Following in the successful footsteps of U.K. airports that fundamentally changed the way patrons park, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has introduced pre-booking options that have already doubled its online parking reservations.
Project: Online Parking Reservations
Location: Vancouver Int'l Airport
System Provider: Chauntry Corp.
System Debut: April 2013
Area Deployed: jetSet long-term lot
Lot Capacity: 3,500 vehicles
Key Benefits: Users save about 40% vs. regular drive-up rates; 25% of eligible customers pre-book online
After YVR re-branded its 3,500-stall long-term lot as "jetSet Parking" in January, it followed up with the soft launch of online booking capabilities in April. And the new initiative has been steadily gaining traction ever since, reports Andrew Grams, Vancouver Airport Authority's manager of Parking Operations. With five months of incremental increases, 25% of jetSet customers were booking their parking online by September.
"The online booking has been extremely successful - more so than we really dreamed when we started planning it," Grams relates. "The customer reaction has been very, very positive, and I think that is evident just in its growth over the last few months."
Given the positive launch of the jetSet portal, YVR hopes to eventually mirror the performance of airports in the United Kingdom that pre-book 70% to 90% of their parking online using the same system: Parkspace, by Chauntry Corporation.
"We think it is a big opportunity for us here at Vancouver International Airport, and we would like to achieve the success that the U.K. airports are having," Grams says.
Those airports have been using the system for decades; YVR has yet to log a full year with the new technology.
Currently, online booking and payment are only available to YVR customers using the airport's long-term jetSet lot, which is serviced by shuttle buses. Plans, however, are in the works to roll out the option at the airport's other facilities, including its covered Parkade.
Although jetSet is the airport's lowest priced parking option, it includes amenities such as self-service kiosks that allow customers to check in for their flights right in the lot. The low-price/high-value combination makes jetSet a popular alternative to YVR's valet service, the Parkade immediately adjacent to the terminal and its economy lots, notes Grams.
YVR's jetSet lot also competes with off-airport parking options, and its new online reservation system gives it an additional advantage. "It is a competitive environment, absolutely, but we launched the jetSet product to increase the customer experience," says Grams. "Having the online bookings which is something our competitors don't have is really a convenience factor for the customer.
"Customers pre-plan most aspects of their travel including their flights, their hotels, and their rental cars. So, it is really just a natural for us to add the pre-booking parking aspect; and so far, reaction has been really positive."
YVR sweetens jetSet's price-conscious appeal by offering customers discounts for reserving and paying for parking online. "Compared to our standard roll-up rate, customers booking online with us receive about a 41% discount, so it is very competitive," notes Grams.
Currently, YVR customers can book and pay for jetSet parking online; but the Vancouver Airport Authority is considering adding ancillary services such as airport lounge passes and car washes to the airport's online checkout cart.
Chris McKenty, international business development director at Chauntry Corporation, says that YVR has the potential to offer a wide array of bells and whistles. According to McKenty, 12% of all pre-booked parking reservations at other airports include additional items.
"So far, there has been the soft launch of the basic product (at YVR). The next step is dynamic pricing ... Vancouver can up-sell and cross-sell with lounges and possibly fast-track security options," he suggests. "It is not necessarily just airport-related (items or services); it can be car detailing, chocolates and flowers."
McKenty bases his projections on the deployment of Chauntry's reservation and booking system at 80 other airports on four continents, including Edmonton International Airport, just across the country from YVR.
Regardless of the location, all airports that use the Parkspace system experience incremental revenue gains, says McKenty. Increases range anywhere from 3% to 20%, depending on how long the system has been in place, how proactive the airport is and the extent to which it uses dynamic pricing, he explains.
"We are new to the system, so we are moving things slowly," says Grams. "But there certainly is the ability to utilize more advanced functionality such as yield management. The advantage to the online parking system is that we can adjust the rates in real time when we are at more of an advanced stage like they are in the U.K."
McKenty says that Canadian airports have the advantage of being commercially driven, which allows for dynamic pricing and an aggressive approach to market.
According to airport data, nearly half of YVR's parking reservations are for stays within two days, making the online parking option especially convenient for business travelers.
"Most business travelers are less price sensitive to airport intangibles such as parking, but they want to guarantee they have a space that is prepaid and they can get to the airport to fly out," McKenty says. "While there is a propensity nowadays for businessmen to go with a low-cost airline for a cheap flight, they still want all of the business-type privileges, such as guaranteed premium parking, lounge access and fast-track security as well. You can buy all of those things as a package at a set price."
The appeal of jetSet's online booking also extends to leisure travelers, he adds: "The Canadian market in Vancouver can be very dynamic, and they are following the demand of customers to have this solution."