Airport shuttle parking company closes without notice

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A private parking lot near Tampa International Airport closed up shop in the middle of the night, leaving dozens of cars - and their owners - out in the cold.

Many fliers use services like Premier Parking off W. Hillsborough Avenue. The service lets you park your car and a shuttle takes you to the airport, all for a cheaper price than long-term airport parking.

But some folks returning home after business trips and vacations came back to find Premier Parking shuttered and their cars stuck.

One of these stranded customers, Sue Worner, said she was told a shuttle would pick her up when she got back to Tampa.

"We arrived last night. Our flight landed around 8:15. We get off, we get our luggage. We make a phone call, you're supposed to call a number and then they send a shuttle," Worner said. 

But over at Premier Parking, no one answered the service line. A cab ride over to the lot revealed the 24-hour business was closed.

"We had her take us back to the airport and rented a car. We ended up getting home after midnight and here we are today. We thought, daylight, maybe someone will be here," Worner said Tuesday.

Neighboring business owner Bob Brooks says Premier Parking has been in operation about two years, but says after closing up Thursday night, they haven't reopened.

He says Worner was just one of dozens left stranded over the holiday weekend.

"We had them come in our shop and sit and try and make other arrangements to get home, get other keys and get access to their vehicles," Brooks said.

Someone took the process into their own hands, shattering the Premier Parking's office window to get their car keys themselves.

"I can't even imagine myself, going out of town for a week or two and coming back and you're trying to get back home and you're stranded. Your expensive car is now just in a parking lot. Your keys are with somebody else and nobody's watching it," Brooks said.

Thankfully, the Worner's car was untouched. Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies say it appears none of the cars, or keys, was stolen. Now, they're working to inform other clients that their cars aren't exactly in safe keeping.

"You just didn't know what to do. That was the most frustrating part. You don't know what to do. And you still don't know what to do," Worner said.

The property manager has removed and secured all the keys from the company's office and will be handing them out when people come by. While deputies are helping notify car owners, they say getting refunds will have to be handled on a civil basis.

Premier Parking lists 25 other parking lots across the country on its website. Its headquarters is in Tampa. Fox 13's calls to Premier Parking were not returned.