Just as air travel has changed dramatically in recent years as more of us fly more often, getting to the airport has become an important part of passengers’ overall airport experience.
With the route to many major airports contending with day-to-day metropolitan traffic, airports have been looking for new solutions to keep pace with changing passenger needs as a growing number of people visit their terminals each day.
For Australia’s largest airports, investing to provide a wider range of choice has been a key part of ensuring passengers’ journeys start with a good experience getting to the airport.
New drop-off and pick-up areas aim to better smooth traffic flows, while new services such as zones for ridesharing vehicles have been introduced to meet the changing behaviours of airport visitors and motorists more generally.
The reality is that at most airports only a small proportion of those travelling to the airport use paid parking. At Sydney Airport for example, where use of the train and ridesharing services are increasingly popular, the proportion of visitors using paid parking is as low as nine per cent.
With more people visiting the airport each day – and more choices available for many – airports have adopted an increasingly sophisticated approach to manage demand in peak times and ensure passengers can more easily get to the airport on time.
Melbourne Airport is a case in point. With 120,000 vehicles driving through the airport on the average weekday, the airport has adopted a range of strategies to reduce congestion in the precinct.
Having invested $250 million in the development of its road network over the past four years, the airport is now looking to optimise the use of its 24,000 public car parks to improve traffic flows through the terminal.
The result: up to a 20 per cent reduction in terminal parking prices. The price drop not only provides more affordable access for visitors, but is expected to reduce congestion in peak times by encouraging more ‘meeters and greeters’ to park when picking up passengers.
Melbourne Airport Chief of Parking and Ground Access Lorie Argus said the focus was on, “making it more accessible for more travellers to park closer to check-in”.
“Customers have told us what they want and we have listened by reducing terminal parking prices by up to 20 per cent.”
Melbourne Airport has also created a new ‘Value Short Stay’ car park which provides four-hour parking for $10. This caters not just for the meeter and greeter who wants a bit more time, but also for regional people who often travel significant distances and might need to allow buffers in their travel time to the airport. So arriving early doesn’t result in a price penalty.
New, dynamic lane allocation is supporting the new arrangements by better directing motorists travelling through the airport precinct as traffic flows change over the course of the day.
On the west coast, Perth Airport has focused on providing more choice for passengers, from free 10-minute parking in short term carparks and free one-hour parking in long term carparks for pick up and drop off, to the introduction of new ridesharing zones.
Perth Airport Chief Corporate Services Officer Debra Blaskett said the next step in that process was rail, with a new rail line expected to be serving the airport by 2020.
The airport has been liaising closely with the WA Government on the project to ensure it effectively integrates with the airport’s facilities to provide a convenient option for passengers.
“Work is well advanced for the Airport Central Station of the Forrestfield Rail Link which will be linked by a covered walkway to our Terminal 1 building, allowing passengers easy access to international and domestic services,” Ms Blaskett said.
“The rail line will provide an affordable and convenient option for passengers to transfer into the city and then link onto other metropolitan lines if required.”
While Australia’s busiest airport, Sydney Airport, has seen the increasing use of rail with services to its terminals operated by private company AirportLink, ridesharing services are also gaining in popularity.
A new Priority Pick-up zone for ridesharing services and the public at T1 International opened recently and followed the success of a similar facility at the Domestic precinct.
The zones complement Express Pick-up areas, which offer free parking for 15 minutes for members of the public. In 2017, almost 40 per cent of travellers and meeters/farewellers who parked at the airport used free parking zones at both the International and Domestic precincts.
The airport’s Domestic Priority Pick-up zone, opened in 2016, sees an average of 2400 vehicles use the zone each day, with more than 80 per cent of vehicles staying for five minutes or less. The airport estimates more than half of vehicles using the zone are rideshare services.
With vehicles charged via their e-tag to use the zone, it has proven a popular option for rideshare users and members of the public seeking a convenient location close to the terminal to collect passengers.
The new Priority Pick-up zone at the International precinct was already seeing an average of nearly 800 vehicles per day use the location in its first month of operation, with almost 70 per cent of those being rideshare services and pre-booked taxis.
Sydney Airport General Manager Landside Operations and Ground Transport Craig Norton said the new zones were a good example of how the airport was adapting to changing passenger behaviour.
“We’re continuing to encourage and support a range of transport options for our passengers. As well as providing customers with a broader range of transport options at Sydney Airport including car, ridesharing and active transport, our pick-up zones also help to smooth traffic flows and ease congestion within the airport precincts,” Mr Norton said.
As the range of choices for passengers widens, airports have also recognised the need to seek sustainable transport solutions.
In the last decade Brisbane Airport (BNE) has made significant investment in and improvements to ground transport services including major road access, parking facilities, expanded pick up and drop off zones, free passenger pick-up waiting areas and terminal transfer services.
Its focus now is on the integration of sustainable transport options to improve the customer experience within the airport precinct while lowering its carbon footprint.
Recently Brisbane Airport introduced a fleet of 11 full electric bus for its landside operations, offering free transport between the terminals, to and from the terminals and at-distance car park AIRPARK, staff transport and connecting SKYGATE, BNE’s shopping precinct.
Brisbane Airport Corporation Head of Parking and Transport Services Martin Ryan said passenger comfort and functionality were key to the project, while the use of real-time data was ensuring the efficiency of the service.
“The new fleet is super quiet and environmentally clean, having reduced noise pollution and zero tail pipe emissions,” Mr Ryan said.
“In fact, swapping out our current fleet for electric buses will result in a reduction of 250 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, equivalent to taking 100 cars off the road.
“Technology and innovation is also interwoven into the vehicles, with GPS next stop announcements, driver monitoring and real time tracking data, meaning issues can be immediately identified and responded to in real time.”
With passengers choosing increasingly varied transport options, and new technology such as autonomous vehicles on the horizon, it’s expected ground access at Australian airports will continue to evolve.
The focus for airports: ensuring passenger demand leads these changes, with a continued emphasis on providing a range of choices to meet customer needs.