Prepaid Parking Online Enhances Customer Experience, Boosts Revenues at Dallas Fort Worth Int’l

Prepaid Parking Online Enhances Customer Experience, Boosts  Revenues at Dallas/Fort Worth Int’l
Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW), Air Transport World’s 2019 Airport of the Year, added online prepaid parking to its list of cutting-edge services for travelers last spring, and the program is exceeding all expectations. It’s also helping increase the amount of parking revenue DFW collects. 

A rarity for U.S. airports, the online system allows travelers to book and prepay for parking at discounts of up to 75%, depending on occupancy rates, where/when they book space and how long they will park. Currently, DFW is the only airport in the country to offer incentive-based variable pricing. (Phoenix Sky Harbor was the first to offer online prepayment for parking, but its system uses fixed pricing.) 

DFW’s John Ackerman, executive vice president of Global Strategy and Development, emphasizes that parking is very important to the overall customer experience. “A couple of years ago, we started looking at online parking and parking yield management,” he relates. “We realized that a prepaid online parking system, if implemented properly, would not only elevate our customers’ experience, but would also drive the single-biggest source of nonaeronautical revenue at the airport.” 


Project: Online Parking Reservations & Prepayment 

Location: Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport

Online Booking System: ADVAM

Mobile App Integration: M2Mobi

Parking Revenue Control: SKIDATA

Project Timeline: 6 months preparation for
Sept. 2017 soft launch; 6 months beta testing
for April 2018 public launch 

Fiscal Year 2018 Usage: 67,800 transactions; $3.6 million in parking fees

Customer Feedback: 93% of users surveyed were satisfied with the service & would recommend it to others

Noteworthy Details: First U.S. airport to offer incentive-based variable pricing to book & prepay for parking; program is exceeding expectations for transactions & revenue 

According to preliminary reports for fiscal year 2018, DFW’s inventory of more than 41,000 parking spaces grossed $146.5 million—approximately 36% of the airport’s nonairline revenue and 17% of overall annual operating revenue. (Denver International is the only other U.S. airport with more parking capacity than DFW.)

Given the revenue magnitude, airport management is keenly aware that customers’ parking experiences should never be taken for granted. Especially since the rise of Uber and Lyft, DFW knows it has to make parking at the airport an attractive option. 

 “If we wish to encourage customers to choose parking, we need to make sure they have an elevated experience when they do,” Ackerman emphasizes. “Revenues generated from business activities run the airport. The better we do driving our nonaeronautical revenues, the better we can operate the airport on behalf of our customers and community.”

Efficiency & Savings

Teams worked for approximately one year to ready the online prepaid parking system—six months preparation for the soft launch in September 2017 and six months of beta testing before the public launch in April 2018. 

To date, the system has far exceeded preliminary projections. The airport forecasted 30,000 transactions and $1.8 million revenue during fiscal year 2018. Actual usage totaled 67,800 transactions and $3.6 million—about double what was expected. Sweetening the results, more than 50% of users were new customers who had not parked at DFW the prior year. Moreover, follow-up surveys indicate that fully 93% of customers who used the online system were satisfied with the service and would recommend it to others.

Growth has been much faster than expected, Ackerman adds. “In December, approximately 15% of our transactions were online bookings. In just eight months, we have moved 15% of our customers online. In talking to our European colleagues, we thought it would take two to four years to get to where we have gotten in eight months. Our conversion rate is outstanding! Of the people who access our website, nearly 30% are purchasing a parking product. The industry standard is in the 15 to 20% range.”

The system charges variable rates based on length of stay, convenience of parking location, time of booking and supply/demand. Drive-up fees for DFW’s three parking options—remote, express and terminal—range from $10 to $24 per day. By contrast, reservations made and prepaid online can cost up to 75% less.

Customers book prepaid parking online by entering their flight information, payment method and promotional codes, when applicable. The system automatically displays all available parking options and potential savings for each choice. Although specific parking slots are not assigned, users are guaranteed a spot will be available. Parking time can be amended up to one hour before scheduled arrival; time extended at either end is charged at the applicable rate. Customers can receive a full refund if parking is cancelled 12 hours before their scheduled arrival time. 

A Problem Worth Enduring

The airport hired ADVAM to manage integration of the parking system. In effect, the company linked together four separate information technology systems: the booking control system and PSB Webbank (ADVAM), parking revenue control system (SKIDATA) and the airport’s mobile app (M2Mobi). 

 According to ADVAM Key Account Manager Chris Morris, DFW wanted to provide users with a high-quality online experience that required a minimal amount of keystrokes. Users are able to store their payment details to allow for one-touch payment at checkout. “This reduces the number of cancellations that may occur at checkout when people have to go search for their wallet,” explains Morris. 

DFW also wanted customers accustomed to scheduling and paying for parking on the airport website to have the same experience using its mobile app. To accomplish this, ADVAM opened its application program interface to make booking flow recognizable on the app and allow all features available on DFW’s website to be available on the app, including one-click payment at checkout.

Customers with prepaid reservations use either a cellphone Quick Response code or North Texas Tollway Authority TollTag to enter parking facilities. Dovetailing with the TollTag system was important to the airport, notes Morris. ADVAM worked with the Toll Authority and SKIDATA to enable full integration, whereby a user’s license plate number is checked against the TollTag database to verify the validity of the tag on purchase. The information is then transmitted to SKIDATA; and after the TollTag is validated upon arrival, entry is allowed to the parking facility.

“The entire experience is seamless for the customer,” Morris reports.

In light of the complexity required to integrate three separate IT platforms, Ackerman reports that the airport is very pleased with how smoothly the system is running. “Although getting there was not without a few hiccups,” he adds. 

Case in point: The Wednesday before Thanksgiving week, the airport ran a one-day Orange Wednesday flash sale for bookings from Thanksgiving week through spring break. In preparation for increased demands on the system, the airport’s IT team added extra bandwidth. “In effect, we supersized the system,” explains Ackerman.

As it turned out, “supersizing” was not enough. The sale went live at midnight, and by 12:30 a.m. the system started experiencing severe slowdowns due to larger-than-anticipated loads. “We joke that we broke the internet,” Ackerman quips. “Between our IT team here at the airport, ADVAM and M2Mobi, we had the system up and running smoothly by the time the sun came up. The sale was wildly successful. We had planned for 10 times our normal activity and got 20 times. If I’m going to choose a problem, that’s the one I’m going to pick.”

Tip of the Iceberg

Enhancing customers’ parking experience and maximizing associated revenue were the primary goals for developing the prepaid parking online program. Currently, the airport is averaging 4,000 prepayments per week; total revenue through December 2018 was nearly $7 million. However, the program is yielding long-term benefits for the airport as well.

“It helps us get to know our customers,” says Ackerman. “I can tell you with a pretty high degree of certainty how many customers will move through our airport today. But before we initiated the parking program, I couldn’t tell you who they were. We knew the number but not the name. Airlines know their customers, as do rental car companies—basically everybody connected with the customers’ journey other than the airport. Today, with the online booking system, we are able to gather customer information: their zip codes, how often they travel, their likes and dislikes. Over time, we will be able to tailor offerings that benefit both the customer and airport. For example, parking products can be bundled with discounts in concessions or even expedited security queues.”

In other words, DFW views parking as just the tip of the iceberg. Passengers have many opportunities to interact with the airport and its partners, Ackerman reflects. “For us, getting to know our customers is a multiyear journey.”


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