Making Airport Parking Profitable (and Clever) Again


Making Airport Parking Profitable (and Clever) Again

Airport parking has been facing a significant challenge over the last several years. The increase in rideshare services, such as Uber and Lyft, have put parking managers on high alert, as money spent is shifting from on-site parking to these services. And airports have every right to be concerned. Airport revenues rely heavily on parking fees to cover operational costs, and as reserves dwindle and more people move away from bringing their own cars, it is critical for these entities to find new sources to increase revenue. 

Ride hailing has seen incredible increases since 2014, when only a small number of airports allowed it. As of last summer, Lyft had agreements with nearly 240 airports and Uber had more than 100 in place. This isn’t a small issue. For example, according to an article from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Fresno Yosemite International Airport in California is losing an estimated $180,000 a year in parking revenue because of ridesharing services. Other large airports are reporting similar numbers. 

To truly serve the customer, direction to open spaces is critical.

Some municipalities are petitioning local governments to implement a surcharge on the use of ridesharing pick-ups and drop-offs to help recover some of this revenue, but many of these cities are saying “no” to such measures. Some airports charge pick-up and drop-off fees to help recuperate the loss by using a geofencing system to count every Uber or Lyft transaction. 

Off-site parking is also a challenge, as these parking operators offer parking at cheaper rates and a shuttle service to the airport. This means that the element of seamless service with viable parking guidance is essential in keeping customers coming back and using airport parking lots.

Focus on Customer Service

While the airlines provide a service for passengers, it is the airport’s responsibility to provide exceptional service to these travelers. For all customers driving their own cars, the parking area is the first and last point of contact with the airport. Therefore, the experience of clients at a specific airport – good or bad – is very much connected to parking. 

Circling a large open-air parking lot to find remaining spaces due to a lack of real-time data and efficient guidance is not only a substantial loss of time for the driver, but it also gives the perception that an airport is uncommitted and unaware of the precious time of the customer.

One way to combat this is the implementation of smart parking management infrastructure. It isn’t enough to simply let drivers know how many spaces are available in any given lot. To truly serve the customer, direction to open spaces is critical.

Technology can be a valuable investment for airport parking executives. Modern parking guidance systems can not only detect open spaces, but also communicate where exactly those spaces are located, adding a highly valuable layer of service to drivers who are about to catch their flights. This helps to minimize the amount of time people search for an open space, cutting down on their stress and providing better service overall from the moment they arrive on the premises. As drivers realize how a clever parking experience can help streamline the act of parking, many may opt to drive their own cars to the airport rather than employing ridesharing, which can increase profitability. 

Communicate Effectively

Whether a passenger has a delayed flight or additional time is needed for security, communication in an airport environment is key — and this begins in the parking lot. Emerging technology for parking management offers not only the ability to locate open spaces but can also communicate critical messages to drivers as issues arise. Displays that deliver guidance, wayfinding, messaging and advertising, as well as broadcast public service announcements, can be placed in parking areas as a way to relay issues to passengers. Critical alerts regarding public safety or emergency incidents can also be displayed with this technology, contributing to a truly significant return on investment for users.

This ability to communicate information quickly and efficiently can set an airport parking facility apart, offering a greater level of satisfaction for drivers. This additional value can shift a customer’s view of the organization in a positive way, influencing their decisions to opt for their own vehicles instead of ridesharing services. 

Clever Advertising Techniques

Revenue generation is central to an airport’s bottom line, and while federal regulations prohibit airports from making a profit, they are expected to raise enough money to cover their costs. Investments in parking management technology that allow communication, as mentioned above, can also generate revenue through advertising, sponsoring and branding. This technology presents sponsors with the ability to share messages that boost revenue through paid advertisements, delivering more value and making up for the dip in revenue as a result of ridesharing usage. Directly combining a time-saving service message (or wayfinding) with a branding or sponsor message guarantees that the drivers receive the advertisement and perceive it in a positive way.

Advanced smart-parking guidance systems can display messaging that drives branding and visibility, engaging and captivating an audience. For example, eateries and retailers within an airport can purchase messaging that targets their ideal audience, such as a restaurant that offers a dinner special to passengers within Terminal C. This not only increases revenue and enhances operational efficiencies, but also streamlines advertising and effectively reaches potential customers. 

Perhaps an airport’s first step toward combatting the revenue loss from ridesharing should be to think about parking in a new and clever way: focusing on customer service, investing in technologies and systems that add communication and media capabilities, and adding value through streamlined parking management. Leaders within the airport environment will look toward this kind of emerging technology to deliver more value to drivers. 

Thomas Hoehenacker, is, CEO, Cleverciti Systems. He can be reached at

Article contributed by:
Thomas Hoehenacker
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