Australian airports appear to be exploiting customers on car parking fees, and Melbourne is among the worst offenders, according to a report from the competition watchdog.
Last financial year Melbourne Airport raked in $94.8 million from parking fees, the highest figure of Australia's five main airports.
The busiest, Sydney, could not compete with Melbourne's parking bonanza on any measure. While parking accounted for about 20.5 per cent of Melbourne Airport's revenue, in Sydney it was just 7.8 per cent.
The figures, in a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, could add to calls for a rail link to Melbourne Airport to help overcome the growing problems - and costs - of getting there by car or bus. Sydney and Brisbane airports already have rail access.
ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said the figures appeared to show that airports were exploiting the lack of alternative parking, as well as their ability to influence the cost of alternatives such as taxis and buses.
"The indications are that car parking prices likely reflect an element of monopoly rent," Mr Samuel said.
Melbourne Airport's operating margin from parking fees was $74.5 million, which meant most of the revenue went to the bottom line.
Short-term parking charges at Tullamarine range from $12 for one hour to $35 for eight, while the long-term car park rates are $25 for a day and $69 for seven days.
The airport defended its parking fees, saying they had not increased for at least two years. "We're offering a fantastic product," said public affairs manager Carly Phillips. "Our charges have remained largely unchanged, as the ACCC points out." She said there were 14 long-term car parks in the airport vicinity, providing competition to on-site parking.
Overall, the ACCC report found Melbourne Airport had the lowest average charge per passenger of any of the five airports, with costs to airlines equating to $7.96 per passenger, compared with Sydney's $13.63.
Melbourne Airport is owned by Australia Pacific Airports Corporation, with big shareholders including AMP Capital and Hastings Fund Managers.
A recently-completed study predicted traffic to Melbourne Airport would slow to a crawl in little over a decade unless big changes were made to ground transport links.
But Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula reaffirmed last week that a train link was not on the agenda.