Airports, Watch the Money … There is a Lot of It
April, 2010JVH tells me that this issue of Parking Today features airports, so I’ll give you a refresher course in revenue control at airports, on- and off-site.
The problem is the sheer volume of money involved. It’s not unusual for a vehicle to have a parking charge of $150 or more. A lost ticket can mean a loss of a substantial amount of revenue. And the temptation to “swap” tickets with that kind of money on the line can be extremely tempting.
A few months ago, I left my car at an off-airport lot in Atlanta. I lost my ticket. The lot has covered parking at a higher price, and you make that decision when you enter the facility. I was gone about 12 hours.
When I drove up to the gate, I expected to be grilled and then charged a fortune for my error. I was politely asked when I came in and if I parked in covered or uncovered. I told the truth and paid exactly what I would have had I not lost my ticket. I signed nothing; the gate opened and I left.
In another case, at an LAX off-airport location, the security staff used golf carts to move around the huge lot. They also used them to pull tickets, which they gave to the cashiers. The cashiers then swapped the one-day ticket for a 10-day ticket and kept the difference, which they split with the guards.
At Newark a few years ago, the skycaps were using their carts to cover the loops and issue tickets to provide the same service to the New Jersey cashiers. The airport got wise and put in loops, treadles and arming circuitry with differential logic. You had to be a car to issue a valid ticket.
It took the skycaps about eight hours to lash two baggage carts together so it was the length of a car, remove the inner sets of wheels, and then issue valid tickets. Where there is will, there is a way.
Most on-airport locations use license plate inventory. Take the license plate on entry (or at 3 a.m.) and then require that the license plate be input on every ticket, not just lost tickets. This solves the swapped ticket problem. If the entry time on the ticket doesn’t match the time of input of the license plate number, alarms go off and someone has to find out what happened.
But some operations don’t have the millions required to put such a system in place. If you have a smaller operation, how do you handle lost tickets?
I know of a couple off-airport locations that ask the parker for a copy of their ticket or itinerary. They then take the departing flight time, add two hours, and use that time to compute the lost ticket fee. A copy of the itinerary is taken and made a part of the lost ticket form that is signed by the driver, cashier and duty supervisor. Yes, it takes a lot of time and energy, but next time the driver won’t lose their ticket.
In every case, the duty manager should be required to circle every exception printout in red and then write on the report what they did to solve the problem. I have seen 30 exceptions a shift drop to two when this procedure is put into place. You can literally manage the problem out of the system.
(By the way, some operators believe that when a driver is trying to game the system, the best thing to do is to slow down the process. Such drivers will quickly learn that this is serious business. I have seen managers walk up with a cone and close the lane where the “problem” is and then go into great detail solving it.)
Many airports require that the operator track every single ticket and pay a fee for each one that doesn’t get back into the system. If a legitimate lost ticket is covered by a lost ticket form signed by the driver, cashier and duty manager, then they are not charged. This system usually makes everyone pay a lot more attention to the ticket count.
And that brings me to my last comment on airport parking. You are dealing with big money here – in most cases, literally millions of dollars.
For goodness sake, look at the cashier reports. Scan every one, personally, at least once a week. You will be surprised how much better your operation works if the staff knows the boss is looking at the data runs.