Charlotte Douglas International Airport is seeing more passengers but fewer planes, as the number of flights falls because of airlines flying a smaller number of larger planes in place of smaller jets.
This year through May, the number of passengers using Charlotte Douglas rose 2.5 percent, to 18 million, Charlotte Douglas said Thursday. About 80 percent of the airport’s passengers are typically changing planes in Charlotte, rather than starting or ending their journeys in the city.
The biggest jump was in international passengers, whose numbers increased 5.1 percent from last year, to 1.2 million. Four new nonstop seasonal flights to Europe launched by American Airlines helped drive that increase. Still, about 93 percent of the airport’s passengers so far this year have been domestic travelers.
Despite the higher number of travelers, the number of flights at Charlotte Douglas fell 4 percent, to 222,990 takeoffs and landings. American Airlines, which merged with US Airways in December, operates more than 90 percent of all flights at Charlotte Douglas. The airline “attributed the decrease to using larger aircraft for more flights and a decline in flying smaller planes,” Charlotte Douglas officials said in a statement.
Airlines have been switching to larger planes in place of smaller 50-seat regional jets on many routes. The larger planes are generally more fuel-efficient and cost-effective to operate.