Charlotte Douglas International Airport officials on Tuesday showed off an expanded international arrivals area, five additional security lanes at a new checkpoint, and whats likely to be a more energy-efficient model for the rest of the terminal.
The new 60,000-square-foot, $23 million wing of the terminal is set to open on Saturday. Funded with airport revenue bonds, it extends from the terminals east side, next to Checkpoint D. Officials say the building will reduce congestion at existing checkpoints, especially at peak times and for international passengers who have to catch domestic connections.
Its all about getting through faster, said aviation director Jerry Orr. This will make life a lot easier for international arrivals.
The new terminal wing is the latest phase of the airports $1 billion expansion. Crews also are building a $160 million new hourly parking deck, slated for completion in 2014. After the new lot is in place, the airport will expand the approach road to eight lanes, and expand the entire terminal outward. That $245 million project is expected to start next year.
Officials said that when the terminal expansion is complete, the whole building will look more like the new wing, with many of the same features, such as floor-to-ceiling windows facing north. That lets in more sunlight and reduces the terminals electricity bill, officials said.
About 100,000 passengers use the airport on an average day. The majority of those are transferring between flights and dont go through security, but about 20,000 are boarding in Charlotte and go through a checkpoint.
In addition to the new Checkpoint E, the terminal also will have more space for international baggage claim and customs on the lower level. That should speed the process for arriving passengers, Orr said.
Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways operates some 600 daily flights from Charlotte Douglas, about 90 percent of the airports total. US Airways is pursuing a merger with Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines while the larger carrier is in bankruptcy protection.
Orr said he expects that if the merger is completed, Charlotte Douglas will see more international flights, including more traffic from Americans international hub in Miami.
This would be a very well-positioned hub for a very large airline, said Orr. You either grow, or you risk stagnating, withering on the vine.