Let’s be honest, airport car parking has never been considered on the cool side of airport management and probably never will be despite its obvious importance as a key revenue generator.
Indeed, it is probably fair to say that it is viewed as less exotic than other sources of revenues such as airport advertising, duty free shopping and F&B outlets, and maybe for this reason car parking remains to this day a relatively understudied area of airport management.
And yet, never has car parking been so interesting or crucial to the commercial success of an airport business.
Not only is car parking an increasingly important source of revenue for most airports, it is also an area undergoing massive, technologically-driven upheaval in the form of online booking tools and advanced management technologies that are:
- Driving revenue growth through the adoption of airline-like yield management practices improving efficient asset utilisation;
- Allowing for greater product segmentation (some airports have up to 10 different car parking ‘products’ again improving both revenue and the customer experience;
- Reducing the often highly politicised nature of car parking charges by increasing pricing opacity as airports move away from standard drive-up rates to prices driven by factors such as; season, day of the week and time of the day;
- Creating new methods for airports to interact with their local communities through database and social media interaction with car park users; and
- Providing tools for airports to compete more effectively with off-airport car parking providers, taxis and ground transport disrupters such as Uber and Lyft.
For these reasons, a comprehensive new report, The Airport Car Parking Study (the ACP Study) has been released by The Mercurius Group – an international consultancy specialising in maximising commercial activities – and The Moodie Davitt Report.
About the ACP Study
The ACP Study covers 336 airports in three mega regions (Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas) and 23 sub-regions across 70 countries and examined four main car park types:
- Short Term term parking (typically for less than 24 hours and nearest to terminal buildings) – provided by 100% of airports in the study;
- Long Term parking (typically for more than 24 hours and further away from terminal buildings) – provided by 95% of airports;
- Premium parking (typically providing additional benefits including terminal proximity, fast-track access, wider space etc) – provided by 31% of airports; and
- Valet parking (the most convenient of all parking types) – provided by 28% of airports.
In addition to benchmarking the level of prices at each type of car parking, the ACP Study also examined the structure of prices. These included ‘free parking periods’, ‘daily rates’ and ‘additional services’ such as facilities available for passengers with reduced mobility, electric vehicle charging and even a service to dig out your snow covered car!
Online booking tools
Critically, the ACP Study devotes an entire chapter to the phenomenon of online booking tools. More than any other technology, online booking tools are revolutionising airport car parking (that is until driverless cars come along!).
In fact online booking tools were utilised by 43% of airports in the study. The take-up rate by region and by airport size is highlighted in Figure 1 (above).
The take-up rate of online booking tools is highest in Europe at 65%. Within Europe, one sub-region, Britain & Ireland, had a 100% utilisation rate, with other sub-regions such as the Nordics and the Iberian Peninsula not far behind with 93% and 90% respectively.
In the Americas, the take-up rate for online booking tools was low, driven largely by US and Central and South American sub-regions. Canadian airports were the exception with a take-up rate of 88%.
Asia-Pacific had the lowest take-up rate of all the regions at 20%, with some sub-regions having a zero take-up rate (Greater China, for example) and others, such as Australia and New Zealand, having a high take-up rate at 65%.
The ACP Study also found that online booking tools are not solely the preserve of large airports. In fact, mid-sized airports had the highest take-up rates, with 55% of airports within the 5-10mppa band implementing online booking tools.
The largest airports (30mppa+) and the smallest airports (0-2mppa) had the lowest and below average take-up rates.
Neither are online booking tools just for show. Recently, Sydney Airport, reported that in 2016, more than 50% of its entire car parking revenue was generated through its online booking tool.
Online booking tools offer many advantages for airports including greater customer service; better inventory and capacity management; better demand management during peaks; operational efficiencies; cash flow benefits; cancellation policy and over-booking benefits; up-selling and cross-selling opportunities; customer relationship management; and competition management.
The uptake of online car park booking also suggests that it offers benefits for the consumer as well, including peace-of-mind, convenience and lower prices (under certain conditions).
The ACP Study also included five case studies of online car parking prices up to six months in advance at Sydney, Auckland, Manchester, Zurich and Munich airports.
Short Term parking price benchmarks
The headline indicator in any discussion on airport parking is the 24-hour Short Term parking rate. This is the most common measure by which consumers (and politicians) have historically measured the reasonableness of airport car parking prices.
Indeed, Short Term parking prices also set the consumer’s value perception for the entire airport, particularly retail. It is such a touchy subject that in many countries, regulatory authorities and competition commissions carefully monitor car parking prices.
Notwithstanding the opacity brought about by online booking tools and yield management practices, setting the 24-hour Short Term parking rate is a key consideration for airports.
The Mercurius Group’s 24 hour Car Parking Pricing Tool (CPPT) takes into consideration factors such as demand vs supply; downtown parking prices; average taxi/Uber prices; other ground transport prices; and off-airport competition to determine maximum 24 hour Short Term price levels.
The level of Short Term parking prices by each of the 23 sub-regions in the ACP Study is shown in Figure 2 (above).
The highest average Short Term parking prices were found in the Middle East (Index 189 relative to the average of all airports), Britain and Ireland (Index 178) and the Alpine region (Index 142).
Worthy of note is that while the average prices are higher in the Middle East, the Britain and Ireland sub-region contained the airports with the highest (Index 322) and second highest (Index 315) prices in the study.
The lowest average Short Term parking prices were found in India and Other Asia category (Index 37), Turkey and The Balkans (Index 57) and Greater China (Index 59). Although prices in The Americas were on average lower overall, there were six sub-regions with lower prices than the lowest sub-region in The Americas.
Interestingly, airports in The Americas had both the lowest average prices and the lowest variability of prices by sub-region. Only 32 index points separate the highest and lowest sub-regions in The Americas, compared to 152 index points in Asia-Pacific and 121 index points in Europe.