It’s a Long way to Fairbanks – But We Went Anyway


It’s a Long way to Fairbanks – But We Went Anyway

There are no direct flights from Newark, NJ to Fairbanks, Alaska. There are not a lot of direct flights between Fairbanks and most airports. Ingo Schweers started his journey to Fairbanks at 6 a.m. and landed nine hours later. It was October, and the small city was already getting ready for another cold and snowy winter. On average, the snow starts in September and ends in April. Restaurants were closed for the season, as well as the train running between Fairbanks and Anchorage. 

By keeping an accurate tally of the number of days parked, the airport protects the motorist from lost ticket charges.

Ingo made the long trip to Fairbanks Airport, a state-owned airport with 300+ flights a day, to test our new license plate inventory solution. Airports are faced with the arduous task of taking a daily inventory of each parked car. It is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Why do airports take inventory? The reason is twofold.

First, it helps motorists. With a lost parking ticket and no memory of the location of their car, parking personnel can reference the database of scanned cars and provide customers with information about the parking spot. With no parking ticket, travelers cannot demonstrate the length of their stays. By keeping an accurate tally of the number of days parked, the airport protects the motorist from lost ticket charges.

On the other hand, by having a true tally of the number of days parked, the airport protects itself from the loss of parking revenue. The solution also prevents the parking operation from being deceived by a parker’s dishonesty. 

From an operational standpoint, the database of scanned vehicles is used for occupancy rates – both in total and by lot, floor, and even row. The occupancy rates can be used to determine correct staffing and the availability of parking.

While in the field, agents can be ambassadors of the parking operation, answering questions, and providing support to the weary traveler. Furthermore, they can help operations by quickly reporting broken lights, missing signs, overflowing trash, and anything awry on the property.

Many airports accomplish inventory by writing down the license plate number of each parked car. Some airports manually type the license plate into a cumbersome handheld machine. We had a better idea. Our goal was to create a license plate inventory solution using our LPR handheld technology combined with back-end data analysis. A solution that was rugged, reliable, scalable, cost-effective, and worked on Android handhelds. This is how Ingo ended up in Fairbanks. 

Ingo spent four days in Alaska working with Republic Parking at both Fairbanks and Anchorage Airports. It was cold and quiet. However, working in the field with the end-user is the best way to create a powerful solution that works. During those four days, we learned there were features that we needed to perfect. To fine-tune the user interface experience, we needed to work on our color coding and create additional reports for the administrators. We left Fairbanks with a demo device and they continued to scan every car, every day and report problems and successes. By taking their feedback into account, we tailored the solution to be stronger.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport serves over 5 million passengers a year. It is rated among the top 5 airports in the world for cargo throughput and supports the world’s largest and busiest floatplane base. Currently, they scan more than 1,000 cars a day. 

Pam Arian is Director of Brand Awareness and Client Development at Schweers. She can be reached at 

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Pam Arian
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