Edmonton International Airport parking lots home to 100-plus ditched cars

While airports are typically places with a lot of to and fro, more than 100 ditched vehicles left behind in the Edmonton International Airport’s parking lots aren't going anywhere soon.

Each month, two or three vehicles are permanently left behind in the EIA parking lots

In the photo are three of the 130 to 140 abandoned vehicles sitting in the parking lots of the Edmonton International Airport. (Edmonton International Airport)

While airports are typically places with a lot of to and fro, more than 100 ditched vehicles left behind in the Edmonton International Airport's parking lots are another matter.

Between 130 and 140 abandoned cars are currently sitting in airport parking lots, taking up about one per cent of the 13,000 available parking spots, says spokeswoman Heather Hamilton.

Some have been there just a few weeks — others up to three years. By her estimate, two or three vehicles are left behind each month.

"Sometimes … in our patrols we'll just notice a car that's been sitting there. The tires are flat, it's covered with dust. You'll see them in the spring sometimes covered with a foot or two of snow at a time when they really shouldn't be."

And they aren't just junkers, she said. Many vehicles are only a few years old and in good shape.

"We have a truck on site that I'm sure is worth $30,000. It's a 2014 Chevy pickup truck."

Other cars contain items of clear sentimental values like family photos and rosary beads, she added.

While it's hard to say why so many never return for the vehicles, Hamilton has some theories.

"I think what often happens … it has to do with mobile workers that are transiting through Edmonton on their way to sites in northern Alberta," she said.

"They're working at oil sites or manufacturing forestry sites and living somewhere else. So they have a vehicle in Edmonton for when they're transiting through and then their shift changes, so they've been laid off let's say or they've been reassigned somewhere else within their company.

"Now they're on the other side of the country, sometimes on the other side of the world … and they just don't know what to do about it."

Snowbirds also make up a portion of the people who never return for their cars, she said.

Where do the cars go?

Hamilton said there is a process in place to deal with the abandoned cars:

  • Where a driver has indicated their anticipated exit date, the airport gives them an extra 45-day grace period;
  • When no exit date is given, airport workers do the best they can to estimate a comparable length of time;
  • After that point, the case is handed over to the RCMP who are charged with tracking down the vehicle's owner;
  • Once the owner is found, they are given 90 days to collect their vehicle;
  • After 90-day notice period is over, the vehicle goes to public auction, with any money made going to the province.

"There's a few there that we'll be lucky when they're auctioned, if the auction gets back the cost of towing them," Hamilton said.

The real challenge, Hamilton said, is tracking down the missing drivers — many of whom are out of province or even on the other side of the planet.

Understandably, RCMP often have more pressing matters to attend to than trying to find a missing owner, Hamilton said.

Asked about the types of fees or fines owners might be facing months or years after abandoning their vehicle, Hamilton said the EIA is willing to negotiate. Often, owners have found themselves on hard times and feel unable to get their cars back.

"In most cases, if these people have a compelling reason for it, we'll drop the parking fees," she said.

"Our goal is mainly to reunite the cars with their owners, to get the parking spaces back in circulation for people."

Hamilton's advice for people planning to leave their vehicle behind for a while is to make sure your registration remains current past your estimated return date.

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