Profiting from parking – google data analysis provides interesting insights into UK airport parking trends

Car parking has for a long time been a major ancillary income stream for airports across the globe. Even with increasing environmental pressures to push travellers to public transport and increasing passenger demand putting pressure on parking capacity, it remains a key part of non-aeronautical income whether passengers are using their own private vehicles, or increasingly through charges for drop-offs and pick-ups.


Summary:

  • Car parking has for a long time been a major ancillary income stream for airports across the globe and accounts for around one quarter of total airport revenues;
  • It remains a key part of non-aeronautical income whether passengers are using own private vehicles, or increasingly through charges for drop-offs and pick-ups;
  • New research from travel insurance provider Staysure – using Google search data on car parking habits provides some insights into UK airport parking trends.

Car parking currently accounts for around one quarter of total airport revenues, but changing consumer behaviour and developing technology is already disrupting this stream. For example, Millennials are much more multimodal and will choose the best transportation mode based on each individual trip; ridesharing is becoming increasingly popular and we even have the possibility of driverless cars not too far into the future.

It is clear that airports will need to look differently at how they approach car parking, but a one-size fits all solution is unlikely to be the answer. New UK research from travel insurance provider Staysure – using Google search data on car parking habits at the country’s ten largest airports – has discovered usage varies considerably between airports can be related to a range of different factors.

By analysing Google search data, it found that passengers are likely to face three times more competition for parking spaces at non-London airports. While around three out of every five of the sample were flying from London airport, it was found that not even 1 in 100 people flying at Heathrow are looking for airport parking. According to Google search data, Heathrow has the lowest percentage of flyers looking for parking in comparison to its passenger volume at just 0.83%.

Manchester has far more people searching for car parking than any of the other analysed airports. In fact, the data shows that there are three times more searches for Manchester airport parking as compared to every one for parking at Heathrow with around one in 20 passengers flying through Manchester looking for airport parking. This can perhaps be explained by Manchester’s wider catchment across northern England.

While Manchester has the highest volume of passengers searching for car parking, Bristol Airport has the largest share with one in 10 flyers looking for parking. This suggests that the popularity and availability of parking may not solely be related to the volume of passengers the airport deals with every year. In terms of popularity, Heathrow, the UK’s largest gateway, airport parking comes in as the sixth most popular location – a far cry from passenger numbers that pass through the airport.

CHART – Car parking prices at the UK’s international airports vary and the price difference between the cheapest pre-booked car park and most expensive car park on the day can be significantSource: Staysure

There are also big differences in the cost of airport parking with a huge price differential between the cheapest pre-booked car park and the most expensive car park on the day. The Staysure analysis shows that around 10% of UK airport car parking can only be pre-booked and that can offer some notable benefits. Its research found it’s GBP3.70 more expensive per day to choose your airport car park last minute than pre-booking for a week, but interestingly one in four car parks at the analysed airports that offer pre-booked and on the day prices have no difference in price between pre-booked and on-the day.

In fact it also found rare occasions where car parking on the day can actually work out cheaper than pre-booking! At Glasgow airport, it found that on the day parking was 44p cheaper than pre-booking, albeit this was influenced by a last minute marketing offer by the car park trying to increase the number of people booking with them.

By comparing the cost of pre-booked airport parking across the UK, the study found London airports to be GBP15 more expensive than non-London airports to park at per week. London Luton had the largest disparity between the cheapest pre-booked price and the most expensive price on the day. an extra GBP141.49!  If you leave parking till the last minute and are booking on the day, then you should expect to pay an extra GBP30 on average as compared to on-the-day prices for non-London airports, claims the study.

Airport parking has for a long time been big business for airports. While, passenger demand will continue to grow, car parking demand is already starting to plateau. But, with it worth an estimated USD6 billion last year to airports across the USA alone, it will clearly remain a clear focus area and revenue pillar for airports for some time to come.

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