New Technology Ensures Efficient Valet Service at DFW
By Melissa Bean Sterzick
When Parking Concepts Inc. (PCI) won a contract to bring valet service to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport earlier this year, it hired Automated Valet Parking Manager (AVPM) to provide a customized operating system. The two combined forces to create a one-of-a kind valet service.
The complexities of providing valet at an airport, including keeping pace with arrivals, departures, national safety requirements and all the trappings of modern-day travel, were just a few of the challenges facing Parking Concepts, The sheer size of the operation was the biggest obstacle to its installation.
DFW is the second-largest airport in the United States, with 29 miles of terminals, garages, tarmac and approximately 40,000 parking spaces. Travelers, some 164,000 a day going to 173 destinations, often have trouble finding the correct terminals, let alone a place to park their cars. The airport has 14 receiving and delivery areas – none wired for electricity or the Internet.
Selim Esen, head of Corporate Technology and Development at Automated Valet, says his team broke new ground to create a customized system for the DFW airport installation.
“Since this was a unique location, we had to provide a unique solution integrated into our AVPM product,” Esen says. “This solution includes AVPM Mobile on PDA through Internet connection, including credit card swipe interface; flight status database integration for up-to-date airport arrival/departure information; and a reservation web page running on the airport’s official website, connected to the AVPM system, which provides valet boarding passes, working all together.”
The system, as applied at DFW, is a comprehensive network and communication system fully integrated with the airport’s flight database and the Internet. The system eliminated the difficulties of locating and patronizing the service by providing online reservations. Customers can enter flight times and numbers, pay and tip, and request special services online.
Valets track customers using handheld computers equipped with a virtual data entry system that does everything from process credit cards to decode Vehicle Identification Numbers. The equipment is portable and web enabled so valets can work quickly to receive and deliver vehicles. There is no need for a keyboard, and that saves time and manpower.
DFW might be huge, but with all the travelers and the airport’s 60,000 on-site employees, the valet operation can’t add to congestion.
When customers arrive with their cars, valets scan boarding passes and plane tickets, and all the information is transferred to the ticket. At the garage entry, 24-hour cameras scan the entire car to record any damage. At the other end, garage gates do not open without confirmation of payment.
When guests land, they can call, text message or e-mail the AVPM system to request their vehicles. The valet attendants can then deliver the vehicles to the designated receiving area before the guest arrives at the curb.
With the virtual data entry system, PCI can actually use the airport’s database to track flights and deliver customer’s cars to the correct gates at the correct time. The system alerts valets to changes in flight arrivals that will affect customers. This feature is essential, considering how frequently flight schedules change, and how regularly customers show up late or early, and often arrive in concentrated bursts. At the enormous airport, current information is essential to good service.
PCI has been in business since 1974. It leases, manages or operates more than 180 facilities, ranging from 200 to 25,000 spaces, including commercial facilities, offices, shopping centers, hotels, restaurants and hospitals. Two of the company’s main goals are to offer consistent professional parking services and to promote its clients’ image and revenue – and DFW is no exception.
“This startup valet operation is one of the largest and most complex airport valet services in the country,” says PCI Vice President David Mueller. “Since our initial day of operation in March, our staff has quickly developed the experience and skill required to understand the customized system’s power. I believe we are now tapping into this power to provide our DFW customers with the best valet service possible.”
Besides accommodating the airport’s specific needs, the usual challenges of running a valet operation had to be addressed. The system provides protection against employee clerical and operating mistakes, revenue loss, fraudulent damage claims and interrupted service due to technical issues. It monitors the comings and goings of cars, keys and employees – all under the roar and hustle of a major international airport.
“After creating this solution, we rigorously tested the whole application. We are extremely proud to have produced such cutting-edge technology for a client as progressive as PCI,” Esen says.
For more information on the AVPM system, go to www.avpm.com.
Article Abstract from September, 2008