The winner of the escalating battle for Raleigh-Durham International Airport's lucrative parking business may be determined by people such as Wayne Eakes.

The manufacturing engineer always chooses to park in the airport's sprawling seven-story parking garage because it's convenient to RDU's terminals. But Eakes said lower fees and amenities such as free bottled water and newspapers might persuade him to switch to a new lot two miles from the terminals.

"With gas prices being so high, any kind of savings helps," said Eakes, who lives in Snow Camp and flies out of RDU on business about six times a year. "And you wouldn't have to wander around looking for your car."

The lot, owned by Cincinnati-based Fast Park, ups the ante for the RDU parking business, worth about $40 million a year.

The lot, which has its grand opening today, adds 2,000 spaces to RDU's parking mix. To attract customers, it is offering free parking through Aug. 9. After that, daily fees will be $6.36 a day, or $5.45 for customers who download a "frequent parker" card from company's Web site.

That's cheaper than RDU's parking deck, which costs $10 for the daily lot. But it's on par with RDU's remote lots, which cost $6 a day and shuttle passengers from about a mile away.

Two other private parking operations already shuttle passengers to the terminals, but Fast Park's lot is more than twice as large as the largest competitor, the 920-space Preflight Airport Parking on Lumley Road. The I-40 Park & Fly on Airgate Drive has about 250 spaces.

Fast Park's parent company, Chavez Properties, began buying land for the site in 2005 and now has 27.9 total acres, according to Wake County tax records.

Airline ticket prices are rising, and travel is predicted to decline with a slowing economy. But Manuel Chavez, the company's vice president, said amenities including free car washes, covered parking spaces and shuttles that take passengers from their cars directly to terminals will draw the customers who are still flying.

"You can pull into those big garages and get lucky and find a space, and if you do, then you've got lug your bags to the terminal," Chavez said.

The family-owned company also has airport parking operations in Austin, Baltimore, Cleveland, Houston, Albuquerque, Cincinnati, Miami, Memphis and Tucson. It's developing sites in Milwaukee and Orlando.