Here’s how much Charlotte Douglas International Airport is worth to this region

A jet makes a sunrise landing at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 2015.TODD SUMLIN -
A jet makes a sunrise landing at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 2015.TODD SUMLIN -

It was an event that showed just how closely Charlotte’s economic fortunes are tied to the city’s airport: Top local leaders gathered with balloons and a festive buffet to lift a covering and ceremoniously reveal the airport’s newest economic impact estimates.

Held Monday at Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s executive offices on Wilkinson Boulevard, the unveiling featured effusive praise for the hub airport, which Mayor Jennifer Robert called the “economic crown jewel” and “roaring engine of our economy.”

Here’s the headline number: The airport’s annual economic impact totals $16.2 billion for the Charlotte region, when you factor in direct spending like aviation employee salaries and indirect benefits, such as jobs located here that rely on the hundreds of daily connections available at Charlotte Douglas. That’s up from a $9.7 billion estimate in 2005, the most recent study available, and a time when the airport saw about 14 million fewer annual passengers than today.

Terri Pope, who runs American Airlines’ Charlotte hub, said the carrier is committed to Charlotte Douglas. American operates more than 90 percent of daily flights at the airport. The airport’s 2016 passenger count was 44.4 million, which was a slight dip from 2015.

“Let me reiterate: American Airline is here to stay in Charlotte,” Pope said. “We ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

Here are some of the other key numbers from the study:

Charlotte Chamber president Bob Morgan praised the airport as well, saying its in the top three reasons employers typically give for relocating to or expanding in Charlotte, along with the lower cost of living and doing business in Charlotte and the city’s workforce.

“There is no other asset that compares,” said Morgan. To American Airlines, he said: “You all bring us to the dance.”

The airport paid $79,000 for the study, carried out by UNC Charlotte using 2015 data, the most recent complete numbers available.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo