There are few things more infuriating than being charged an airport parking fee more expensive than the flight you have just come off.
It’s the ancillary fees around traveling – bag fees, booking fees, and seat fees, that leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Whilst airport parking fees are the responsibility of the airport itself rather than the airline, high airport parking fees can sour the entire travel experience.
Real estate costs
Airports take up a lot of acres. Usually, all these acres are within reasonable proximity to a city. Size and proximity alone make the land expensive. Much of the space airports use is dead space in terms of generating revenue – the grass verges, taxiways, and roads.
But much of this revenue dead space costs money to build and maintain. This burden falls on the two big users of airports – airlines and passengers. Airlines pay landing fees, apron fees and terminal fees to name but a few. Passengers often have charges inbuilt into their tickets. Airport concessions and parking are also choice places to pick up further revenue from passengers.
Maintenance and upkeep costs
One of the arguments put forward about the high costs of airport parking is the maintenance and upkeep costs.
While it isn’t disputed that car parks cost money to upkeep, the cost of maintaining a soulless concrete bunker is substantially less than say, the cost of up keeping a terminal or runway.
Airport car parks, being solid drivers of airport revenue, help cross-subsidies the maintenance and upkeep costs of other parts of the airport.
The cost of airport parking is a function of competitive forces. The cost to park at Carpark A will depend on other car parking options nearby, as well as decent public transport options to the airport.
When an airport carpark is in a monopoly or near monopoly position, it’s likely to charge more than an airport car park situated next to other transport and parking options.
Distance from terminal
How far your airport parking is from the terminal will also be a factor in the cost. It costs less to park in an outdoor carpark two miles from the terminal than it does to park undercover a two-minute walk from the terminal.
What price do you put on convenience? It’s it worth paying USD$54 to drop my car off, have someone park it for me, and wander into the terminal. Do I really want to wait 20 minutes for the shuttle bus to the distant carpark when I get back tonight?
There is an intangible value to the convenience of parking close to the terminal. What it’s worth will depend on factors like how much luggage you have, whether you are traveling with kids, what the weather’s like, and how good the public transport links are. The convenience value of airport parking can be hard to determine, but there is a very real value to it.
It may give you some satisfaction that passengers aren’t the only ones complaining about being price gouged at airports. The airlines complain about it too.
Nobody is arguing that it costs nothing to provide airport parking. The land is valuable. The car park has to be built, maintained and staffed. But airport parking is a substantial revenue source for most airports and helps cross subsidies other aspects of airport operations.