Calgary airport to return accessible parking spots after botched marketing campaign

The Calgary Airport Authority says it will return accessible stalls that were converted to more lucrative "Lexus-only" spaces after condemnation from customers — and the car maker.

Lexus was unaware airport authority converted accessible spaces into 'Lexus-only' spaces

Lexus paid the Calgary Airport Authority for the right to put its name on five parking spaces for the exclusive use of people who drive its vehicles. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The Calgary Airport Authority is returning disabled parking spaces after it was criticized for converting them to more lucrative "Lexus-only" spaces as part of a marketing campaign.

It received a complaint after a family with access needs pulled into the short-term section of the parkade to find five accessible parking spaces they usually use were gone.

The airport sold the space to Lexus so it could paint its logo on the floor and allow its customers to enjoy the prime location exclusively.

In a response to CBC Calgary, Lexus Canada said Monday night that it was unaware the marketing campaign would involve the removal of parking spaces for travellers living with a disability. 

Calgary Airport Authority spokesperson Jody Moseley says the airport is always looking for new ways to create revenue. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"Lexus Canada would like to offer our heartfelt apologies to anyone who may have been affected or offended by a recent marketing campaign at the Calgary airport. We were not aware that accessible parking spaces would be used for this campaign, and have asked the airport to correct the situation as quickly as possible by returning these parking spaces to their intended use," read a statement sent by Michael Bouliane, manager of corporate communications at the company.

"In the future, we will more carefully scrutinize the details of these types of marketing campaigns.  We were truly embarrassed by this mistake. It shouldn't have happened and we are taking steps to make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Airport apologizes

The airport also released a statement Monday night, saying it would reverse the decision and return the spots to accessible parking. 

"YYC Calgary International Airport would like to apologize to our passengers impacted by the decision to change the location of the accessible parking stalls at the airport; it is clearly out of touch with our commitment to being an accessible facility," the statement said. 

In addition to a commitment to revert the stalls "asap," the authority also said disabled stalls that were added in another location when the Lexus-only spots were created will remain. 

"The Calgary Airport Authority would also like to apologize to Lexus Canada," the statement continues.

"For clarity, The Calgary Airport Authority was solely responsible for the selection of the stalls identified for the parking campaign. Lexus Canada did not play a role in selecting, and was not aware of, the locations for the campaign."

Revenue stream

Earlier in the day, Calgary Airport Authority spokesperson Jody Moseley said selling the bays as advertising space to the luxury car brand would make the airport some money.

"We're always looking at different ways to diversify our revenue stream," she said.

Moseley said not providing alternative accessible spaces simultaneously was just a case of bad timing.

"I think it was one of those communication fails, from the YYC perspective," she said.

"We really were in the process of moving and accommodating the new advertising space at the same time, but what we really should have done is let them know in advance that this was happening."

The airport sold parking spaces near the doors to Lexus so the company's customers can enjoy the prime location. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Airport customer Dustin Stroh says it seems like a waste of space.

"If they're taking handicap spots, you'd think they'd have replaced them first. And they're all empty right where there could be five spots where somebody needs wheelchair access," he said.