Using Technology to Compete with Rideshare Services
By Brett Bain and Stephen Prati
It’s no secret that rideshare services have cut deeply into airports’ parking revenues. Airports across the US and Canada are losing millions of dollars every year as flyers turn to Uber and Lyft rather than drive themselves to airports. This represents a significant financial hit for airports because parking is so important to the bottom line. In fact, for many airports the only larger source of revenue is gate fees.
Most airports have sought ways to combat the loss of parking fees since the arrival of ridesharing services. Most attempts, though, have met with limited success. However, at Edmonton International Airport, we think we’ve found a solution.
To some extent, the challenge facing Edmonton International and other Canadian airports is more pressing than at our counterparts in the US. Unlike many American airports, Canadian airports aren’t government funded. As a result, we rely even more heavily on non-aeronautical revenue, particularly parking. We have always competed with off-airport parking facilities, but with the advent of ridesharing services we found ourselves competing for shares of a smaller pie. In short, fewer people were driving themselves to the airport and that was hitting our bottom line hard.
Edmonton International Airport has 13,500 parking stalls and serves 8.1 million customers a year. Several years ago we established Jetset, a separate organization designed to offer competitive parking products and to manage the airport’s parking resources. When Uber and Lyft arrived last spring, the airport turned to Jetset to compete with these rideshare services. As many airports across the US and Canada had already experienced, these services presented significant challenges.
Fighting Fire with Fire
The answer, in our view, was to make it more convenient (and thus more attractive) to drive to the airport and park with us, rather than getting a ride from a rideshare service, friend, or relative. Fortunately, the solution was already at hand in our Chauntry Parkspace™ pre-booking platform. In a sense, our solution was to fight fire with fire by assuring that our online booking resource could provide a more convenient travel experience than those of the TNCs.
The pre-booking process begins at home or at the office, before the traveler leaves for the airport. When travelers reserve a space they enter their payment information to an existing account or are prompted to create a new one. During the pre-booking process travelers are offered special promotions, such as discounted parking, special deals at restaurants and stores located in the terminal, and even faster wifi within the terminal. Travelers are also given opportunities to purchase additional services, such as premium and valet parking, auto detailing, and access to special lounges in which to wait for their flights. Once travelers are in the system they are much more likely to be repeat customers because the process is so quick and easy.
One way the airport encourages travelers to reserve parking in advance is by offering significant discounts for pre-booking parking. In fact, there are 40 different price points offered through the pre-booking platform, and the platform is able to quickly respond to competitor price changes through promotional codes.
All travelers who reserve in advance are also given access to Edmonton’s rewards program powered by Chauntry Parkspace™, which provides additional discounts, offers, and benefits (and which, further increases the likelihood of their becoming repeat customers). The loyalty program has 137,000 members, each one of whom can be contacted directly with deal offers. For instance, the airport often uses the program to offer drawings for $500 gift cards and other valuable prizes. Another recent promotion revolved around chances to win tickets to the Grey Cup (the CFL’s championship game and the league’s equivalent of the Super Bowl).
One of the keys to our success has been that we have fun when we market the program.
An example of this was provided by a recent advertising campaign designed to encourage travelers to book parking in advance. In addition to increasing market share, the program was designed to encourage repeat visits, maintain a stable revenue stream, and ultimately increase parking revenue.
The concept, which was developed and scripted in-house, was based on the dating apps that have become so popular. The idea was to create the initial impression the ad was about dating before the listener or reader realized it was really a parking ad. The campaign combined digital, radio, and television ads, as well as billboards.
Here’s a sample script from one of the radio ads:
FEMALE SINGLE: I was so tired of being disappointed –
you find a match, and it doesn’t work out, All I wanted?
(DREAMILY) Someone to take care of me –
(INSISTENT) Someone to help me with my baggage
(EXCITED) And then – I found my perfect match.
ANNCR: Find your perfect match for as low as $5.50 a day including G-S-T at Jet Set Parking!
Whether you need a one-night stay or something long term,
JetSet promises they’ll take care of you. And if you are flying with WestJet you can even check your baggage right at the lot.
Book online at jet-set-parking-dot-com with the promo code “COMMITMENT”!
All of the advertising in this campaign demonstrated the same whimsical sense of humor. It also caught travelers’ attention apparently because online bookings in jetSet increased 10 percent year-over-year during the campaign period, and the total booking numbers directly generated from the campaign (as measured through the promo code) represented 72 percent of total online bookings for jetSet. In fact, the ROI on the campaign was 1,934 percent!
A Successful Program
Those ROI numbers are one indication of success, but we also know that the program is working because utilization of Uber and Lyft has already plateaued, even though they’ve only been operating at our airport for eight months or so. We know this because we are able to use geofencing to measure how many trips Uber and Lyft are making to and from the airport.
The Edmonton International Airport pre-booking and marketing programs are so successful that we don’t only have the highest parking pre-booking rates in Canada, but we also have the highest revenue per airline passenger for parking. These approaches have worked for us, and they can easily be duplicated by other airports.
Brett Bain is director of parking and ground transportation at Edmonton International Airport; he can be reached at BBain@flyeia.com. Stephen Prati is product manager for Chauntry Ltd.; he can be reached at Stephen.Prati@chauntry.com.
For more information about jetSet, please visit https://www.jetsetparking.com/about-jetset-national/