How Airports Are Handling Parking During COVID-19

January 13, 2021

Have you driven into an airport lately? If you have, you’ve probably noticed a massive change. The advent of COVID-19 triggered a sharp decline in air travel. Many airlines suspended most processes and slashed capacity, and the few operations left had to conform to strict pandemic regulations, including no-contact interaction, social distancing and frequent disinfecting. 

Today, although global air traffic is still far from making a full recovery, things are gradually getting better. Air travel is returning, albeit with restrictions based on passenger origin and Coronavirus status. According to Forbes, 2021 will likely be a “buyers market” for air travel as lockdowns end and borders reopen.

As good as that news may sound, airports still have much to do to deliver quality service before the nightmare finally ends. One of the primary focus areas is in airport parking.

The COVID-19 Impact on Airport Parking

Car parking was the third-largest source of revenue for airports in 2019 after travel tickets and retail concessions. In 2020, airport parking demand fell by as much as 95 percent due to pandemic-related travel cutbacks, dealing another blow to a sector that was already suffering immensely from lack of passenger travel. 

Now that air traffic is slowly resuming, airports are facing numerous questions about health and safety measures at their parking facilities. Travelers want to know if parking lots have hand sanitizers in their courtesy shuttles and how often high-touch surfaces are cleaned. 

However, safety comes at a price. Because of COVID-19 measures, travelers are taking more time to get to and from parking facilities. The onus is upon airports to rethink their parking services so they accommodate new regulations as efficiently as possible.

How are airports streamlining parking during the pandemic?

Handling parking during these uncertain times is a headache for all providers but exceptionally challenging for airports. Fortunately, airport parking is making the right moves to keep clients safe and happy while safeguarding this valuable revenue stream.

1. Managing prices

For many products and services, a decrease in demand often leads to lower market prices. However, during this exceptional period of travel restrictions, decreasing parking prices can do little to attract demand. In fact, parking spaces that offer lower prices will likely struggle to return rates back to normal in the post-COVID future. 

Some airport parking spaces are offering free services for a limited period, but most are careful not to devalue their product. They are developing dynamic pricing strategies to better position themselves for future growth. 

2. Reducing costs

As parking revenue declines, airports have been hard at work developing and implementing cost-reduction initiatives. Some parking lots, especially off-airport facilities requiring shuttles or busses, have closed temporarily, as airports ground shuttles to minimize maintenance costs

Excess parking spaces have also brought new opportunities to light. Some airports are reaching out to other companies, such as car rental businesses and local health agencies, and offering them temporary parking leases. Others are offering their empty spaces for repurposing as drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites to contribute positively to the community.

3. Keeping drivers safe

Travelers’ are gradually getting back in airports, but their needs have changed dramatically. Now, their priorities are safety, security, flexibility, and empathy above all else.

Airports are recognizing this need and responding with practical health and safety measures in parking lots, such as hand sanitizers, hand wipes, temperature checks, no-mask-no-entry policies. Also gaining traction are contactless payment solutions, which enable guests to pay for parking from their phones, minimizing their interaction with human attendants. 

4. Providing excellent customer service

Despite the current situation, airport parking users still expect good service. In response, parking operators are using this period of scaled-down operations to deliver increased value with offers like free upgrades and increased policy flexibility for pre-book customers.

Meanwhile, airports that have rented out their parking spaces to other organizations are considering new ways for optimizing lot allocation and providing seamless movement around the facilities. Software solutions such as Pavemint offer robust platforms for creating, assigning, and managing parking passes, enabling airports to allocate the right parking spaces to the right drivers and track lot occupancy effectively.

Looking Ahead

The advent of COVID-19 severely disrupted travel. However, like the crisis events that came before, the pandemic shall end and the travel sector will rebuild. For now, airport parking service providers must implement effective measures for wading the storm.

With the strategies above, airports can effectively cushion the parking blow while keeping customers safe and satisfied.

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