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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Airport Parking Fees Under Fire

Prosecutors say it is illegal for airports to charge motorists who loiter outside terminals longer than 15 minutes and are pursuing their case in court.

The Prosecutor General's Office on Tuesday filed a suit against Domodedovo airport and intends to do the same against the city's two other major airports.

"Domodedovo is just the beginning," said Yelena Samolina, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office. "Once our investigations are completed, suits will be filed against Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo, too."

Unlike most airports in the West, Moscow airports require drivers to collect a time card to access departure and arrival gates and are charged if they stay longer than 15 minutes, even if they don't leave their vehicles. All three airports consider 16 minutes to be the same as an hour, for which they charge between 40 rubles and 50 rubles.

Prosecutors say the practice violates the freedom of movement guarantees in the Constitution, as well as the Civil Code and the law on protecting consumer rights.

Samolina said that Moscow and regional prosecutors have been investigating the practice for some time and were given a boost by human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov, who voiced similar concerns in July.

"The Prosecutor General's Office is not against paid parking, but it has to be regulated," she said.

Officials at all three airports railed against the prosecutor's office Wednesday, saying a ban on paid parking would cause chaos and jeopardize security.

"We are looking for legal ways to defend our position," said Yulia Mazanova, spokeswoman for East Line Group, which operates Domodedovo.

"Our system of parking is the only way to regulate traffic. Making it free will lead to congestion and prevent people from accessing the airport," she said.

Sheremetyevo spokeswoman Yulia Emm said 15 minutes is more than enough for a car to drive up to the terminal, drop off a passenger and leave.

"If a car lingers more than 15 minutes it is qualified as parking and this is a service you have to pay for," she said. "Some 25,000 passengers pass through Sheremetyevo every day ... and here the ruble is the only regulator," she added.

Emm said that prosecutors urged the airport to provide free parking as far back as May, and it did. "In August, we organized free parking for 150 cars at Sheremetyevo-2 and 110 at Sheremetyevo-1," she said.

Pavel Finozhenkov, general director of BRK-Invest, which operates Sheremetyevo's paid parking system, said previous efforts to regulate traffic failed because drivers refused to cooperate.

Vnukovo general director Vitaly Vantsev said his airport offered free parking three years ago "and the press was filled with reports about chaos" at the airport. "People were missing their flights," he said.

"We can return to this but nobody will like it."

Vantsev said if the prosecutor's office gets its way airport security will be "seriously compromised."

"We all talk about combating terrorism but we forget where we should start. ... We will prove in court that we are right," he said.

Meanwhile, Sheremetyevo this week announced a closed tender to choose two official taxi companies to service the airport.