Airport Lots Stressed Over the Holidays
There will be a heavy congestion at the airport. Year after year, they give the same tired list of tips - arrive 2 - 3 hours early; don't wrap your gifts; call your airline and check for delays...blah, blah, blah...
This year however, there was a new travel tip that edged onto the list - secure an advance reservation for your airport parking space. Anyone in the airport parking business that has not noticed the proliferation of airport parking web sites on the Internet is asleep in their cashier's booth. A simple search on Google in late November using the search term "airport parking" returned 9,570,000 listings; on Yahoo 4,710,000 results.
While there usually is an abundance of parking at most airports, if a traveler ever drove up to the airport "A" lot or the "Blue" lot and they saw a "Lot Full" sign they began to panic especially if they were not familiar with the airport and didn't know where the "B" lot or "Red" lot was located. Or if they approach the main airport parking lot and saw an airport security road block with a long line where cars are randomly being searched and began to worry about missing their flight, or the broken tail light they meant to have repaired. If this has ever happened to you, the next time you travel, you will seek out ways to avoid the inconvenience and anxiety that set in just when you think you are home free.
While the events of 9/11 caused a severe drop in demand at airport parking lots, it also raised the profile of airport parking uncertainties with announcements that close-in lots were closed, along with TV coverage of cars being searched and images of long lines of cars waiting to get into the airport. At LAX, curb side passenger drop off was suspended for months, causing much confusion at the short term parking lots and long term lots as well. It is no wonder that travelers sought out information on the parking options and of course, the Internet was the source of choice.
During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, most of the off-airport lots were full or close to it. Of the 160+ parking lots at 60 US and Canadian airports offered by AirportParkingReservations.com, 25 were fully sold out, with another 25+ scrambling to find extra capacity to handle the demand. This upcoming winter vacation period will put the greatest strain on airport parking, as airport passenger boarding will set new records and the peak travel season lasts the better part of 10 weeks.
In the past, off-airport parking lots had plenty of room and never worried about running out of space. Today, these lots have to manage their inventory during the peak travel periods to assure that their regular customers are accommodated while still marketing for that new customer. On line reservation systems take the reservation on-line, provides the parking facility manager a real time data base which can be accessed on the Internet, 24/7. The data base can be sorted by Check-in or Check-out (date and time of day) so the parking lot can plan on scheduling staff, shuttle bus frequency, or open auxiliary lots. As the reservations take the lot to capacity, the lot can black-out dates or certain check-in days, or set minimum length of stay or any other strategy to assure fulfillment of the reservation while maximizing profitability.
No longer is Airport Parking a commodity that the traveler leaves to chance. The traveling public have learned the hard way and now they make parking reservations and travel with a higher level of confidence. Parking lots should also enjoy the confidence that they will meet customer expectations while meeting their revenue goals.
Tom Lombardi is president of Airportparkinglots.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.