Airport managers wanting to maximize revenue while offering passengers an upgraded landside service option may want to take a page from the playbook at Tulsa International Airport (TUL). Its curbside valet service is proving to be a popular choice with customers, and has delivered double-digit growth every year since the Oklahoma airport introduced the service in 2009.
In 2010, the service grossed $76,000; by 2013, annual revenues had jumped to $219,000, reports Jeff Mulder, airport director for TUL and its reliever, R.L. Jones, Jr. Airport. In all, approximately 13,000 customers used the airport's valet parking service in 2013.
Project: Curbside Valet Parking
Vendor: American Parking System
Service Debut: 2009
Valet Rate: $16/day
Self-Park Rate: $10/day
Staffing: 4 part-time vendor employees
2013 Valet Revenue: $219,000
2013 Customers: 13,000
Customers pay $16 per day for TUL's valet parking, compared to $10 per day for traditional self-parking. Not surprisingly, business travelers on expense accounts and passengers running late who are willing to spend a little extra money for expedited service are the program's mainstay customers.
Why It Works
Mulder attributes some of the program's success to the convenience it offers. TUL's valet parking service is centrally located in the middle of its main departures terminal to provide passengers with easy access to several major airlines. Customer response to the location, and covered valet booth, has been very positive, he notes.
The service is also very user-friendly, adds Mulder. When customers arrive at the valet station outside the main terminal, they simply leave their names, phone numbers and flight information with an attendant before proceeding to the airline ticketing and check-in area, just inside the terminal. Attendants drive customer vehicles to a former cargo building at the edge of the airport, where they are parked until their owners return.
Because the terminal's main entrance road has four lanes, departing passengers using the valet service do not slow down other arriving traffic, Mulder specifies.
When valet customers return to TUL, their vehicles are waiting for them at the curb, right outside the terminal door. Although attendants have customers' flight information as a reference, they monitor flight arrivals for delays to ensure that they don't bring vehicles to the terminal until the passengers' planes have actually landed.
American Parking System, the airport's general parking vendor, also runs its valet service. Four part-time employees staff the valet drop-off booth, working from the first flight out in the morning until the last arrival in the evening. Attendants ride a shuttle back to the airport after dropping customer vehicles at the storage warehouse, and vice versa.
Keeping pace with the steady increase in demand for valet parking has been a challenge, Mulder acknowledges. But relief is already in sight. An expansion of the airport's main parking garage, scheduled for completion this year, will add about 500 new spaces; and a portion of the new capacity will be dedicated for valet parking.
"We do need space," Mulder relates. "We are running out of room; so we may eventually need to build a new storage facility. Customers do expect covered parking one way or another."
Given the popularity of its valet service so far, TUL has not had to spend much money on marketing. "We do advertise this service somewhat, and mention it in our website," says Mulder. "But most of our increase in customers has simply been through word of mouth."
Based on recent performance, Mulder anticipates demand for valet parking to continue to grow in 2015. "Once we have more storage room, we will probably market the service even more," he concludes.
Dual Options at Charlotte-Douglas Int'l
North Carolina's Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) offers customers two valet parking options at two different price points, depending on the level of convenience they prefer. Departing passengers who use CLT's Business Valet service drive to a separate building near the main terminal to check their vehicles with attendants, and then ride designated shuttle buses to the terminal. Drivers offer assistance with luggage.
With a rate of $14 per day, CLT's remote valet service is the more popular of its two options.
The other, more premium choice - curbside valet - is located at the main terminal, near the end of the departures level. With this service, passengers leave their vehicles at the valet booth and simply walk into the main terminal. The basic cost for Curbside Valet at CLT is $28 per day. Additional services, such as car washes and state vehicle inspections, are available for additional fees.