Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nothing in life is free any longer - not even 10 minutes parking up at Aldergrove

While you welcome Alan in Belfast to the real world, I’ll have a little rant in the background.

It used to be that you could loiter around the front of airport terminals to drop off and pick up passengers. Then there was a realisation that planes are sometimes late arriving, and a couple of delays really blocks up the front of an airport terminal. So wanting families were encouraged to avail of the free short term parking. And only a couple of years ago, the first half hour up at Aldergrove (Belfast International Airport) was still free.

When Q-Park took over the parking contract last year, they implemented a much stricter regime, presumably as part of their contract and at the insistence of TBI, the airport owners, who had real and valid concerns about health and safety. They still allow drop off, but won’t allow anyone to stay stopped longer than half a minute in front of the terminal. I might have mentioned before that even the car park buses (from McCauslands etc) have been moved away from the covered canopy, and drop passengers off in the rain in an area bereft of trolleys.

Back in June, the free parking was reduced to 10 minutes ... pretty much impossible to use. The roads in and out of the airport were getting clogged with loitering cars, ready to pounce on arriving passengers.

Eight months later, rather than going back to incentivising cars off the kerbs and into the car park by bringing back 30 minutes free parking, they’ve joined St Georges Belfast City Airport and will do away with free parking altogether from Thursday this week. Your first half hour in the short stay will cost £1.

Update: Tonight's Belfast Telegraph points out how some drivers cunningly avoided picking up charges ...

"... officials claim the system was being abused with some motorists leaving and re-entering the airport several times ..."

In a world where businesses are striving to create excellent customer experience (and as a result, rake in the dough to support the experience), airports seem to have been playing truant when that lesson was in the classroom. The end-to-end journey starts with getting left off at the airport (assuming you’re not going to get the bus or drive yourself) and finishes with getting picked up. Feels like the airports assume that the journey finishes when you collect your bags off the carousel.

Rant over for now.

1 comment:

grumpy old man said...

Well put Alan from Belfast matie.

It seems that so-called excellent customer service is nowadays a sorry second to maximising the profits.