MIA Employees Nab Accessible Spots

As many of you know, airports and cruise terminals throughout Florida offer people with adapted vehicles free parking. That’s the state law. But some venues, such as Miami International Airport (MIA), go a bit further – they offer free parking to anyone with a disabled placard or plate. They are allowed, yet not required, to do that.

But if county aviation director Jos? Abreu gets his way, that policy will soon end. And it’s all because of abuse — abuse by MIA employees.

According to the Miami Herald, video cameras caught “hundreds” of able-bodied MIA employees parking in accessible spots, including county workers, airline employees and even one federal officer! And they all had permits claiming that the holders could not walk more than 200 feet.

These permits were obviously obtained under false pretenses or borrowed from friends or family members, as the video clearly shows many of them carrying bulky bags long distances. Others who were nabbed were employees who had very physical jobs — ramp workers or baggage handlers — which basically precludes the hidden disability defense.

So what ‘s the motivation? Well some of the employees wanted to avoid the shuttle bus ride from the employee parking lot, but others just wanted to avoid the $15 daily fee in the long-term garages or the $30 a day charge for the short-term lot when they went on trips.

According to the Miami Herald, six workers used the permits more than 400 times since mid-2005, waiving parking charges of $6,000 to $12,000 each. And another worker used a permit issued in New York to waive $4,800 in 2007 alone. In fact $1.1 million in waived fees can be directly traced to airport workers. That lost revenue drives up airport costs and in the end comes out of passengers’ pockets.

So that’s why Abreu is asking the Miami Dade Mayor to repeal the local law and go back to the state standard of giving free airport parking only to folks with adapted vehicles. It should also be noted that MIA (for now) is the only airport in the country that offers free parking for anyone with a disabled placard or plate.

It’s unfortunate that it has to come to this, but at least airport officials are addressing the abuse. Under the new proposal, accessible parking will still be available to anyone with a placard, but only those folks with adapted vehicles will park for free.