Airport Parking — Decision Puzzle #01

Emre Soyer
3 min readSep 26, 2021

Decision Puzzles are based on real events, where a critical decision is required without prior preparation. There may be various solutions depending on the situation and the decision maker. What would be yours?

It’s evening. You are traveling abroad for a meeting that is scheduled for the next morning. That meeting may be a tipping point in your career. You even bought a new suit for the occasion, thinking you shouldn’t leave anything to chance.

You just drove your car to the parking garage of the airport. You are startled how crowded the place is and wish that you had taken a taxi. On your return, you had planned to drive directly to a friend’s summer residence out of the city.

You realize that the next day is the start of a four-day local holiday and it seems everyone in your city is at the airport looking for a parking slot. You drive slowly behind a queue of 10–12 cars. It is the first time that you find yourself in such a situation. You look around to find somebody to talk to: a guard, a cleaning person, … anybody. There’s no one to consult about the situation. At one point you stop the car at the payment point for returning passengers to ask the guy at the counter if there are any additional parking spaces outside of this building. His answer was negative. Somebody honks heavily as you try to get back into your car. You are stressed.

Suddenly you have an idea: This is the best time to use the parking valet service. As you drive by the service station, you read the sign: “We are full. Sorry!” So, you are back on the hunt for a parking spot. Most probably there are a couple of queues on each level of this six-story parking garage.

Some airports, malls, and buildings have a parking management system, which provides real-time information on slot counts, available spots, etc. Unfortunately, this place doesn’t have any of those. Would any such system be helpful in this hectic case? You are not sure.

You hit the brakes as someone jumps in front of your car. He’s taking the picture of the aisle, to remind himself about his car’s place upon his return. He just parked there. Lucky driver, you think.

You start sweating. There are 35 minutes until the check-in closes. After parking your car you’ll still need 15 minutes until you reach the desk. You could call the airline and ask for some late check-in allowance. But you are not sure how long this slot hunting will continue.

You consider your options:

  • Leave the car at a random spot. It will surely be towed away.
  • Drive out of the airport and leave it on a side street. But you don’t even know how long it will take you to drive to a side street and then walk back.

You don’t like any of these solutions. Both may be damaging to your beloved car. Beyond it’s price, it also has a sentimental value to you. On the other hand, your career prospects may be at risk if you miss your flight.

What would be a wise decision?

Prepared by SOYER Decision Advisory. © Emre Soyer



Emre Soyer

behavioral scientist, co-author of The Myth of Experience