Best Practices for Elevating the Airport Parking Experience


Best Practices for Elevating the Airport Parking Experience

Airports are under increasing pressure to recover income lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as competitive pressures, and reduced revenues from airlines. Finding new sources of non-aeronautical revenue is key to success. 

The travel experience typically begins in the parking lot, so it sets the stage for a better overall experience as the first and last touch point of the traveler. Parking and transportation programs also provide huge untapped potential to increase non-aeronautical profit. 

The good news is that more people are returning to air travel. Consequently, airport parking facilities are seeing increasing capacity levels as more travelers opt to use their own vehicles instead of mass transit or third-party services (such as taxis or TNCs). But the stakes are high as these facilities must be consistently safe and running efficiently for a hassle-free travel experience. 

To reach a more elevated airport parking experience, there are best practices in operations and maintenance that can be quickly implemented to offer peak safety, efficiency, and profitability. 

Cleaning Remains Center Stage 

COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior in ways that will remain for some time. A portion of the population will continue to be hyper-aware of cleanliness, especially at large facilities like airports. As passengers return to airports in higher volumes, they will expect a higher level of safety throughout their entire transportation experience, particularly in shared spaces.

Traditionally, parking facility cleaning happens in the background, with schedules arranged to be as unobtrusive as possible. Today’s customers will be looking for visible signs that disinfection is being taken seriously with more frequent cleaning during business hours, hand sanitizer near high touch points, and more trash cans where gloves and masks can be safely discarded. 

Of course, visibility is not as important as the actual effectiveness of a cleaning program. This requires ongoing, reliable access to disinfection supplies and chemicals, knowledge of cleaning and disinfection best practices, and signage to promote safe social distancing. Disinfection and cleaning should include all high-touch surfaces such as any doors, railings, elevator banks and shuttle buses. Valet services should use PPE, floor mats, steering wheel shields and disinfection services to sanitize customers’ vehicles to provide a visual reassurance. 

Empower Great Travel Experiences with Technology

One of the important lessons of the pandemic is the need for parking operations to be flexible and responsive to factors they can’t control – such as business closures, customer behavior, and changing government guidance. Now is the ideal time to take a proactive approach to making facilities safer, building customer confidence, and enabling smarter operational decisions. 

A core part of this strategy should be assessing current systems and plans for future optimization through technology upgrades – such as touchless technologies, mobile payment, contactless card readers, license plate readers, and platforms to optimize occupancy and deploy dynamic pricing – to simplify and enhance your overall parking experience. 

• Mobile parking apps for smart phones and devices get passengers parked faster and easier, make them less stressed, and give them more time to shop, eat, and spend money at your airport. 

• As payment continues to shift to digital platforms, contactless payments reduce the number of touchpoints customers interact with and makes the parking experience more convenient in the process. With more customers choosing a self-serve payment option, the need for as many parking attendants on staff or traditional expensive cash pay stations is lessened.

• Mobile payment systems, along with parking intelligence software, also provide a wealth of granular data that can be leveraged to prevent cost overruns and effectively address customer needs. 

• Raw data (e.g., occupancy rates, length of visits, and number of monthly vs. transient customers) can be translated into actionable operational plans. These data-driven insights can inform dynamic pricing, set evening rates, and make price adjustments on the spot. Business intelligence tools are available to enable integration across multiple parking data systems and provide access to current analytics across the country. 

• Business intelligence tools can also allow customized shuttle and transportation programs. This right-sizing approach better meets peak demands and seasonal changes while maximizing efficiency and net operating income. Other technologies are available to improve busing operations include GPS, passenger count systems, next bus info, and pre/post trip management.    

Even with automation and advanced digital platforms, it is important not to forget “the human face of parking.” People will continue to be one of the greatest assets of your parking operation. Best practices in process, training, protocols, and measurement are necessary to enable staff to perform their jobs at the highest levels and ensure they are always up-to-speed on constantly evolving industry regulations. 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint 

Airports are one of the largest public users of energy in the country, and utilities are commonly an airport’s second largest operating cost. Innovative energy-saving resources like high voltage testing and high-efficiency lighting, and renewable energy solutions like solar and EV charging solutions can help significantly reduce energy use, maintenance costs, and operating expenses.

Charging stations have revolutionized the refueling paradigm. With the growing number of electric vehicles drivers, EV charging ports can offer measurable pay-off and new revenue streams. Airports with EV charging stations not only provide a great amenity to travelers, but they can also generate up to $25 a day per charging port in added revenue. It is also important to navigate the intersection of evolving technology, power infrastructure, and operations that impact a successful EV charger installation. Success factors also include maximizing asset life, integration with apps and mobile technology, and the capability to meet growing demand for fast charging.

Rely on Expertise to Stay Agile

A key take away is to adopt a holistic approach to create new efficiencies and values through services that work more closely together. An experienced vendor will bring key elements to help your facility adapt more quickly: a platform of flexible technologies and the ability to implement new systems as they evolve; best practices that are working elsewhere; the ability to make data-driven decisions; and an attentiveness to the latest guidance from health organizations and the government.

Scott Hutchison is SVP Landside Operations, ABM Aviation and can be reached at

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Scott Hutchison
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