Cheshire Constabulary is reminding travellers to do their research following a surge in the number of incidents relating to rogue, unofficial airport car parks.
Since the start of the school holidays police have seen an increase in the number of people reporting issues relating to supposed meet and greet car parks operating near to Manchester Airport – specifically in relation to a site on Moss Lane, Styal.
These incidents have included reports of damaged vehicles, lost keys, cars being seized by creditors and even reports of staff being abusive and threatening towards customers.
This activity escalated on Saturday 12 August when a customer reported that they had been threatened with a knife after challenging staff over the safety of a vehicle being used to transport people to the airport.
Police attended and two men were arrested on suspicion of affray. The pair, aged 21 and 52, have since been released on conditional bail.
A third man, aged 48, was also arrested on Sunday 13 August on suspicion of vehicle theft, after he used a customer's car to travel to Middlewich Custody Unit to collect his two colleagues. He has also been released on bail pending further enquiries.
Following the incidents officers conducted an operation at the Moss Lane site on Tuesday 15 August.
More than a dozen officers took part in the operation, along with colleagues from Trading Standards and Cheshire East Planning Unit.
During the operation officers spoke to a number of people and a mini-bus was seized after it was found to be unsafe. The vehicle was previously being used to transfer customers to the airport.
A number of damaged vehicles were also found at the site.
Following the operation work is now ongoing with Cheshire East to determine what action can be taken to prevent further issues at the site.
Following the operation Inspector Andrew Baker, Beat Manager for Wilmslow and Knutsford, part of Macclesfield LPU, said:
"Sadly, despite our previous warnings about these rogue car parks, people are still using the sites resulting in lots of unhappy customers and placing unnecessary pressure on local police officers.
"Many people using these car parks make their bookings through online comparison sites, believing that they are booking professional, secure airport parking which are linked to the airport. In reality, many of these car parks are simply muddy fields on land bordering the runway and have no affiliation to the airport whatsoever.
"While many of these businesses are not illegal and not all the incidents are criminal matters, some of the activity taking place on their sites is, and some the services they are providing are questionable.
"Holidays are supposed to be the highlight of the family calendar and while it might seem like a good idea to save a bit of cash on parking, the last thing anyone wants is to return home and find that their car has been damaged, or even worse is missing.
"If you are going on holiday and looking to book a parking slot, do your research, choose a reputable company and always book through an official website and don't just go for the cheapest option. Otherwise your car may be touring the UK while you are travelling the world."
A Manchester Airport spokesperson added:
"Whether you're going away on holiday or on business, you don't want to be worrying that your car isn't safe where you've parked it – that's why we offer our own official parking products to suit a range of budgets and back a number of reliable and reputable third-party providers located near the airport.
"It's important that passengers do their research before they hand over their keys. We encourage customers to use initiatives such as Park Mark and the government-backed Buy with Confidence scheme to find a provider that has undergone a series of detailed checks and is committed to trading fairly.
"We are grateful to Cheshire Constabulary and its partner agencies for the work they are doing to tackle this issue, and will continue to work with them to raise awareness of the risks posed by booking airport parking through these unscrupulous companies."
The two men arrested on suspicion of affray have been bailed until 13/11/23 and the man arrested for vehicle theft has been bailed until 13/10/23.