Airport valet service to disclose search policy

For $19 a day, travelers at Charlotte’s airport can forgo parking hassles and leave their cars just outside the terminal. For a fee, valet attendants will even give them an N.C. auto inspection or a wash.

But for the last 1 1/2 years, airport employees have been giving the valet-parked cars something else – searches – without the consent or knowledge of car owners.

This week, airport officials will start posting signs informing motorists of the car searches.

Business traveler Michelle Zevola said she frequently uses the curbside valet service but noticed an airport employee searching her car last week.

“I was inside paying my bill. I looked through the window and saw this gentleman looking through my trunk,” Zevola said. “He was moving things around, shining a flashlight, going through the compartments. I am so fine being searched at the airport. It’s about safety. But I am not fine with my personal property being searched without permission or notification.”

Deputy Aviation Director Jack Christine said Charlotte Douglas International will add the signs this week to inform travelers of the curbside valet service car searches.

There has been no posted signs at the valet stand or around the airport that indicate cars left with curbside service will be searched. There’s no warning on the back of the valet ticket.

Zevola said the man searching her car wouldn’t tell her which agency he worked for but told her to take her problems up “with the TSA.”

Transportation Safety Administration officials told NBC Charlotte their agents do not search vehicles using valet services at Charlotte Douglas. The airport said its employees conduct the searches, which are approved by the TSA.

“Our airport security plan requires those vehicles be searched,” Christine said.

Staff writer Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and NBC Charlotte contributed.