Parking management calls for a steady, experienced hand. Frank van der Sant, chief commercial officer of APCOA PARKING, explains how the company approaches its many complexities while increasing revenue potential.

Please can you tell us about APCOA PARKING?

Frank van der Sant: APCOA is Europe’s leading full-service parking management company, with over 45 years of experience. It operates car parks and auxiliary services at 30 airports in Europe, including London Heathrow, Stockholm, Düsseldorf and Milan. In addition to that, it operates parking spaces in cities and shopping centres and hospitals, as well as off-street. APCOA is number one in Europe in terms of parking spaces and has a highly developed service culture. Right now, it is rolling out a new consumer-oriented business model driven by digital offernings.

Why is professional parking management important for efficient airport operations?

Professional traffic and parking management plays an essential role in strongly frequented locations like airports, particularly from a consumer perspective. Arriving with a car at an airport and parking it is only an intermediary step on a traveller’s journey. The challenge is to provide a consumer experience that is as convenient and as fast as possible.

Apart from that, parking is also a major non-aviation revenue source for airports that must be continuously managed and optimised. Professional parking management benefits the consumer as well as the airport, and this is where APCOA brings in its expertise.

What are the major challenges?

Certainly, the largest is competition by unmanaged and uncontrolled off-airport parking operators that take away profit and revenue. They stand in the way of a consistent and integrated passenger journey that can be managed and tracked by the airport. Another is political pressure on airports to reduce carbon emissions, which changes the modal split of passengers travelling to the destination, risking the stability of this important business.

The last is the current evolution in car technology. Most airports were built years ago when electric and autonomous vehicles (EVs and AVs) had not been foreseen. The current infrastructure is therefore not ready for future traffic management. EVs require charging stations in the car parks, and AVs will need larger drop-off zones for autonomous valet parking. Changes in the infrastructure are needed, but hard to do without significantly interrupting operations.

How does APCOA overcome those challenges in a cost-effective way?

It has developed a highly sophisticated system for traffic management, involving preregistration at the forecourt, tracking of the registered vehicles with software and payment for off-airport companies like shuttle busses to enter the forecourt. APCOA also has the expertise to use ground floors of garages as an additional forecourt. Also, its taxi management service enables it to significantly lower carbon emissions, as it has done at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, Sweden.

APCOA’s set of tools for yield management in airport parking uses a proprietary methodology that includes pricing measures and targeted marketing campaigns based on consumer intelligence. Additionally, the company offers a prebooking platform that enables travellers to reserve their parking spaces ahead of time. Integrated airline and airport loyalty programmes serve to further improve the experience. Finally, APCOA works with airports to discuss any changes in infrastructure, including the input of architects and traffic flow experts.

Can you tell us more about your work with Arlanda Airport?

At Arlanda, APCOA has an RFID-based registration system that checks and verifies the CO2 emissions of each vehicle with access to the taxi lanes. Taxis with lower emissions can cut in front of the line to pick up new customers. The vehicle’s carbon dioxide emission therefore decides where in the queue the taxi ends up.

This is a strong incentive for taxi owners to invest in low-emission vehicles, and this is very effective in achieving substantial CO2 emissions savings. The share of environmentally friendly taxis at Arlanda Airport has grown from 16% in 2009 to 84% in 2014. Passenger satisfaction at Arlanda with regard to ground transportation improved to 84% in 2016, also as a result of the efficient taxi management. Taxi operators also appreciate the system as it makes business much more predictable.