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Whether you are travelling for a holiday, heading away for a few days on a business trip, taking extended leave of relocating for a longer period of time, or simply heading away on a city break for a few days, one of the biggest misconceptions about the airport and travel sector as a whole is that the entire focus of revenue and profit comes from the planes and plane tickets themselves. While this is no doubt the integral area of business across airports, other industries within the travel business are equally as important and create both streams of profit and tons of jobs for locals – and one of these is the airport parking industry.
One cannot argue that the airport parking is essentially built on the convenience demanded by modern consumers. Airport parking may be notoriously high in price, but it is built on the knowledge that consumers want to be able to leave their vehicle somewhere safe and close to the airport – benefitting from constant security and the basic knowledge that the vehicle is nearby and waiting for when they return. Generally provided and operated by third party companies like APH, airport parking as a service differs both in its pricing strategy and its offers depending on the airport and how long a consumer is looking to stay – however in all cases, consumers can either book their parking in advance and pay an upfront fee in advance, or pay on arrival.
For those consumers who like to keep their holiday and travel costs as low as possible, you will no doubt be aware of the vast hike in prices which comes if you decide to pay for your airport parking on arrival at the airport rather than in advance. In fact, paying for airport parking on the day costs the consumer an average of 60% more than if they had booked in advance – a staggering percentage which really drives home the importance of planning ahead and getting your space reserved online in advance.
As airport parking has become more commonplace, with airports offering different levels and options with regards to parking offers and prices, so the online world has grown alongside this. For most consumers, there are now a series of customer touch points where they will now be offered the chance to book airport parking – including if and when they book a package deal holiday, when they browse for and book flights, and in a series of emails sent by thew airline prior to the date of flight. The industry’s focus on channelling airport parking as part of its offering is designed to entice consumers to buy through specific channels – however we tend to find that buying directly through the airport parking provider is the most cost effective way of doing so.
Paying in advance essentially means that the vehicle will be registered for arrival at a certain time on a certain date, and that the barriers will use ANPR to recognise the vehicle and allow it into the parking site. Provided full payment has been made and that the vehicle is leaving on the date it was booked to leave, these same barriers will allow the consumer to leave without any problems. Savvy consumers will have noticed that most airport parking providers have been added to the biggest cashback and voucher sites over the last few years, giving consumers access to extra savings and money back on parking they purchase in advance – serving to further encourage customers to get their parking spaces booked and paid for prior to the departure date, not only for their own ease and convenience but also to ensure that they benefit from the best deals.
Arguably the biggest development in the airport parking business over the last few decades has been its expansion – not just in terms of the quantity of spaces now available, but also in the range of different parking levels available to consumers who are looking for and prioritising different features. By way of an example, Heathrow Airport just outside London now offers consumers a handful of different ways of parking – the beauty in this being that the offer is largely the same for consumers in all but their own experience and the amount that they are willing to pay for it. Their vehicle is still kept in the same parking lot – albeit with a little more security for those who pay for it – and the check in and return timings will still be the same. What, then, are these promised options and how do they show an expansion of the industry in light of changing consumer demands?
Short Stay Parking – This tends to be the best option for those who are either dropping off or picking up someone and who wish to enter the terminal to see their loved ones off or meet them at the gate. Short stay parking increases by the hour, with every additional minute over an hour bumping up the cost of the parking – all the way up to 24 hours. Any additional 24 hour periods can then be added to the parking in lump purchases. When it comes to paying for short stay parking, this tends to operate much like a car park anywhere else – the consumer gets a ticket when they enter the car park, and they settle the balance accrued on that ticket before they leave.
Long Stay Parking – Across the biggest airports with multiple terminals, long stay parking tends to be separated by terminal, for example if you were to fly from terminal five, you would park in the terminal five long stay car park. More than anything else, this is because the sheer scale and size of these modern terminals means that they are a good drive away from each other – and so in order to benefit from that promised convenience of airport parking, each terminal needs to have its own parking site specifically for consumers using that terminal. This also serves to keep vehicles better organised and makes the logistical prospect of organising millions of cars much easier to control – and much easier for consumers to remember where they parked.
Valet Parking – This is considered the premium offering in the airport parking industry, where the car or vehicle can be left with the valet company who will then park it for you and bring it back to you on arrival back at the airport. Valet parking is something which can be purchased directly through the parking operator site, or it can be added to a package holiday or flight booking as part of the advertised add-ons that consumer are presented with throughout the booking process. Another way that valet parking in particular can be offered is through airport hotels – with APH and Hilton both being two of the top airport hotel and parking providers in terms of presenting consumers with a high quality deal that allows them to keep their car safe in the vicinity of the hotel’s own long stay parking as opposed to the larger car parks run on behalf of the airport.
For those who invest the extra in paying for valet parking, one of the biggest benefits is the ease and convenience that this presents. However for those who steer away from the added expense of having your car brought to you on return to the airport, terminal transfer buses provide the mainstay of convenience that consumers demand – with most of the big airports promising transfer trips of between five and fifteen minutes depending on the parking site and its proximity to the departure hall of the correct terminal. These buses are often free with the cost of running them linked in with the huge sums of money generated by the parking itself – consumers simply need wait at the nearest bus stop to them in the car park, or else call a number outside of peak operation hours and wait for the next bus to pick them up and take them to the right terminal.
When you look at airport parking, one of the biggest things you will notice is that it isn’t just about the safeguarding and security of consumer’s cars. Airport parking doesn’t just provide a large source of revenue for the airport sector as a whole, it also uses up a great deal of the ground space around the airport building and around the site in general – with some of the biggest and busiest airports around the world housing millions of parking spaces to serve the hoards of travellers who pass through the airport every day on their way to various locations. Of course, what this means is that no matter what happens to the travel industry and the future of airport use, great chunks of surrounding land are still being used up and reserved for parking – and in light of the 2020 pandemic and other global challenges that have had their own impacts on the world of travel, it seems that when not in use, these sites are being left completely redundant and without any real use. For the future, there are ways and means that industry experts envision those spaces being used – from shipping store to car hire vehicle fleet storage. The fact is that in a world where environmental impact makes headlines every week, the industry needs to find ways of utilising that space for the better.
Another thing that we envision becoming more of a focus for the airport parking industry in the future is the use and presence of electric chargers – and the way that this will change and adapt the use of space and the experience presented to consumers. With the automotive world shifting its focus on cars and giving electric cars more of a spotlight, we are seeing more and more parking sites and car parks installing electric chargers – from service stations to petrol pumps and supermarkets. For the airport parking industry, installing electrical chargers will provide as much of a precautionary measure than anything else – giving consumers an opportunity to charge their vehicles before leaving the site and driving home, thus ensuring that electric car users do not become stuck on site creating logistical challenges for airport parking staff and racking up huge overtime bills. Of course, as per the parking itself, costs for using these chargers inside an airport parking site are likely to be high – however, what they will do is provide an extra barrier of support for the consumer and an extra layer of revenue and income for the airport.
The airport parking industry is one which has seen huge growth over the years, as airports have expanded, holidays have got longer, and new terminals have required new complete parking areas. In fact, modern airport parking sites have become so big that consumers are advised to note down the zone of the car park that they park in and the corresponding row letter simply to avoid completely losing the car – something which is commonplace! With so many parking spaces on offer and designed to be filled during the course of the year, it follows that airport parking operators want to fill those spaces – and that is why the savvy consumers will always be able to find some kind of deal or voucher which is designed to make the parking process more cost effective. Airport parking is pretty much all profit for the operator, and so it serves them to fill as many spaces as possible – regardless of how many deals and discounts the consumer enjoyed. Cashback is also rife in the airport parking industry, with online cashback sites like Quidco tending to offer consumers up to 20% of their parking fee back if they book through the site – another way of benefitting financially by shopping line, and another reason why consumers should always try and book in advance rather than on the day.
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