Denver airport eyes consolidated car rental facility, higher fee

Denver International Airport has proposed a near-tripling of its daily car rental fee as it eyes a big project that would consolidate the sprawling lots used by rental companies into a single facility.

The $2.15 customer facility charge on car rentals, last increased in 2014, would rise to $6 a day starting Feb. 1. A news release issued Monday by DIA makes clear that the fee could increase again “once determination is made on the overall project.”

DIA’s rental car lots are set up southwest of the terminal, parallel to Peña Boulevard. Passengers must ride corporate-branded shuttles to get to and from them, making access less convenient than at some major airports.

As DIA has renovated its terminal and expanded its concourses to accommodate growing passenger traffic, talk about the need for a better setup has percolated among airport officials and rental agency reps.

“They agree with us that we need a consolidated rental car facility,” airport CEO Phil Washington told City Council members during a recent presentation on airport initiatives.

But what might get built — and where — hasn’t yet been worked out. Nor has the potential cost or timing.

At some airports, a consolidated rental facility has taken the form of a large parking garage. At DIA, logistics could make it difficult to build a new facility adjacent to the terminal. While DIA says a single shuttle service could transport passengers, Washington told council members that a rail loop might be the best option.

“By moving the various airport rental car companies to one location, consolidating or eliminating busing, and improving the security of vehicle storage, we can create a much-improved experience for our customers as the airport continues to grow and modernize for the future,” Washington said in the news release.

For now, DIA says its proposed $6 customer facility charge would put it closer to the daily charges assessed by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport ($7) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport ($8). The fee increase is subject to administrative approval, with public comments due Nov. 30 via email to [email protected]

The daily fee is one reason car rentals at DIA aren’t cheap. Passengers also typically pay an 11.1% concession recovery fee, which offsets the rental companies’ contractual obligation to share 10% of their revenue with the airport.

Airport rules also require rental companies that have presences at DIA to charge those fees at their offsite locations within 20 miles of the airport to customers who arrived on flights within the previous 24 hours, making it harder to dodge them by renting farther away. DIA’s proposed fee increase includes an updated restriction that would apply to off-site locations in specific zip codes, generally along Interstate 70 in northeast Denver and Interstate 225 and E-470 in Aurora.

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