THEY have long been the bane of many travellers: car parking fees at Sydney Airport.
But documents seen by Fairfax Media show Melbourne Airport expects car parking charges to be almost 20 per cent of its income this financial year, almost double that at Sydney Airport.
The fees will once again be front and centre this weekend as the NRL and AFL grand finals encourage more people to fly between the two cities. Airlines are putting on more flights this weekend to cater for the extra demand on one of the world's busiest air routes.
Internal company documents reveal that Melbourne Airport expects car parking to deliver more than $127 million in revenue this financial year, almost 20 per cent of its total income.
Sydney Airport gains about 11 per cent of its revenue from car parking, including car wash and valet charges. But it does have the highest hourly rate - $16 - of any of the country's airports.
A bigger slice of Sydney Airport's total income comes from retail, especially from the international terminal. International passengers are more than twice as valuable to airports as domestic passengers because they stay longer and spend more in duty-free shops.
The bumper returns from car parking at Melbourne Airport dwarfs what it expects to make this year from retail ($65 million) and duty free ($64 million).
Car parking has long been a big money spinner for airports. In Melbourne's case, about 93¢ in each dollar will be pure profit for the airport this financial year.
Andrew Chambers, a research analyst for fund manager Legg Mason, said Melbourne Airport made a higher proportion of its income from car parking than Sydney Airport because its greater distance from the CBD and a lack of public transport choices encouraged people to drive.
"A lot more people would drive to Melbourne Airport because there are fewer options," he said.
But he expects Sydney to close the gap on Melbourne in terms of the revenue it gains from car parking over the coming year as the country's busiest airport boosts the number of spaces. Sydney Airport recently added an extra 2300 car parks at the international terminal.
The competition regulator's most recent annual monitoring report, released in March, revealed that operating margins from car parking charges increased at four of the country's five biggest airports in 2010-11. Brisbane was the only one not to boost margins from car parking.
A spokeswoman for Sydney Airport said it had introduced a range of online parking offers that provided discounts of up to 73 per cent . They included $69 to park all weekend at the domestic terminal.