floors with dedicated use such as car rental, on-airport Gatwick Valet Parking or Premium Parking floors), we will provide a dedicated area for MGO operations to facilitate the smooth operation of the service and allow passengers to easily locate the area.The proposed locations for dedicated marked areas within the MSCPs are:

The proposed locations were chosen to minimise the need for passengers/jockey drivers to drive up and down ramps, to offer a clear line of sight to the specified forecourt areas, and to avoid the floors with the highest usage by general MSCP traffic. Additionally they are areas that can be clearly demarcated and signed. The dedicated bays will be identified with fins marked ‘Approved Operator only’, similar to those currently used for disabled bays.

The initial size of each dedicated area will be as above, but we will adjust this as appropriate to demand. Whilst we recognise the value of dedicating an entire floor to this operation from both an enforcement and customer signage perspective, given the different schemes on offer and the uncertainty of both demand and around the take-up of the different scheme options, we cannot commit to this at the start of the scheme operation. However we will monitor demand for the spaces closely, and ensure that the dedicated area has sufficient spaces such that in the vast majority of cases we expect there to be ‘spare’ dedicated bays available for use. If this requires the number of dedicated bays to be increased, we will do so. Consequently, if the size of the dedicated area requires more than two thirds of the floor, we will close the floor for general public use.

We will provide appropriate signage and wayfinding to these areas.

Proposed charging structure

The charging structure has been put in place to offer flexibility for operators, and to balance the expressed preference of MGOs to operate on the forecourt with the need to reduce forecourt congestion. As such the charging structure explicitly aims to incentivise use of the MSCPs for both drop-off and pick-up transactions.

Forecourt usage (for both drop-off and/or pick-ups):

£3.00 per movement

Transactions on the forecourt are limited to a 5 minute period.

MSCP usage

£1.30 per movement (0-10 minutes)
£2.00 per movement (10-20 minutes)
Above 20 minutes the regular tariff applies

All charges are inclusive of VAT.

The charging structure in the MSCPs has been modified to incentivise efficient operators who keep transactions below 10 minutes (feedback has indicated that this is very achievable), and we envisage the vast majority of transactions falling into this time band The 10-20 minute band is to recognise that sometimes it will take longer to complete the transaction, whilst still retaining a differential for operators who are part of the scheme. The £1.30 time band represents a saving of over 50% vs. the public tariff.

The charges for these two bands will be linked to RPI for a period of at least two years regardless of changes to the other bands.

Operational vehicles owned by approved MGOs will be allowed access to the MSCPs at no charge for less than 2 hours, in order to facilitate their operation. MGOs will have to notify GAL of the registration details of these vehicles, these will then be recognised automatically.

Management of dedicated areas

The forecourt drop-off areas will be clearly marked for authorised usage only. Members of the scheme who elect to use the forecourt for drop-off or pick-ups operations will be provided with laminated permits that will be placed on the windscreens of all vehicles entering the area, allowing traffic wardens to move on unauthorised vehicles. We do not intend to issue a standardised permit design to allow approved MGOs to issue this to their customers for display on their dashboards, however if MGOs wish to do so this should clearly display the car registration details, the name/logo of the MGO, and the date/time of the booking.

The 5 minute period applies from the moment the customer stops on the forecourt.

Any cars using the general (non-dedicated) forecourt areas for pick-ups will be moved on by wardens, and/or be issued with penalty notices. For the avoidance of doubt, the ‘no pick-up’ rule on forecourts applies to all vehicles, whether Gatwick meet and greet operator, taxis, members of public or any other category. All pick-up transactions must take place in the MSCPs, the forecourts are for drop- off only (i.e. where the same driver drives onto and off the forecourt).

For approved MGOs, all operations (both drop-offs and pick-ups) must take place in the dedicated areas, the non-dedicated areas must not be used in any circumstances.

The dedicated areas in MSCPs will be marked with use of fins in bays, with the words ‘Approved Operator only’. When there’s no space in the dedicated areas either in the forecourt or car parks, regular spaces in the short-stay car parks must be used. Under no circumstances will the general forecourt area be used by MGOs for either drop-offs or pick-ups.

We intend to review the case for civil parking enforcement once the DfT has put the appropriate legislation in place.

Administration of charging mechanism

MGOs will be required to specify the scheme they wish to use. MGOs may specify a different scheme in each terminal.

Due to the fact that the forecourts are not barriered, it is necessary to use different charging mechanisms for each scheme.

MSCP/MSCP scheme:
All MGOs will be issued with proximity cards for use by jockey drivers to enter/exit MSCPs. Use of these cards will be tracked and form the basis of payment. The cards must be pre-paid with sufficient funds to cover operations for the period (payments can be made at any time via the pay on foot machines).

Forecourt/MSCP scheme: MGOs registering to drop-off on forecourt will be charged for both drop- off and pick-up transaction together in the pick-up transaction in the car park via the proximity card. For example, if the pick-up transaction takes less than 10 minutes, the £1.30 charge would apply, and hence a charge of £4.30 would be made (£3.00 + £1.30).

In order to audit this scheme effectively, MGOs opting to use the forecourt will be required to supply registration details for cars which have pre-booked to drop-off on the forecourt the following day. This will then be reconciled against audit spot-check of operations on the forecourt.

Forecourt/Forecourt scheme: This charging for this scheme will be administered on an invoicing basis. The MGO will be required to supply registration details for cars which have pre-booked to drop-off and pick-up on the forecourt the following day. In addition, at the end of each month the MGO will be required to supply a consolidated list of all movements that have taken place throughout the month to form the basis of invoicing. In order to effectively audit this process, GAL will require access to audit the commercial records of the MGO against the submitted records used as the basis for invoicing.

Whilst no additional charge will be made for administration, any replacement proximity cards required will be charged at £20 per card. Cards issued at the outset will be free of charge subject to the number required being reasonable.

Operational process in the MSCPs

For drop-offs, the passenger takes a ticket on entry to MSCPs and hands it to the jockey driver. After taking possession of the customer’s car, the jockey driver will insert the customer’s ticket into the pay on foot (POF) machine, and use the proximity card issued to them under the scheme as form of payment. The jockey driver then has the standard 5 minutes to exit the car park.

For pick-ups, the jockey driver takes a ticket on entry back into the MSCP, returns the car to the customer, the jockey driver then pays at the POF machine using the proximity card as form of payment, then gives the passenger back the ticket for exit. The customer then has five minutes to leave the MSCP, in line with all standard public transactions.

All payments by approved operators must be made by proximity card, no cash or credit/debit card payments will be permitted. Pay on foot machines will be located on the relevant floors of the MSCPs.

Proximity cards may also be used by jockey drivers at the exit barriers.

Interim rates for non-approved operators

Some operators have pointed out that it may take some time to secure the necessary planning consents and accreditations to join the scheme. To make allowance for this, we are proposing to make the discounted rates for MSCP use available to non-approved operators for a 9 month period after the start of the scheme.

These rates would be made available as a commercial agreement between the airport and the operator, and would not imply membership of the scheme. As such, non-approved operators would not be permitted to use dedicated areas on either the forecourt or in the MSCPs, and operational vehicles will not be given free access to the MSCPs.

Ongoing management of the scheme

We recognise that for the scheme to achieve its objectives it is important to create a working group whereby stakeholders and GAL can communicate effectively on the scheme’s operation, and put forward any suggestions on how the scheme may be improved.

We also recognise that there are a range of stakeholders that should be involved, and a large number of MGOs currently operating at Gatwick (approx. 50-60). In order to keep the size of a working group to a manageable and effective level, we propose that membership be constituted from:

The associations of which we are aware are:

We propose the group meeting on a quarterly basis, and monthly through the initial 3 months of operation.

Annex 1: Summary of changes made following feedback in 2nd round of consultation

The scheme should offer MGOs the option of carrying out both drop-off and pick-up transactions on the forecourt.

We have now included this option in the scheme on a 6 month trial basis.

The forecourt charge per movement is too high compared to other airports.

Whilst we have explitly stated that the forecourt charge is higher in order to incentive MSCP use rather than forecourt use, we have reduced this forecourt charge to £3.00 per movement. This charge will be reviewed in the context of the impact on forecourt usage and consequent congestion.

Proxy cards should be be able to be topped-up at any point

The balance on the cards may now be topped-up via pay on foot machines at any time.

Annex 2: Summary of changes made following feedback in first round of consultation

The dedicated areas in the MSCPs, with 20 spaces each, are not big enough for operation. Dedicated areas should be larger and positioned away from entrance to the floor.

We are now proposing larger areas in each car park, specifically

  • South Terminal: ground floor of Car Park 3, (zones F-L comprising 51 spaces)
  • North Terminal: 1st floor of Car Park 6. (zones D and E, comprising 45 spaces)

Should the size of these areas prove insufficient, we have identified further zones that can be converted to dedicated use.

Period permitted in the MSCPs should be longer than 15 minutes / limited to 10 minutes

Feedback was received that the discounted period in the MSCPs should be both longer – to allow a longer period for certain transactions, and shorter – to incentivise operators to be efficient.

As a result we have proposed a new charging structure which charges a lower rate for transactions under 10 minutes, and a higher, but still discounted, rate for transactions between 10 and 20 minutes.

This new structure should provide a balance between these two viewpoints.

Operational vehicles should be given free access to the MSCPs

The new proposal permits this, via number plate recognition.

Rates should be linked to RPI

The new proposal commits to linking rates for the MSCP to RPI for a period of at least 2 years.

The rates for the forecourt will be adjusted to reflect the balance between demand and available space.

There should be a 5 minute limit on forecourt transactions to limit congestion and improve capacity

The new proposal reflects this, though the intention is that this would be enforced in an appropriate manner within the remit of the traffic order.

Approved operators should be allowed to issue customers with pre-printed licences to display on their windscreen

We do not intend to specify a standard design for this, however if MGOs wish to do so it should clearly display the company name/logo, car registration details, and date/time of arrival. The 5 minute limit on the forecourt applies from the point at which the customer stops their car on the forecourt.

Approved operators should be allowed to self-police the dedicated areas on forecourt / MSCP allowing wardens and marshalls to focus on the general forecourt areas

We are open to this provided all airport by-laws are obeyed, and all communications are appropriate.

Approved operators should be allowed to select a scheme option for each terminal

We have allowed for this in the new proposal

There needs to be a payment machine positioned nearby the dedicated areas

The dedicated area in NT MSCP6 first floor already has a payment machine in place. In ST we will re-position a machine from the 2nd floor to the ground floor.

Ongoing consultation with approved operators is vital to make the scheme work

We agree, and recognise the need for a forum of this type to be appropriately constituted and meet regularly.

Individual operators should be recognised by the airport

We will maintain an up to date list on the airport website of the operators that are in the scheme. Operators may make reference to this fact in their marketing material.

The airport should give a longer period of time to allow operators to secure planning consent and Park Mark awards for their sites of operation

We recognise this issue, however the scheme is predicated on operators having Buy with Confidence accreditation, and Park Mark awards for all sites (to ensure minimum levels of customer service). As such, if we were to accept operators not possessing these accreditations into the scheme, it would undermine public confidence in the scheme’s credibility.

As a sensible compromise, we will extend the same discounted rates for use of the MSCPs to any operator that intends to join the scheme but cannot do so at the present time. These rates will be made available for a 9 month period, giving sufficient time to achieve the required accreditations.

During this period, the operator will not have access to the dedicated areas of operation in MSCPs or on the forecourt, nor will they be able to quote membership of the scheme in any form.

The dedicated areas need to be effectively signed

We will provide pedestrian signage within the lifts of the relevant MSCP indicated on which floor the dedicated area is located. We will also provide vehicle signage outside the relevant MSCP upon entry. We are open to further suggestions received through the working group once the scheme is in operation.

Annex 3: Summary of feedback received but not accepted

Taxis should be charged for drop-offs

The forecourts are currently available for drop-off transactions, where the same driver drives onto and off the forecourt, at no charge. A taxi is not distinguishable from a private car in this respect, so we do not see a basis on which this could be charged.

MSCP dedicated areas should be barriered to public / in a different location

Forecourt dedicated areas should be barriered.

We do not believe it feasible to barrier either the dedicated areas on the forecourt, or a section of a floor in the MSCPs. If the size of the approved operator dedicated area becomes large enough that a whole floor of the MSCPs is warranted, then we are open to considering barrier control for the floor in question, however we do not believe this will be the case on day one of operation.

Bays should be marked for individual operators / enlarged

We believe this would result in inefficient use of space and therefore require a larger dedicated area than is necessary, resulting in fewer spaces being available for public use. We have no plans to enlarge the bays, due to the cost involved. The dedicated areas are designed to be large enough that there should be a number of free bays in most cases.

5 minutes is not long enough for customers to exit once they’ve paid

This is the period in place at the moment, and it generally works well. If for any reason congestion should build up at the exit carriers, the barriers will be raised temporarily to alleviate this congestion.

Non-approved operators should not be permitted to operate at the airport, as this puts the airport’s reputation at risk through poor customer service

We do not see under what legal or practicable basis unapproved operators could be prevented from operating at the airport, providing they use the MSCPs, paying the regular retail tariff, and do not use the areas dedicated for approved operator use.

The MSCPs will not be able to cope with the volume of traffic resulting from this scheme

We have sought advice from APCOA as operators of the MSCPs as to the likelihood of potential congestion issues in the short-stay car park. Their advice is that the risk of serious congestion is low, however in the event that this does happen contingency plans (manning of entry barriers and temporary lifting of exit barriers) will be implemented.

The scheme needs to offer the option to allow MGOs to collect customers’ cars in a hotel, and return it in the car park.

Either both pick-up and drop-off transactions will need to be made in the hotel premises, or the MGO will need to join the MSCP only scheme, in which case only the return transaction will be charged.

© 2011