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Welcome to the airport. Stick ’em up.

By Mark Washburn
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Before I go all Grumpy Uncle on you, let us stipulate that Charlotte Douglas International Airport is without question, the best-run, most-efficient, hassle-free jetport anywhere in town.

Our airport has charmed us through the years with its playful security queues (uniformed federal agents cajole you to shed your shoes and stick ’em up), $13 hamburgers and a statue of Queen Charlotte getting goosed.

It has grown to become one of the world’s busiest and most-respected airports through an innovative management technique called monopolistic piracy.

It charges low landing fees, which has made it a major hub. This results in lots of people roaming the terminals, itching to spend money.

Restaurant and bar prices are set by a rigid protocol: Think of the most outrageous, ridiculous price possible for any item, then double it. Anything goes. This is why veteran business travelers know the airport by its oft-repeated slogan, “Take small children by the hand.”

It is a wonderful thing for us, because after everyone goes home, the airport and airlines sit down, light cigars and divvy the loot. For delivering our prey, we cut the airlines 40 percent of profits from the terminal and parking lots.

By law, any money made by the airport must be spent on the airport. If you are weak in economics, think of this way: Our airport is a snow globe of cash.

This is why the airport is always under construction. This is why we are spending $120 million to tear down an old parking deck to put up a new parking deck in the same spot.

Our former airport director, Jerry Orr, built the airport into a monumental money machine by fleecing strangers, but was kind to the locals, who got bargain parking. Now the airport wants to boost local parking rates by 40 percent plus, in part to pay for fancy parking decks nobody asked for.

In its defense, the airport says its parking rates are lower than those elsewhere. Jerking them up will remedy this horrible disparity.

If you’ve been in Charlotte for 15 minutes, you know that we do not care how you do it up North, in Atlanta or in the craters of the moon. We only care how we do it here.

Here’s how we do it:

We do not gouge the locals. We do not gouge them, Sam I Am, not in the air or on the land because it is a municipal airport.

If you arrogantly believe the electorate is a mass of drooling imbeciles, you’ll watch with astonishment when someone runs for City Council on a platform of un-gouging the locals and finally demanding public explanations for $120 million parking decks and other airport “improvements,” little questioned until now.

At that moment, your gate will be ready for departure. Drop this idea at once. Remember who you serve. Go gouge the strangers.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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