Off Airport vs Airports


Off Airport vs Airports

Readers of this blog know that I’m one of the biggest supporters of off airport parking operations. Not only do I think they are cheaper, and more convenient, but I just love the free market at work.

That having been said I think that these operators do themselves a disservice not promoting their features and benefits to the airports themselves.  It would seem that when there are parking issues at airports, they could easily be solved by the private sector nearby.  My guess is that around most airports there are plenty of parking spaces, open, convenient, inexpensive, and ready for parkers.

Consider this:

What would happen at say LAX, if the 15,000 or so parking spaces provided by the private sector didn’t exist.  What about all the vans that carry people back and forth to those locations?  Who would provide them and who would pay for them?  It would seem to me that the airport would have a problem that it wouldn’t be able to solve. The case could be made that airports shouldn’t charge the off airport companies a fee to drive their customers on the airport, but should PAY them because they are part of the solution at the airport.  Ditto taxis, limos, car rental companies, etc.

However, when most people think parking at an airport, they think "on airport."  The airport should and could help a lot in promoting ALL parking around the airport, not just on airport parking.

I understand that the airports actually don’t want to promote their off airport buddies, because they make a lot of money off parking, both on and off airport.  They make more from parking on airport than they do from landing fees(at many airports) and off airport fees also generate big bucks for the public supported airport. It also keeps the charges up and the off airport locations.

Now the airport argues that the money from parking can be used for projects not easily allowed by FAA regulations, so the money is sought after. And of course, any parker that spends $10 to park with ABC off airport parking is $10 not spent with the airport so these monoliths see off airport parking as a direct competitor. But it is fundamentally fair that those who park at the airport should pay for the landscaping, that new restaurant, or a computer infrastructure upgrade,or whatever, that provide benefits to all the people who use airport.  Would it not be more reasonable to charge each person who flies a five buck user fee?  That would generate as much money as parking and not discriminate against those who elect to drive.

At the same time, airports and the surrounding neighborhoods complain about traffic congestion, pollution, and the like.  But they then build another 3000 space garage up next to the terminal (can anyone say security) so parkers have to drive right up to the airport, causing the very thing they are trying to alleviate.

Off airport operators, by their nature, are located away from the airport. So folks don’t have to drive up to the airport and cause the congestion.  They park some blocks, or miles, away and are driven in comfort to the terminal.  Why is this a bad thing.

Here’s an idea — Why not have a "drop off" place for folks to drop their friends off (during high traffic times, like holidays) and let the off airport operators pick up the folks in their vans and deliver them to the airport.  Think of all the cars that wouldn’t jam the terminals. Think of all the free publicity the off airport guys would get. In exchange the airport could give the operators a break on their fees. 

Gee, better service, lower costs, no investment for the airport.  And this is just me and Willie Nelson (he’s on itunes) musing for 20 minutes. Think what a couple of operators and a couple of airports could come up with if they sat down for half a day and discussed mutual problems, and how to mutually solve them.

Oh yes, then there’s the $100MM parking structure that needs to be built on land that doesn’t exist.  Although I haven’t done the study, I would guess that the money generated by the garage goes to pay off the garage and its operation, with very little actually going to the airport itself for years.  (Well, Dan, can you fill me in on this one).

Don’t worry, construction  and design guys. The garages build off airport and fancier and probably will generate as much or more business than on airport — ditto revenue control companies.

I do know that off airport operators don’t want to talk to airports. They see them as creatures that want to take their businesses and use every type of government ploy, including eminent domain, to do away with their businesses. 

It would seem to me that this would be a perfect project for the IPI and NPA to work on.  Get the IPI members that are airports and the NPA members that are off airport operations together and get them to work together to solve airport parking issues.

What’s that sound I hear — Hell freezing over?


John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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