The airport auto rental market is in a state of flux as more and more airports nationwide move to building consolidated rental car facilities. While airport officials are aiming to reduce traffic and make room for airport expansion, these new large facilities offer rental car companies the opportunity to expand.
With these developments in the airport RAC business, rental car operators may be considering venturing into this competitive market. The first in this two-part series is a primer on the airport car rental business, along with some pros and cons to weigh before making the leap.
3 Types of Airport Operations
At most major airports, there are three ways to participate in the airport car rental market.
One type is an on-airport operator. Companies with on-airport status have counters inside the airport, usually in the baggage claim area. They have ready/return lots at the airport as well as a service center or quick turnaround facility. The big companies — Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty — take up most of these coveted airport spots.
“The top eight companies probably account for anywhere from 95 percent to 98 percent of the on-airport market,” says Jerry Copelan, president of Copelan Consulting LLC. He has been in the airport, airline and rental car businesses for nearly 30 years and worked closely on the development of consolidated rental facilities at five US airports, including San Francisco International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Another kind of airport rental operator is the limited-service operator. They typically have a counter at the airport among the on-airport operators, but they bus their clients from the airport to an offsite facility.
Thirdly, there is the off-airport operation, which has no presence on the airport property but is located nearby.