FlightCar launches service at three more airports

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC

Although it's still working out permitting issues at some West Coast airports, FlightCar is expanding its peer-to-peer car-sharing service to three new airports: Dallas Love Field, Philadelphia International and Washington Dulles.

The company, which currently operates at the San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle airports, allows travelers to park their cars near airports for free. FlightCar washes the cars and rents them out to other travelers at rates the company claims are consistently 40 to 50 percent below those of traditional car rental companies. Car owners get a cut of the rental fees, based on the mileage the car is driven.

Source: FlightCar

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FlightCar also provides insurance. "We cover $1,000,000 in liability for you, per incident, and that is primary coverage in case of any incident," said Kevin Petrovic, FlightCar co-founder and president, in a statement. "We also cover the full value of the car in case of collision or damage, and that is also primary, with no deductible."

The service is an intriguing and cost-effective alternative for some travelers. But in some cities FlightCar has followed the lead of many app-dispatched ride-sharing services by claiming it is "breaking new ground" with a new business model and thus not required to secure permits required of similar businesses.

FlightCar does have a permit to operate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but it does not yet have an operating agreement with Massport, which operates Boston Logan International Airport. "They've said several times they'd feel better if we had a permit," said Petrovic, but there discussions are still underway as to whether FlightCar should be permitted and charged fees like traditional rental car services.

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And although last year RelayRides, a company offering an almost identical service to FlightCar, made an agreement to operate at San Francisco International, FlightCar still operates at SFO without a permit and is being sued by the airport.

FlightCar does not have permits to operate at the airports it begins serving this week — DAL, PHL and Dulles — but Petrovic said via email that the company "has been in discussions with all three airport authorities, shared our plans with them, have agreed on permit and fee structures, and will be working diligently to complete the permit process as quickly as possible."

Fees from rental car, parking and ground transportation make up a significant portion of the non-aeronautical income earned by airports.

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According to the Federal Aviation Administration, during 2013, operating revenues for U.S. airports totaled $18.17 billion, with $8.19 billion, or about 45 percent coming from nonaeronautical sources such as food and beverage, retail and duty free and other categories.

Rental car fees were $1.6 billion, or about 19.4 percent of nonaeronautical revenue for airports, while parking and ground transportation fees totaled $3.4 billion, or about 41 percent.

"Our members welcome the opportunity to provide new services to their customers," said Tom Devine, general counsel for Airports Council International-North America, which represents airports in North America, "as long as these entities are conducting their services in compliance with airport regulations and as long as they play by the rules."