More Off-Airport Lots Now Take Reservations

At some airports, it's easy to get frustrated well before you reach the metal detector. Circling the airport parking lot to find a vacant spot can be exasperating when you have a plane to catch.
There may be a better way: Reserve a parking space before you go to the airport.
Some off-airport lots now accept reservations that can be booked on Web sites like a rental car or hotel.
So far, only privately owned lots off airport property offer reservations, but at least two airports are researching the idea.

The Parking Spot, a parking lot chain with 12 off-airport locations at seven airports, offers online reservations on its Web site. Other parking-lot companies take reservations on Web sites like AirportParkingReservations.com, which offers reservations for about 65 airports, and Expedia. Most sites also offer discount coupons to customers.
"Travelers have enough to think about when they're going on a trip, and our whole reason for being is that we want to take the hassle out of airport parking," says Mark Wildman, vice president of marketing for The Parking Spot. "Having the ability to make a reservation means you can get in, and you don't risk missing your flight."

Off-airport lot operators see Internet reservations as another perk they can offer customers to make driving the extra distance worth it, much like the free bottled water and newspaper given at The Parking Spot's lots. Many operators say reservations are growing in popularity:
• Business at AirportParkingReservations.com has doubled every year since it started, President Tom Lombardi says.
• Park 'N Fly, which operates off-airport parking at 12 airports including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta, plans to start a reservations system on its Web site (pnf.com) so that individual and corporate customers can make reservations, says David Grocer, vice president of marketing.
• Chicago-based PreFlight Airport Parking, which operates parking lots at six airports including Atlanta and Baltimore, is concentrating on its online reservations and e-coupons since the number of travel agents it used to work with has decreased. "We're finding it helpful to bring us new customers," says John Walsh, a PreFlight executive.
When Chicago-based The Parking Spot started its reservation system more than two years ago, reservations used to be clustered around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, Wildman says, but now reservations at other times are rising.
"Because our occupancy is higher, people don't want to be turned away. They want that peace of mind that they can get a space," he says.
Not everyone is sold on the idea.

Veteran parking consultant Larry Donoghue says that reservations are unnecessary at most airports, which have plenty of unused parking spaces. Many airports still are handling fewer passengers than they were in 2000, and some built parking areas planned before the travel downturn began.
"It's an idea that's a little bit ahead of the need," he says. "But when the airport parking facilities reach capacity, there will be a need for it."
Parking revenue at most airports was down last year compared with 2000 — the most recent peak before travel went into a slump — though it's rising now, he says.
Exceptions are airports where low-cost airlines like Southwest, JetBlue and ATA operate.
"They are growing faster than the others," Donoghue says. "Several of them, from a parking standpoint, are doing better than they were in 2000."
Oakland, where 2003 parking revenue increased 6% from fiscal year 2001, is considering offering reservations, because research shows customers like the idea and it could help increase parking revenue, spokeswoman Cyndy Johnson says. The airport is considering offering reserved spaces in its most expensive hourly rate lot, which is only 50% to 70% full since the government banned family and friends of passengers from going beyond security checkpoints, she says.

"A lot of this is being driven by revenue," Johnson says.
Boston Logan is also considering a reservations service. The airport has been surveying passengers about whether they would pay more to guarantee their parking space. Parking there ranges from $24 a day near a terminal to $16 for an economy-lot space
Andrew Martschenko, a frequent flier whom Logan officials surveyed, says he has mixed feelings about reserved parking spaces if he'll have to pay more.
"Making money off of business travelers because of a capacity problem doesn't sit well with me," he says. "The cost for daily parking is already at the high end of the scale."
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