When the first consolidated auto rental agency centers opened 12 years ago, they were a novelty that delighted most customers with their efficiency and convenience. Yet they worried many auto rental agencies, particularly smaller independents that feared being shut out of the new centers by prohibitive costs or other restrictions.
Today, there are consolidated centers (called CONRACs or CRCFs) at 15 U.S. airports and at least another two dozen under construction or in planning. Though certainly not appropriate for every market, the consolidation concept is no longer a novelty and its popularity is growing fast.
Consolidated rental car facility projects comprise 52 percent of revenues for the top 100 airports.
As airports in growing markets become strapped for terminal space and need to expand, traditional in-terminal auto rental counters and on-airport surface lots have become impractical. Further, pollution from customer transport buses invites challenges from the FAA's environmental regulators. Finally, on-airport parking garage fees are an attractive revenue source for cash-strapped airports.
So, consolidated facilities are here to stay.
Fortunately, during its decade of evolution, many initial concerns about the concept have been reduced or resolved through careful airport and car rental agency negotiations and stronger cost controls. True, some smaller independents will always have difficulty meeting the demands of CONRAC participation. The cost of staffing operations for extended hours, paying rents that are typically higher than off-airport facilities and meeting requirements on fleet levels and vehicle quality can make CONRACs prohibitive.