Free parking at Philly airport — for travelers who don’t mind sharing their cars

Travelers can now park their cars for free at Philadelphia International Airport, as long as they don’t mind someone taking it for a spin while they’re gone.

San Francisco-based Flight Car, a peer-to-peer rental service, is expanding into the area just in time for the busy Thanksgiving holiday.

Co-founder Kevin Petrovic, 20, says the current system for airport rentals just doesn’t make sense.

“You might have one parking lot with all the long-term parking, and right next to it, you might have a bunch of parking lots with all the rental cars in them. So, we basically said, ‘why not combine these two parking lots and move them into one?'” he said.

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That simple idea has generated the company $20 million in venture capital and operations at seven airports nationally.

In Philly, travelers can use the service to avoid the airport’s $11-per-day economy parking rate.

While away, though, the car is up for grabs. Flight Car will rent it out to anyone over age 18 who can pass a driver-history screening.

“I mean, accidents do happen, right, because even if you are the best driver on the road, other people on the road are not,” said Petrovic.

To calm fears, Flight Car provides a $1 million liability policy on top of damage protection. If the car is rented, the owner also receives a small commission based on the miles driven.

“If I said I had absolutely no concern, I think it would be a bit naive on my part,” says Ali Mahani, who left his Toyota at the San Francisco Flight Car location last week during a three-day trip to New York.

But the Berkeley law student has used other “sharing economy” players, including Airbnb and Lyft, and always had positive experiences. He says people are, for the most part, respectful and would likely treat the car as well as he does.

“Actually, yes, I’m quite fond of it. Even though it is just a Corolla, I really do like my car,” he joked.

For those looking to rent something in the Corolla range, Flight Car’s prices are low. Compacts tend to run less than $20 per day, and no clunkers are allowed.

All this means new competition for the rental car giants such as Hertz and Avis.

Mary Flannery, manager of public affairs at Philly International, said it isn’t clear how Flight Car will affect airport operations.

“We think it is a new business model, and we will be interested to see how well they do,” she said. “We wish them well.”

Flight Car is also launching today at Dallas Love Field airport and Washington Dulles

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