Woman shares parking horror story as Gatwick Airport issues passenger warning

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

If you've ever been on holiday and left your car with a company operating around the airport then you'll know the relief when returning to it and seeing it in the same condition.

Sherene Changoo was left horrified by the state of her vehicle after leaving it with a 'meet and greet' firm when she travelled to the Carribean from Gatwick Airport following the death of her grandmother.

After an eight hour flight, she and her husband and grandfather were left waiting over three hours for the company to eventually retrieve her car.

Following several repeated unanswered calls to the firm it was even suggested she phone the police over concerns the vehicle might've been stolen.

Bird poo on Sherene's car Credit:

Tired and exhausted, Sherene was greeted by a birds muck mud mess and a fuel tank running on empty, not what she expected or paid for when she dropped off her vehicle three weeks before.

"It was mixed emotions. I was so relieved to see it first of all but when we saw the state of it we were livid.

"There was a gentleman next to us. He was even shocked. My husband was mad. There's no words to describe it. It looked like it had been in a scrap yard.

"They'd clearly been using it. I don't know what they were doing with it, but it was clearly not parked securely. It looked like it left outside somewhere.

  • Sherene Changoo was caught out by a con-artist parking company

"We were we were stunned. Don't forget, we're exhausted from our flight, we believe will that we put we've paid for service, it wasn't for free.

"We were told the car would be securely parked and because we've used companies before it was just unbelievable. The state, literally birds mess everywhere, it was awful.

"I think it's a disgrace that people would do this and have no human empathy because obviously they are scammers so they're taking this opportunity to take away the car for whatever reason."

Sherene is one of a number of increasing passengers to fall victim to rogue parking firms.

One of hundreds of cars found abandoned by a bogus parking business in a muddy field in 2016 Credit:

Gatwick Airport has seen a 164% increase in complaints this year compared to a similar period in 2019.

As they are external companies, and not within the control of the West Sussex airport, there is very little they can do to crack down on bogus parking firms.

Instead, the airport has issued a five point check list for passengers to ensure they are not caught out should they want to leave their vehicle whilst travelling with a private company.

Gatwick's five step parking checklist. Does the company have...

  • Positive reviews on Trustpilot, or other reputable review sites

  • Full, clear contact details - not just a mobile phone number - on the company’s website

  • Companies House Number, VAT Number and registered company address on their website

  • British Parking Association’s accreditation for all the operator’s storage sites

  • Trading Standards’ Buy With Confidence accreditation

Gary Wallace, Head of Car Parks, Gatwick Airport said,"We know what a special time Christmas is for passengers – especially as this is the first in three years with unrestricted travel.

"The last thing we want is for our passengers’ holidays to be ruined by rogue parking companies.

"For complete peace of mind, we would always recommend passengers book with official Gatwick Airport parking, however, if considering using a third-party ‘meet and greet’ parking provider, we strongly advise using our checklist before booking."

Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire & Rescue, said,

"We robustly tackle traders who con and mislead consumers and take action when needed to ensure rogue traders are dealt with.

"When looking for a meet and greet parking operator, we urge consumers to carefully check to ensure the company is genuine and trustworthy.

"The five-point checklist is a really useful guide in how to do this."

Anyone with concerns about a company should contact Trading Standards.