Callender reserves a car online and has 30 minutes to reach it. The keys are left in the vehicle and accessed by using a member card and tapping it on the windshield, which unlocks the driver’s side door upon approval. “Inside, there’s a touchscreen on the dash where I push a smiley face or sad face to signify the interior and exterior conditions of the car,” add Callender.
He also explains that gas cards are left in each car for refueling purposes. Users are charged by the minute, 35 cents each, which he says is cheaper than a taxi. And for airport services, an extra $5 charge is applied, a great benefit for an airport to work out a partnership with Car2Go. This is a partnership that pays, in dollars and customer approval ratings.
In fact, Callender and his wife were among the first to bring a Car2Go rental to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport upon leaving for their honeymoon in April. “We were so excited to see that they’d worked out an agreement with The Parking Spot, because the option before was to have our friends crawl out of bed really early in the morning to take us to the airport,” he says.
He says that being car-less is quite common for younger Austinites, and this service makes the airport a more attainable location for them. Upon returning to the airport, a shuttle is ready to take them to their next Car2Go, and an affordable trip home.
Customer service is of utmost importance in the airline/airport industry, but in the parking garage, it’s growing at astonishing rates and with high-end services that high-end customers appreciate.
A common challenge for airports is to reduce terminal curbside traffic. A trend that started in European airports is slowly infiltrating parking garages in the United States. Pramuk explains that the new international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which opened last May, was designed by GSP to have a baggage check-in area right in the parking garage. Passengers appreciate the convenience of not having to carry their bags any further, and the airport eliminates extra congestion in the terminals.
This concept is also being employed at remote parking locations, like those at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The satellite parking structures are about a mile from the airport, but passengers can park, drop their bags at a kiosk, then take a shuttle to the terminal. Pramuk explains that every 20 minutes, the checked bags are delivered directly to an airport’s baggage screening matrix inside the terminal. Finally, for premium customers, agreements are being made with third-party vendors to pick up bags at a traveler’s hotel. They are then brought directly to the airport and checked in, bypassing the hassle altogether for the passenger.
However, platinum perks are becoming available for more than just baggage conveniences. Using a Web-based system, passengers can reserve, pre-pay and also ask for certain amenities, all before a foot touches the gas pedal to drive to the airport. From car washes, to services such as oil changes and mechanical repairs, and membership valet services that ensure prime parking, this sector has become a “huge business” for airports, says Reedstrom.
While consumers may not be able to have parking totally “their way,” airports are using technology to get pretty close as they drive amenities to the next level and contribute to an airport’s bottom line, rather than take from it.
The Cypress garage will open Tuesday, offering four levels of parking atop the new five-story rental car center that opened in January.
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The push to deliver current parking information to travelers comes as airports are increasingly looking to differentiate themselves from competitors: other airports and off-airport parking lots.