Park & Fly

Expert airport parking consultant Chris Wortley reviews some of the advancements in airport parking that are helping to improve passenger experience

When it comes to parking your car, it feels like there hasn’t been a lot of development in recent years in areas of technology.

I am prepared to declare this as a true statement and boldly so.

We can look at some of the changes like parking sensors that help you to find your way to a free space in car parks or bay control systems coupled with floor control systems. I often wonder how useful these really are? My biggest problem, particularly when at an airport is finding my car when I return and it is not an age related forgetful issue I might add. It happens to most of us from a very early age.

Barrierless technology has become available, but only in a few car parks. There still appears to be a trust issue here and need not be. 

Hotels swipe your card when you arrive and if you check out without settling your bill you still get charged. There is little difference here. Car Storage systems are appropriate in Town & City Centres and optimize space usage, however they are not the solution at airports when many cars enter and exit at the same time of day and in volume.

The greatest advancement in technology at airports is in the area of car park reservation systems or Pre-booking.

The UK lead the field here, Pre-booking has been in place for many years and the following chart explains how it came about and why [see graph below].


Yes, the airports had all of the parking. Off-airport car parks wanted a slice of the action and the only way that they could penetrate this market was with the help of aggregators/consolidators.

Airports then had a real competitive battle on their hands, the aggregator was in a position of real power and airports then permitted the aggregator to sell their on air stock and had to start paying North of 20% of their revenue over to aggregators for bringing passengers to them who previously found the airport website without any help.

A position developed where airports quite rightly started to say-“Enough is enough here” and “Why are we paying others to sell our Car Parks?” It’s like, why do I have to pay my bank to access my cash? No different.

Some will say that competition created is good and aggregators forced Airport parking prices down. The reality is that at the very best they produced a wider choice in an area where choice was already pretty good, certainly much better than you would find in your average city parking offer.

Many airports now feel that it is time for another change. They want to offer good value and quality because airports are always all about preserving reputation and reducing risk. I don’t know of an airport yet that wants to provide a poor service or poor value.

But when you look at choice, the aggregator often provides a wider choice if not the entire airport inventory. So how do airports recover this position without being monopolistic in their approach?

Firstly, if we look at reservation systems, there are some very good ones out there. I refer to them as booking engines because that is what they really are.

  1. They key players are Chauntry, (Largest Global Share) with Parkspace
  2. APCOA who also run many airport Car Parks in Europe have their own solution
  3. The Australasian player ADVAM, who do not just serve Australasia but have a much greater reach
  4. Inventive IT-Who came from a Travel & Tourism background

Then there is quite a long tail. And many without proof of concept are jumping in and providing a “Free” service. But who owns the data and are some of them really aggregators?

In the main they all do “what it says on the tin”. They allocate airport car park spaces (Inventory) to Passengers. Some offer added “bells and whistles” like revenue management or yielding, CRM and Ecommerce benefits. 

In a nutshell they help passengers in the online “Find ability” space and they can manage prices based upon elasticity of supply and demand or the Inelasticity of the passenger who MUST fly from a certain airport at a given time of day.

Now this is where the game can change and see a step up in the action to deliver the passenger a real benefit.

Airlines and Airports don’t like sharing data, it is precious stuff. But it is really important to get passengers the best deal and this either has to change or data is vaulted in a secure way that allows partners detail but only to provide better choice.

Airlines produce Apps (Mobile Applications) as do airports to be helpful but if you look at the download stats, passengers chose Airline Apps over Airports at a ratio of 1,000:1. I am not saying that airport Apps are not useful but how many loyalty cards can you fit into your wallet, there is no difference here.


When the passenger still hasn’t booked their parking on the airline site or through an app, they become game to every Off Airport consolidator that wants to sell them parking and it gets competitive out there. They may even bus or taxi to the airport and in doing so widen the competitive field?

Data science can assist here to bring passenger parking back to the airport. When passengers are browsing online and they have shown an interest in parking they can now be persuaded to perhaps book parking in advance when they notice online content that is specific to their needs.

The [below] illustration shows how a browser’s attention can be grabbed and a simple click on the add takes them to a booking page to secure that On Airport parking space.


It works in the following way. You visit the airline site and you leave your electronic calling card, it follows you around and persuasively brings you back to the booking page.

Remember last time the great salesperson wouldn’t let you out of the shop until you had made a purchase, this is no different, but oh so much more powerful. This is the flow and how it works, the pictures explain this far better than I can.


So what needs to happen next?

There almost needs to be a mediator of data who protects the airline position but at the same time gives airports information that is useful to add value and improve revenue.

I recently met with a company that are breaking real ground in this space-Ink:

They produces digital and traditional media for many airlines, including United, easyJet, Air France-KLM, Ryanair, Norwegian, Germanwings-Lufthansa Jetstar-Qantas. In simple language-Printing of advertising on Boarding passes and producing In-flight magazines for airlines.

This company also develops mobile applications for airlines that enable airport commerce, the most recent being for Jetstar (a large subsidiary of Qantas)

When you see that some of those back at Ink developing these concepts where also behind the Apps at Shazam and Hailo, we know that the world of parking and airports could just about be changing for the better?

They built a programmatic advertising arm, which uses airline data to target passengers on third party media. By having the airline data, but not relying on passengers to come back to the airline website, they can target passengers at the optimal time in the pre-booking window. For example, using data science to test whether advertising 8 days, 7 days or 6 days before a trip gets a higher response rate-Data Science.

Using the same platform they are able to dynamically target specific offers to passengers: in fact each individual ad is tailored to that specific passenger’s origin airport and dates of car drop off and collection.


In these ways, it promises to significantly increase pre-booking volumes and yields.

If we had access to all of the information [above] we may just offer passengers the car parking deal that they require. We could also save marketing of Car Park spaces to those out-bound that just don’t park and would rather hear about a Duty Free or VIP lounge offer. Concentrating on targeting natives returning who probably do require parking.

We already know that Pre-booking car parking provides the opportunity to Up sell, Recommending a value add convenience product as part of the booking journey or “Bundling “ of airport VIP lounges and fast track security.

If we really had access to who the passenger was and what they are likely to appreciate we could make such a difference, change the game and bring passengers back to airport parking.

Giving them shopping and bundling deals that they would appreciate rather than best guessing what they really want is also feasible here.

Of course, Airports and Airlines may have a different story to tell and in the end the passenger choses what is best for them.

What I do know is that better research will help to inform us and to date this has been thin on the ground.  The last serious report on airport parking was conducted in 2008 by ASQ, did not provide completeness in data for some key airports and so it is now time for an update.

A survey that I like at the moment that concerns itself purely with airport parking and booking can be found by following this link:

It wants to understand amongst many other things with the following:

  • What is driving passengers to choose on-airport vs. off-airport vs. valet parking
  • The attractiveness of valet services, fast-track security and lounge access offers to different passenger segments
  • How far in advance different segments book parking globally
  • How is mobile affecting the pre-booking window and buying behaviour

As industry professional’s we owe it to ourselves to take part and it’s polling 370 Million airline passengers and over 40 airlines so I for one wont be left out.

So there is quite a lot happening in parking at airports, not on the ground but in the air,  (Ether), which seems quite appropriate really given the industry.  

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