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Charlotte Airport Building Latest Facility Upgrade at a Cost of $608M

Wed September 22, 2021 - Southeast Edition

The Charlotte airport launched the expansion in December 2019 with the expectation that it will be completed in 2025.
The Charlotte airport launched the expansion in December 2019 with the expectation that it will be completed in 2025.

As part of Charlotte Douglas International Airport's multi-billion-dollar Destination CLT capital investment program, a $608 million construction project is approaching the two-year mark to expand the North Carolina facility's terminal lobby.

The Charlotte airport launched the expansion in December 2019 with the expectation that it will be completed in 2025.

But the project is just the latest in a long string of upgrades to the airport since 2007 to keep up with its ever-growing passenger numbers. In 2019, Charlotte Douglas reported 50.2 million passengers, a record for the facility. It is currently the 11th busiest airport in the United States.

Destination CLT is upgrading the airport with $2.5 billion to $3.1 billion in funds over the next several years, the Charlotte Observer reported.

The current construction also is consolidating existing security checkpoints A, B, C, D and E into three larger and more efficient portals, according to information on the Destination CLT web page. In addition, the baggage claim and ticketing areas will be completely gutted and remodeled.

After the lobby renovation and expansion is complete, a 146,000-sq.-ft. glass canopy will be built over the roadway, and pedestrian skybridges and tunnels will be constructed to connect the terminal to the airport's hourly parking/rental car facility complex.

In August, the airport shifted construction to the east end of the lobby, near Checkpoint E. At the time, the facility announced door changes to the airport's entry and exit, including the debut of a new passenger bridge, the Observer noted.

As a result, in mid-September, Charlotte Douglas said that new changes to entry and exit doors would go into effect Sept. 22:

  • On the ticketing level, Door 3 will close, and the center door will open. Doors 1 and 5 will remain open.
  • At the baggage claim level, Door 3 will close, and the center door will open. Door 1, too, will stay open for passengers.
An Airport That Never Stops Growing

Between 2007 and 2015, Charlotte Douglas International completed $1.5 billion worth of construction projects, part of which later became known as the "CLT 2015" plan. Those building efforts included a new airport entrance roadway, new hourly parking decks with a centralized rental car facility, a regional intermodal cargo facility, an expansion of the east-side terminal lobby, new checked baggage handling systems and additional space for concessions and shops.

The airport's continued and sustained growth means that it is at or near capacity, according to a 2020 Destination CLT assessment. Its capacity enhancement studies for both the airfield and terminal looked at possible and potential passenger growth forecasts to form Charlotte Douglas's future development through 2035.

The master plan calls for a Phase II of the airport's Concourse A expansion, Phase VIII of the Concourse E upgrade, and expansions to Concourses B and C. These improvements are projected to cost roughly $1.1 billion and are not expected to be complete until 2026.

Expectations are that eight to 10 gates will be added to Concourse B, 10 to 12 gates to Concourse C and 10 gates in the expansion of Concourse A farther north, according to Destination CLT. Phase VIII of the Concourse E expansion will add 34,000 sq. ft. of hold space to the concourse.

This phase of the expansion accommodates gates already in operation; however, passengers must now walk under temporary canopies to access the aircraft parked at these gates.

Passengers Back in Big Numbers

Charlotte's airport took a hit in early 2020 when passenger travel took a deep dive due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But big crowds have returned to the airport, despite elevated levels of COVID-19 in North and South Carolina, the Observer reported.

And in July — the most recent month of available data — passengers boarding planes at Charlotte Douglas International airport surpassed 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic hit early last year. More than 2.2 million people boarded planes at the facility in July, compared to just under 2.2 million the same month in 2019.

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