Cost of Going to the Airport

There was a time when flying was romantic, expensive and so special that if you had a flight to anywhere your family and friends would gather at the airport to see you off. With aviation becoming far more accessible that it used to be due to factors such as airline deregulation being introduced in most parts of the world; aircraft operating costs becoming far more economical than ever before; true competition between the airlines and the introduction of low cost carriers, flying is not quite the status symbol it used to be.

Understandably, many people choose their airline based on the cost of the ticket; and with so much competition around there are some great bargains to be had. It is one thing to brag about saving money on the airfare, but one aspect of flying that most travellers seem to disregard is the actual cost of visiting an airport.

Seriously, you can save a lot of money on the cost of your airfare these days, but it is far more difficult to save money on going to, from and through the airports during your journey.

Back in those good old days when flying was a social status, governments also wanted the status of owning their own airport, so would build and run them. Airports gave an indication of a city’s importance, and they were run as a service, not necessarily as profit-making businesses.

Nowadays, airports are businesses that are run by accountants for whom profit is essential. Hence, the cost of using airports has risen, both for the airlines, who will often pass on the cost of operating at airports in additional service fees rather than in raising the price of fares, and for the commuters who must pass through airports.

Airports Council International has found that airports usually separate their businesses into two sectors: aeronautical and non-aeronautical. Aeronautical is pretty much self-explanatory, that the cost spent and revenues earned from servicing aircraft: providing and maintaining runways, air traffic control, emergency services, security, cargo, passenger movements through the airport, luggage transitions, etc. They are the basically the services your airfare helps pay for, and they really do give you value for money.

Non-aeronautical is all the other stuff you get to do at airports: parking, retail, restaurants, rentals, etc. Now, here’s the rub. Do you think that the cheap airfare pays to run the airport? No. At medium and large airports this non-aeronautical revenue may account for over 50% of the total income, growing at much faster pace than aeronautical income or traffic figures and producing greater profit margins.

And the cost to passengers for using airports will rise. According to a study by accounting firm Arthur D Little: In order to secure targeted return on investment, airports now aim to achieve 50% of revenues from non-aeronautical sources, with retail representing the main source.

So whenever you go to the airport and pay those outrageous fees for parking, pick up a couple of magazines to read on the plane, have a coffee, beer or pre-flight meal, buy a souvenir or an item you’ll need for your travels, you can often find that your total airport spend is almost as much, or more if you purchase duty free, as the cost of your ticket.

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