Reserved spots, discount pricing teased as perks of parking privatization at San Antonio International Airport

SAN ANTONIO – Within a few months, travelers at the San Antonio International Airport could be able to book both their flight and parking spot before they arrive.

The City of San Antonio is poised to privatize airport parking through a 10-year contract with SP+, which handles parking and shuttle services at about 160 U.S. airports already.

City officials say the contractor will be able to better manage the airport’s two parking garages and three surface lots to maximize revenue. It will offer new options like the ability to reserve spaces in advance and discounted prices during “non-peak” times, which the city hopes will help fill spaces that would otherwise be empty.

Though the airport has an online dashboard showing the number of spots currently available, it does not allow travelers to reserve one of those spots. And its parking rates – currently between $10 and $29 a day for non-valet lots – are the same whether there are plenty of open spaces or not.

The airport averages between 14,000 and 15,000 passengers each day, Director of Airports Jesus Saenz Jr. said, but the number of people actually parking in one of the lots varies. Saenz hopes SP+ will be able to bring in travelers to park more consistently.

Asked why the city couldn’t simply institute the reservations and dynamic pricing itself, Saenz said private operators specialize in this.

“The ability for them to get good prices on these systems – as they do it at 160 locations, versus doing it in one garage and the pricing that we can get – is very favorable for them in the way that they do business,” he said.

The reservation option could be in place by late summer or early fall, and Saenz said the discount pricing would come later.

The city would continue to set the maximum parking rates, though, and Saenz said they do not plan to change them in the near future.

City council members were briefed Wednesday on the contract and are expected to vote on it April 11. If they approve the deal, which they appeared ready to do, SP+ would take over parking and shuttle operations within 70 days.

SP+ would be paid $282,000 for the first year, with 3% annual increases to the fee. The company would also get a portion of any “new revenue” it helps generate for the airport.

Parking is the airport’s biggest, non-aeronautical source of revenue that brought in $31 million last year. By handing parking and shuttle operations over to SP+, the city believes it could bring in an additional $67 million over the next decade.

The privatization process will mean cutting city jobs, but city executives say no one will be forced out. The employees who don’t retire or choose to take a position with SP+ will be able to move to other airport or city positions.

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